Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Unprofessional Beer Review: Orval Trappist Ale

Orval monastery is the only Trappist monastery in the world which brews only one beer, and that alone makes it stand out. Hailing from Belgium, the beer is triple fermented, with the final stage of fermentation taking place in the bottle itself. I am also told that if I were patient enough to wait for it, the beer would become smoother if I let it sit in the dark for around a year before pouring it. I'm far too impatient for that.

The abbey was founded in 1070 by Benedictines from Calabria. Over the years it has been destroyed and rebuilt during Charlamagne (12th Century), during the French Revolution, and finally revamped during the 1920s and 30s. In addition to Orval Trappist Ale, the monastery also sells crusty brown breads and two cheeses in its gift shop. Orval is a widely regarded trappist ale. One reviewer writes of Orval, "No other beer can be said to match the character of Orval." Quite a claim. Does it stack up?

In my opinion, this beer is Amazing. Quite simply, amazing. This is the most delicious, satisfying, and complex beer I have personally ever tasted. True, the fact that it sells for just over $6 a bottle might skew my perception a bit, but I am being quite honest when I say that I love it, and that everyone should buy a bottle of this at least once. I may never be able to drink Newcastle again, after having Orval.

Pouring is a wonderful experience. As it slides down the edge of the glass into the bottom, the rather dense and thick head on the brew rises almost in perfect proportion to the volume in the bottom of the glass. To give you an idea how long the head on the glass has lasted, I poured my glass over 20 minutes ago, and there is still a 1/4" head remaining, and it appears to be there for good. Most ales lose their head after a few minutes, but not Orval.

The brew has a very distinct orange color which comes by way of the abbey's uniquely specified mixture of three malts, Bavarian Hallertau and Yugoslavian Styrian Goldings hops, yeast, and finally, white candy sugar is added in the kettle. A most delicious aftertaste without the slightest hint of bitterness, Orval is clean tasting, but far from simplistic.

It is, quite simply, my new favorite beer. (One may argue that my favorite beer is whichever one I happen to be holding at the moment.) Now, I also have a bottle of Chimay Blue waiting for me, but I may wait awhile before trying it. I want to let Orval have its week on the beer throne.


  1. Where might one get a hold of such a fine tasting beer?

  2. Well, I can tell you that I purchased mine at Jacob's Liquor Exchange on Rock Road in Wichita. Anywhere else is anyone's guess...

  3. I've really enjoyed your posts. I'm located in the KC area (not too far from you) and if you're ever up this way we oughta meet up and have a brew!

  4. Where can one get this beer? E-mail me please :D

    Second of all, what is the deal with the Reformed and Brew? One might want to start calling you Presbeerterians... in fact, I have already :D My friend Andy is well familiar with the title :)


  5. Hey George,

    Sorry I'm not emailing you; I just don't have your email address.

    In answer to part one of your question, I don't know where you can find it. I know that if you have liquor stores that carry wide selections of beer and european ales you stand a good chance of finding it. My local store here in small-town Kansas started carrying it when I asked them about it, and now they have it stocked on their shelves, which is awesome.

    As to your second question about Reformed people and beer, I'm not sure, entirely. I know part of it is the Reformed culture; the other part of it is simply exegesis of the texts which do speak quite highly of alcohol when used appropriately. Maybe someone else is more equipped to answer a question like this in historical terms. Hope that helps you, George.

    And also, I like the word Presbeerterians. It just works for me.


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