Showing posts with label rochefort. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rochefort. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Monastic Reflections

While we were in South Carolina last week we went wandering round World Market. I like strolling through the food aisles at a World Market, sweets and biscuits from Blighty, sausages and mustard from Germany, Indian curry sauces, all that good stuff. It is also from World Market that I buy my imperial pint nonic glasses from which I do most of my home drinking. Most stores have a decent enough beer section, admittedly with a lot of the usual suspects but still with the occasional engaging rarity.

As we bimbled about, I spied a gift pack of Chimay, bimbling around stores is not something I usually like, but there are exceptions. The gift pack had a 12oz bottle of each of the three Chimay offerings and a branded chalice, which we spent the week referring to as the "shalice".

First a confession, up until last week, Chimay was the only Trappist brewery I had never had a beer from, for some reason I had never bothered to pick them up. As we were on holiday I decided the time was ripe to rectify that little oversight. That night I sat with the "shalice" and drank the three beers, without the aid of a camera and not scribbling notes, though I did put my thoughts into RateBeer (yes, I know I bash the excesses of RateBeer at times, but it has its uses). Don't worry though, I am not going to regurgitate those notes here, other than to say my favourite was the Cinq Cents as it is called over here, or the Blanche as it is called elsewhere.


As I sat sipping the Bleue, I got to thinking about the Trappist beers and which ones are my favourites. While all of them are very nice, I still think it is a toss up between the Rochefort range and those from Achel. Narrowing it down to one from each monastery, I would go for the Rochefort 8 and Achel 8 Bruin, and trying to choose from those two is nigh on impossible. Perhaps I will soon buy myself a cowl and surplice to use the packet of Trappist High Gravity yeast I have in the fridge.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Not Quite Seventh Heaven

My little cellar sits forlorn and empty at the moment, and my mind is wondering what to re-fill it with. That is because I pulled out the final bottle of Rochefort, the 10, last night. So far the Rochefort ales have been something of a revelation to me, I thoroughly enjoyed the 6, was blown away by the 8 and was eagerly anticipating the 10.

The 10 pours an exceptionally dark brown, which in a backlight has tints of ruby, topped with a light tan head that disappears fairly quickly. The nose of Rochefort 10 is at first very sweet, as is to be expected for a beer of 11.3% abv, with coffee and even banana notes. At one point I stuck my nose right into the glass and inhaled deeply, and while it took me four or five breaths to really work out the smell, it was a distinct tinge of nail polish remover. I asked Mrs Velkyal to see what she made of it, and she came back saying that it smelled of alcohol laced with molasses.

Drinking the ale was a delight, and I found it smoother than the Rochefort 8 yet with the same chocolate and cocoa flavours. Being so dark and full, the 10 is a very rich beer, and definitely not a beer that you would want to be drinking as though it was a run of the mill lager. Despite the smoothness of the beer, there is also a slight touch of bitterness adding a nice counterpoint to the sweetness, like burnt caramel. In the final taste though there was a distinct alcohol taste.

All three of the Rochefort ales are superb and I have enjoyed trying each of them, however I have to admit that the one that will be a regular visitor to my little cellar will be the 8. Of the three I prefer the slightly rougher edge that the 8 has when compared to the 10, as well as the richer cocoa flavours than the 6. So know I plan to move on to other Trappist ales, depending of course on what is available in the cheese shop – I still love the eccentricity of being able to buy beer in a cheese shop, not only that but they have a reasonable selection of wines too.

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.

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