What are abbey beers? How did they come about? Why did monks brew beer? Does the monks still brew beer or is it done by brewing companies now?
It is exactly as you would interpret it from the name. It is brewed in abbeys. Monks started brewing beer to gain money. Beer was very popular in the middle ages and water was mostly infected. The brewing process would cleanse the water from bacteria and other filthy stuff because of the boiling process. Some unofficial abbey beers are in fact not linked officially to an abbey but use the name to gain profit out of this. I am not sure whether the monks still brew it completely themselves, but I would strongly believe that they are still hugely involved. The Trappist is a special and rare beer that is also an abbey beer. An abbey beer can only be called Trappist if it is brewed by monks that are Cisterciënzers. The only trappist beers in the world:
Achel Abdij van Achel (Belgium) Chimay Abdij Notre-Dame de Scourmont (Belgium) Engelszell Stift Engelszell (Austria) La Trappe Abdij Koningshoeven (The Netherlands) Orval Abdij Notre-Dame d'Orval (Belgium) Rochefort Abdij Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy (Belgium) Spencer Saint Joseph's Abey (USA) Westmalle Abdij van Onze-Lieve-Vrouw van het Heilig Hart (Belgium) Westvleteren Sint-Sixtusabdij (Belgium) Zundert Abdij Maria Toevlucht (The Netherlands)