midweek.mini-review: Orval Trappist Ale


I am back to my roots today doing what I love to do the most.  Reviewing beer.  This week’s entry is a classic and one of the best and readilly available Trappist ales around.  Before I get started with this week’s review, I want to briefly explain what Trappist actually means.

In order for a beer to be called a Trappist ale, the beer must meet the following standards:

  • The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist abbey, by or under control of Trappist monks.
  • Brewery and commercial operations must be run by the monastic community.
  • The economic purpose of the brewery must be directed toward assistance (monastic or community) and not toward financial profit.

Today there are seven brewing Trappist abbeys—six from Belgium (OrvalChimayWestvleterenRochefortWestmalle and Achel), one from the Netherlands (Koningshoeven). They all belong to an association of monastic breweries.  This association has legal standing and its logo gives to the consumer some information and guarantees about the product. However, any brewery can brew a Trappist or Abbey style, not to mention a Dubble or Triple but if you are looking for an authentic Trappist product you only need to see if it carries the logo below.

Authentic Trappist logo

Now  onto the review:

Orval Trappist

The true beauty of this beer is in its complexity.  This beers pours a beautiful amber-orange and its abundant carbonation produces rich dense head.  The carbonation also accentuates the hop bitterness and lightens the body to create a thirst quenching dry beer.  The carbonation also flushes out the citrus flower and horse blanket aromas. In addition to the floral horse blanket aromas, the yeast (brettanomyces) also produces tart fruit flavors. This beer changes over time so be sure you pick the freshest bottle (they usually have a best before date) off the shelf.  Older bottles won’t taste bad but the tart fruit flavors will be more pronounced.

This is a great beer to time test.  Buy four bottles all with the same “best before date”, enjoy one today, take notes so you will remember your experience, and store the other three.  Be sure to store the other three in a dark and cool space but not necessarily a refrigerator. A cold refrigerator will slow the aging, almost too much. If you don’t have a cool space buy a cheap styrofoam cooler and put the cooler in a room that maintains a steady temperature.   Then every four months enjoy the next bottle; take notes and compare those notes with the others.

Cheers!


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  1. Great review, and most interesting info!

  2. I recently purchased a liquor store in a small town in SD. Do you have any recommendations for introducing new beers to a smaller midwestern community? I would like to excite my customers with a new change, but I don’t want to turn them off with a radical departure from what they are used to.

    thanks,
    W

    • That is great!

      I think it is most important to educate the consumers. Focusing on education is a key to opening up the minds and palates of the the “Budmiloors” drinkers. Put shelf markers with the macro beers with suggestions of craft beers that are similar but will expand their palate. Also you can always print off a beer.goggles card for the beers I have reviewed or go to BeerAdvocate.com and they have shelf markers that will have short descriptors and grades (A,B,C to F) so consumers can make educated purchases.

      Do you have control over the product placement? If so I would suggest organizing the beer in different sections. A macro section where people can find the usual “Budmiloors” and a craft beer section that is divided into three sections. A “mild” section where you could have amber and brown ales, and lagers. A “mid-range” section for the folks who like to be a bit adventurous with stouts, porters and milder pale ales and Belgian specialties. Then an “extreme” section that would house all the aggressive beers like imperial stouts and IPA’s, sour beers, etc.

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