When you hear about Napoleon beer and food are probably some of the last things that come to mind. We think of a short Corsican who not only was a general of the French army during the French Revolution but then later became Emperor of France. This same man attempted his own bid at conquering Europe and Asia only to be stopped in 1812 during the invasion of Russia. The defeat in Russia was the beginning of the end for him and led to his eventual defeat at the battle of Waterloo in 1815.
What does this have to do with food or even beer for that matter? For that matter what does Wow rack mean? Oddly enough these things are all interrelated. During the Peninsular war (started in 1808 and lasting until 1814 when the Sixth Coalition defeated Napoleon) the French Army traveled across and occupied Spain. It was during this time that Spanish cooking techniques, through books and experience, were transported back to France. You see, what we see today as French cooking actually has ties to what was originally Spanish Technique. The French gave us the brigade kitchen (which is the way most traditionally run kitchens work today) but they learned quite a bit of how to cook from the Spanish. This exchange did go both ways. The Spanish learned quite a bit about wine from the French.
I learned the term “Wow rack” from a couple beer chicks. It is an acronym that Christina Perozzi and Hallie Beaune, authors of The Naked Pint, use to remember the names of the six Trappist Monestaries in Belgium and the one in Holland. (side note: it is possible that I have their acronym wrong, its been a while since I read their book. But their general idea is what stuck with me). For reference these breweries are Westmalle, Orval, Westvleteren, Rochefort, Achel, Chimay, and Koningshoeven.
It was during the conquests of Napoleon that the Cistercian monks (the forefathers of todays trappist) left France to get away from the devestation and destruction caused during the wars. Today’s Trappists still follow path of the Cistercians, a rigorous order of obediance: poverty, silence, and humility. They live off their own resources. Aside from just beer they make other items like soap, cheese, and candles that are sold to maintain their monestaries and charities. The International Trappist Association is the ruling body that governs the laws that dictate what can carry the Trappist seal.
I think it is now time for a pint…