Showing posts with label orval. Show all posts
Showing posts with label orval. Show all posts

Friday, March 27, 2020

Raiding the Cellar: Holy Orders

So far in this period of self isolation, all my raids on the cellar have been for big heavy hitters, barleywines, old ales, those kid of things, the other night though I fancied something a little different. It is very rare that I don't have a couple of bottles of Orval sitting in the cellar awaiting their date with destiny, and the remaining one had its date on Tuesday night.

Said Orval was bottled on the 5th October 2017, so just coming up to two and a half years old, well and truly past the "fresh" stage but not yet in the seriously aged world.


Having carefully poured the beer so as to avoid getting the dregs into the glass, not generally a fan of drinking sediment unless I am drinking a hefeweizen, I was actually surprised by the lovely luminescent orange liquid. That bubbly three quarter inch of white foam was continually refreshed by the noticeable carbonation, and thus hung around for the entire time the beer lasted.


As you would expect from a 30 month old bottle of Orval, there was a noticeable sour tang to the aroma, but I wasn't getting any of the much vaunted leather and barnyard of urban myth. Instead I was getting more of a pleasant apple cider vinegar thing, with wisps of vanilla, which confused me at first so I had Mrs V take a whiff and she got it too. Having jammed my nose into the chalice several times to track down that last elusive aroma I realised it reminded me of champagne.

That tangy character was definitely present in the flavour as well. Again this may be subliminal given the number of people getting into sourdouch baking in the current pandemic, but the tang reminded me of a sourdough loaf, baked with a fairly young starter, present but not overwhelming. The bready character was like nice crusty toast, sans butter, but with a schmeer of Seville orange marmelade. Do they use Goldings in Orval? I can't remember.


In response to the beer, I tweeted that I think 30 months old is my sweet spot for Orval, I do like the young fresh stuff, but that zip of sour just adds something ephemeral to the beer, perhaps the famed go?t d'Orval? I commented to a friend at the turn of the year that I was thinking about working through the various Belgian/Dutch Trappist ales this year and have so far done Westmalle and noe Orval just a few more to go. At some point I will have to brave the booze shops..

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Young and The Old

Back in the winter of 2008 it would have been almost inconceivable that I would be capable of keeping a cellar of beers with the intent of aging them. I was an impulsive drinker, buying stuff and enjoying it within a week or so. Aware of this predilection for drinking beer, I bought a bottle of Orval while visiting my parents in France that Christmas, and squirrelled it away in a dark cool place to await my eventual return.


Fast forward to the winter of 2011 and I again found myself in the French countryside visiting my parents. As you likely know, I stocked up on most of the beer for that trip by ordering a load from Beer Ritz for my parents to pick up at my eldest brother's place. However, on the first shopping trip of the holiday my mind was set on the beer aisle at the L'eclerc in La Souterraine. Sadly there was no Unibroue this time, but Orval was there, and only €1.60 a bottle (that's $2.03 or £1.32).

The aim of my experiment was to drink a young version of Orval followed by an aged, from the same glass, suitably cleaned between drinkings of course. I wish I could share with you the pictures of I took, but circumstances have mitigated against me on that front, hence the old picture of Orval above. Suffice to say Mrs Velkyal and I are currently sans camera. Anyway, to the beers.

Young Orval was largely as I remembered it, pouring a deep slightly cloudy orange with a voluptuous white head. The nose was at first lemony followed by cupboards that haven't been dusted for some time, with a trace of old man pub. In the mélange of aromas I also picked up traces of spicy hops and a fruitiness that reminded me of apricots and peaches. In the drinking bit, which is in reality the best bit, the sweetness of the malt held up firmly against the bitter twang of the hops and the slight sour tinge that was flitting in and out. When I first drank Orval, I wasn't sure what to make of the bright, sparkling effervescence of the beer, now I really enjoyed it. A quick swirl of the bottle and in went the rest of the dregs, yum.

Old Orval surprised me by being a slightly darker shade of orange, bordering on a light brown, and the head while voluminous, was rather less buxom that the young version. What a hit of sourness smacks you in the face when you smell this stuff, as well as some kirsch and the lemons of youth have become moldy. People often say it smells of barnyard and leather, I got more hay and cow shed (and yes, I have spent enough time in cow sheds to know how they smell). Rescuing my olfactory senses from the onslaught of tarts longing to abuse it, I took a mouthful. This stuff has zing, yes it is tart and sharp but it didn't remind me of vinegar in the slightest, in the background the same malt sweetness of youth lingered, but the sourness of age had come to the fore, making it very dry and puckering to drink. I bloody loved it.

Come then with me to 2012 and yes I have a cellar of beers being aged for some illusive special occasion. I think some Orval had better join them, mind you at about $6 a bottle (three times the price in France) it won't be an awful lot.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Falling in to La Trappe


I have mentioned in previous posts that I find the highly rated Orval somewhat difficult to get in to, however I have no such problem with the beers from the Abbaye St-Remy in Rochefort. While preparing last night’s dinner of roast pork, marinated in a mixture of honey, mustard, Chodovar Dark Lager and my homemade chilli chutney, I decided to pull out the second of the Trappistes Rochefort I bought at the cheese shop last week, the 8.

The Rochefort 8 weighs in at a very respectable 9.2% ABV and pours a wonderful rich dark caramel colour, almost opaque but with a silken quality. So powerful is the aroma of burnt sugar, that even before I put my nose anywhere near the glass I can smell the delights to come. The Rochefort 8 shares the quality of being sweet with undertones of bitterness that was the overriding sensation with the 6, however this one is altogether far smoother. I found that the initial tastes make you want to simply sip the beer, as if in some perverse manner this will help you to savour the flavours. However, after about the third taste, I couldn’t help but taking decent sized mouthfuls to just enjoy the fullness of the beer. Certainly this is a beer that will be taking up more space in my little cellar.
My enjoyment of the Rochefort ales makes me wonder about my lack of enjoyment of Orval, perhaps I am doing it wrong, perhaps the shape of the glass was wrong, perhaps I am yet to reach the level where I can truly appreciate the beer. But then perhaps I am just a fairly normal Scot who has a very sweet tooth, if you read the history of beer making in Scotland, it is dominated not by hops, but by the malt. There are no native hops which grow in Scotland, and so the ancient Gaels, Picts and Vikings found other things to chuck in their brews, such as heather and even pine and spruce shoots – traditions which are kept alive to this day.

For a drink which has long been the tipple of the masses, the beer world can sometimes be intimidating – in particular when it comes to passing comment on the various ales, lagers, porters, stouts, wheats and myriad others that are available. I sometimes wonder that in trying to turn judging and rating into an objective science, we forget the magic and mystery that is inherent in beer.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Entering the Cloister

As a result of an entry on Evan Rail's Beer Culture blog, as I have previously referred to, I tottered off to a local cheese shop recently in order to buy beer. I literally tottered as it was just round the corner from Pivovarsky Klub so I had stopped in for a quick pint, with became a rather chatty 4 pints and a meal. I had decided it was time to finally try some of the Trappist ales from Belgium.

On my first foray to the cheese shop I bought myself an Orval and a Rochefort 6, there was a second excursion a couple of days later because Mrs Velkyal had eaten most of the farmhouse cheddar I bought the first time and so we needed supplies, and I bought another Orval as well as a Rochefort 8 and 10.

Wanting to get as much as possible from these beers, I didn't open them that evening, I decided to do some background reading. Thus it was on Tuesday evening I decided to pop open the Orval, and this is what I got from the bottle.


For the sake of not repeating myself, I have decided to include the review I put for Orval on Beer Advocate:

"I fear I am about to commit beer heresy by admitting to not really enjoying this one all that much. The beer was bottled on the 31 May 2007 and as such was 14 months old when I drank it.It poured a very nice copper colour, and was of course cloudy - as a personal opinion this is a good thing, as I like beer unfiltered and unpastuerised. There was a fluffy head which dissipated slowly, and was gone within five minutes. On the nose were distinctly citrus notes. The first taste was a shock to be honest. This will sound odd, but it tasted fizzy, rather tart and almost like popping candy on the tongue.It wasn't awful, just not what I was expecting - so I will of course have another one to further hone my opinion." As of yet the second bottle hasn't been opened.

Last night after having had dinner and several very nice V3 Smoked Malt Special lagers at PK, and an Erdinger Dunkelweissen, I got home, popped Doctor Who into the DVD player and decided I would try the Rochefort 6, which poured like this:

I love that colour! It reminded me of the peat back at home in the Outer Hebrides, and I am sure there was a slight tinge of peat on the nose as well. After the fizz bang of Orval I was unsure of what to expect. The first taste of this was wonderfully smooth with a sweetness which reminded me of caramel. Eventually this gave way to dark chocolate, without wanting to sound like Jilly Goolden, it actually put me in mind of the organic dark chocolate from Marks and Spencer. As I say it is a nice smooth ale, with just enough zing to avoid it being cloying in the mouth, and the more I drank the more the chocolate was replaced by cocoa. Overall I really enjoyed this one, and am looking forward to trying the more potent 8 and 10.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

To the monastery

I was joking with Mrs Velkyal the other day that I should do a Masters degree in theology, which is strangely enough what my Bachelors degree is in. She asked what my thesis would be, and I thought how about "Monasticism and the development of Beer"? Thus I could combine two of my favourite things - theology is endlessly fascinating, as long as you remember that religion is more the study of humanity than the study of God. So it was with this thought in mind that I decided to pop down to Pivovarsky Klub for my dinner (Mrs Velkyal being at her school's, beginning of year curry bash).

After a rather nice goulash I decided that it would be a good idea to re-visit a beer I used to think was muck - so bad I would rather drink water than bother with it - Klaster. I first had Klaster at an open air rock festival near the little Czech town of Mnichovo Hradiste, and couldn't stand it. Admittedly this was before I really started to enjoy beer from smaller breweries, which explains why I tried again last night, give it a second chance, turn the other cheek you might say. The name Klaster means "monastery" and the beer is made in a former monastery brewery - given the fact that the building hasn't been a monastery for nearly 600 years, the name is rather tenuous.

I have learnt to trust my first opinions on many things, and my opinion of Klaster won't be changing any time soon - for me it leaves too bitter a taste in the back of my throat, one that by the time I am half way down the pint makes me regret I ever bought the stuff. I am really not a fan.

So in order to wash away the taste I reached for one of my favourites - Gottschalk, a proper monastery beer, brewed by real monks in a monastery! Sometimes it is difficult to believe that in such a non-religious country as the Czech Republic that monks are still operating here and making greating beer, I realise that is not their calling in life but it is one hell of a sideline. Gottschalk is smooth, slightly sweet and just a wonderfully pleasant drink, even if every time I pour it the head is non-existant.

On my way home I decided to follow up a lead from Evan Rail. In his articles for the Prague Daily Monitor he mentioned that a small chain of cheese shops in the Czech Republic also stocked Belgian ales, in particular the Trappist ales and for half the price of other places. Conveniently, there is an outlet near Pivovarsky Klub so I nipped round in the hope they were still open - they were! Low and behold there they were, so I bought an Orval which is already 16 months old, and a Rochefort 6. The problem, if it can be called such, is that this is a cheese shop and they sell quality cheeses and I love cheese. Having gone in to buy two bottles of beer, I came out with two bottles of beer and several wedges of fine cheese, including a farmhouse cheddar!

In the coming days Mrs Velkyal and I will be having various cheese eating sessions and I hope to be reveling in the delights of Belgian Trappist beers.

Old Friends: Joseph's Brau PLZNR

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