Showing posts with label trappist. Show all posts
Showing posts with label trappist. 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, February 12, 2020

Classics Revisited: Westmalle

For fear of sounding like a naysayer, one of my main issues with the craft beer scene at the moment is its constant, incessant, pursuit of the new. Many of the breweries I follow on various social media outlets are forever promoting new IPAs beers, weekly IPA beer releases, or their IPA latest collaborations. To quote "The Liberty of Norton Folgate" by Madness, it's become a
"perpetual steady echo of the passing beat
A continual dark river of people
In their transience and in its permanence"
Being something of a contrarian, I decided recently that I wanted to revisit classic beers and breweries that existed long before the current boom in craft beer, kind of making 2020 have a little hindsight.

You really don't get much more originalist than monastic brewing, and when we talk about beer being made to nourish takers of vows and pay for their work in the world, there is nothing more iconic than Trappist Ale. At some point throughout this year I plan to revisit as many of the classic Trappist beers as possible, but first up is Westmalle.

Located in the Belgian province of Antwerp, Westmalle Abbey was established as a priory in 1794 before becoming a full Trappist abbey in 1836, in which year the monks under the guidance of the first abbot, Martinus Dom also established a brewery. At first the monks brewed only for their own consumption, but started selling to the local area in 1856. Westmalle produces three beers, Extra, Dubbel, and Tripel, but here in central Virginia only the latter pair appear to be easily available.


The dubbel, the recipe for which apparently dates back to 1926, pours a deep mahogany, with garnet glints shining through at the edges. The head is light tan and dissipates pretty quickly to a patchiness on top of the beer, giving the glass a swirl though rouses it nicely. The aroma is dominated by fruity esters, raisins, cherries, and dried figs. Floating around in there as well were traces of toffee, brown sugar, and bread. The fruit dominates the drinking as well, but in a fruitcake kind of way, when the fruit has been liberally soaked in booze, my mind leapt to rum in particular for some reason. With a scrape of effervescent carbonation, the medium full body avoids being cloying. The dry finish was a little unexpected, perhaps a product of US dubbels that I tend to find overly sweet, even sickly.


Moving on the 9% behemoth that is the world's original Tripel, this one pours a slightly cloudy gold with orange highlights. The head this time is pure white, though it too dissipated to patchiness and roused nicely when swirled. The big player in the aroma department is bananas, but not in the same sense as you get with many a hefeweizen, these bananas have been lightly caramelised in butter, perhaps with a couple of slices of apple chucked in as well.  Other than the fruit, there is a spicy note as well as a reasonable hint of the booze hit to come. While the booze is present in tasting, mostly I was getting some nice toasted malt, a bit of grass and lemons, and even a light syrup flavour, it does not dominate. The body on this one is fuller than the dubbel, but that same effervescent carbonation does its thing and makes it anything but a sticky beer.

One thing that was clear from drinking this pair Westmalle beers is that I honestly don't think that tripel will ever be my thing. That's not to say that it was a 'bad' beer, that is clearly not the case, but that is just not the kind of beer I enjoy drinking on a regular basis, even when chilling at home and without the need to drive. The dubbel on the other hand I can see becoming a vaguely regular visitor to the fridge, one that I kind of wish we were having an actual winter to enjoy with it,

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.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Respect the Brothers

Orval, Rochefort, Achel, Westmalle, Chimay, Westveleteren and La Trappe are world renowned for being the Trappist beers. Of the seven, I have had the ranges of 4, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle and Achel, of the remaining three, I have no idea why I have yet to try Chimay or La Trappe, it certainly isn't because they are difficult to get hold of. Westveleteren is different, I have never visited the monastery, or know anyone who has, so I wouldn't be too surprised if I never try any of the 3 beers available.

To be blunt, the likelihood of never trying Westveleteren isn't something that keeps me awake at night worrying about what I am missing. I fear I will never make a great beer tourist, perhaps that is because I work in a brewery almost every other weekend, and thus have no need to do brewery tours ad infinitum.

One thing which I am fairly sure of is that I have too much respect for the work of the monks of Sint Sixtus to buy their beer in a shop in Brussels or anywhere else for that matter. It is a fair bet to say that most beer lovers are aware of the conditions placed on the sale of beer by the Sint Sixtus community, but just in case (no pun intended) here are the restrictions:

  • Every customer promises not to sell the beer to any third-party
Oh dear, there is only one condition of sale, all the other hoops to jump through are just process. Now, I don't know about you, but I find the kind of people who make promises that they have no intention of keeping, despicable. A tad strong of a word perhaps, but I guess I am overly moral in having problems with people who lie in order to make a commercial profit. Please don't consider me naive though, I am sure many a corporation bends the truth about their products in order to increase revenue, but the lack of respect for a community which is supported financially through the products it sells I find galling.

As I say though, I am not losing any sleep over the probability that I will never try the supposedly best beer in the world. I have blogged several times about keeping one's integrity, and this is another area where I feel that any integrity I may have would be flushed right down the toilet were I to buy Westveleteren from any other source than the monastery, or at In De Vrede, which I believe is the only cafe allowed to sell the beer by the monks.

So people, at the end of this rambling, I can say just one thing. Respect the monks of Sint Sixtus, and don't buy Westveleteren form any other source than the monks themselves.

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.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My little cellar

As noted in a previous post, I bought a couple of bottles of Belgian Trappist ales the other day, what I hadn't bargained for was the serving instructions on the label for the bottle of Orval. According to our enlightened friends at the Abbaye D'Orval their beer should be enjoyed at between 12 and 15 degrees Centigrade - 53 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit. Usually when I get hold of ales, I chuck them in the fridge a few hours before I want to drink them, so I can bring them down to a standard cellar temperature of about 8 degrees Centigrade. But with these ales, I read that it is recommended to store them at the same temperature as that recommended for drinking.

Thus it was I stubbled across my little cellar. Just under the window of my flat is a heater, which is always turned off - I am not sure which genius came up with the idea of installing radiators under windows but you can imagine it is fairly useless when winter comes and all the heat drifts up and out of the window. So we have a moveable heater, which at the moment is sitting in front of the static one as it is not cold enough to justify using it, even by Mrs Velkyal's standards. For various reasons there are a couple of boxes either side of the heater, creating a little darkened area next to the outside wall of the apartment - effect? My little cellar, which is currently playing host to said bottle of Orval and Rochefort, at an almost perfect 15 degrees centigrade. Now safe in the knowledge that I can store the beers in the right conditions, I intend to stock up on the Trappist ales and simply enjoy myself with Belgian ales, and traditional Belgian food - unfortunately that won't be moules et frites.

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

I have to admit that there really are not that many things that I miss as a result of this pandemic. I am sure that comes as something of a ...

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