Saint Benedict’s Brews, Part 4: Delicious, Authentic Trappist Beer

A Taste and History of Trappist Beer in Four Parts

Considering such effort had been expended searching for these six brews, ensuring careful enjoyment was of paramount importance.  Clearly, six bottles of potently strong Belgian ale could not be drunk all at once.  No, each bottle would need to be consumed deliberately slow to maximize the enjoyment.  I had taken special care to find each one of these Trappist beers; I would take special care to drink them leisurely and quietly.

Over the course of a few evenings they were each poured and finished.  Random choice dictated the order in which they were drunk.  First was the Chimay blue, I decided; why not start with the most common and easily available?  The regular size bottle – 11.2 ounces – was complex and refreshing, tasting slightly lighter than the same brew poured from the Magnum three liter bottle conquered a few weeks ago.  An important note – although Chimay receives criticism by being an overly commercial Trappist beer, this fact does not degrade its quality.

An evening later, the cork on the Westmalle Trippel was popped.  Being the largest of the group – the bottle holding nearly two pints – I poured roughly three equal eight ounce portions.  It did not disappoint: it was tart, slightly bitter, and wonderfully hoppy.

I had the Orval the following night.  Its reddish amber color was beautiful by the light of the setting sun and smelled sweet when poured.  The beer flowed thickly from the bottle, and after settling, had a foamy yet light head.  It too was delicious – sweet at first taste and then mildly tart, reminding me of the first time I tried grapefruit.  Even after the bottle was empty, Orval left a fruity aftertaste, allowing me to enjoy the brew a bit longer than expected.

Rochefort and Koningshoeven were enjoyed together a few nights later.  Coincidentally, both were darker and heavier than the other Trappist beers.  The Rochefort 6, a double, was medium bodied and had a thin head, unlike Westmalle or Orval.  It had a reddish, light brown color after poured and possessed a light orange scent.  When tasted, a touch of fruit was present, and it finished lightly, leaving not much of an aftertaste behind.

Koningshoeven Dubbel, the La Trappe beer made at Koningshoeven in The Netherlands, was even heavier than Rochefort and was possibly the strongest and heaviest of the five.  It had a dark amber, even full brown color and conveyed a slightly hoppy amber ale-type taste.  The double had a light to medium body and no head after pouring.  Although Koningshoeven had a low alcohol content compared to the others, it contended with Chimay as the strongest of the Trappists I found.

Because the Achel Blond was located last, it was also the final bottle savored.  It turned out to be an excellent choice to conclude the series.  When poured, the beer formed a thick and dense head similar to heavy whipping cream.  The beer was a dark and cloudy yellow and was light yet slightly bitter tasting.  And the blond finished unexpectedly clean, which provided a wonderful end to the six Trappists.

All in all, the six amounted to a completely delicious variety of medium to dark ales, each with their own tasty qualities.  Although I love Chimay – especially its availability – the Orval was a delightful surprise and perhaps a new favorite treat for special occasions.  To be sure, the history of the Trappists and their beer production absolutely aided my appreciation and enjoyment of the bottles I was able to locate.

Now, only the Westvleteren remains. Perhaps I’ll pick one up just after visiting the monastery – an excellent future epilogue story to this series.

Published in: on December 9, 2010 at 11:33 pm  Comments (1)  
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One Comment

  1. Well, a wonderful and delightful expose to the quiet and seductive world of the Trappists……..Thank you!

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