Saturday, April 9, 2011

Orval Trappist Ale

There are only seven Trappist breweries in the world.  A Trappist brewery is one that is either operated or under the control of a monastery.  The term "Trappist" originated with the monks of a Cistercian monastery in Soligny La Trappe, France, who had been brewing beer since before 1685 A.D.  The Trappist Order also had monasteries in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and even Bosnia. The number of Trappist breweries declined over time, with only seven left today.  Six of the Trappist Breweries -- Achel, Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle and Westvleteren -- are located in Belgium.  The remaining two are Koenigshoeven in the Netherlands and Mariawald in Germany. And they are all members of the International Trappist Association.

Orval is the oldest of the Trappist breweries, having been founded in the 11th Century. It also brews one of the more distinctive beers, primarily due to the brewery's use of Brettanomyces or wild yeast.  I have previously reviewed the Le Fleur Misseur? Ale, a beer produced by New Belgium Brewing.  The Brettanomyces provide a different flavor to the beer that most people will not enjoy.  However, I love the different flavor that the wild yeast contributes to these beers. 

Orval brews its Trappist Ale in the style of a Belgian Pale Ale, although the Brettanomyces result in a beer that does not taste like most traditional Belgian Pale Ales.  Moreover, unlike most beers, the Orval is brewed to last a very long time.  I bought this beer, which had been bottled on May 10, 2009 and, according to the label, the beer was best before May 10, 2014.

Although the beer was nearly two years old by the time I tried it, the yeast in Orval's Trappist Ale did their work.   As I poured the beer carefully, I nevertheless ended up with a very large and frothy foam resembling a large cloud deck.  The off-white, very light caramel foam topped an orange colored ale. 

As for the smell and taste of the beer, it is a little hard to describe given the use of wild yeast.  The aromatic elements included some flowers, spice and a hint of orange.The taste of this beer is the reason why I love wild ales.  Orval uses wild yeast during the fermentation of this beer.  The yeasts contribute to a tart, somewhat musty flavor to this beer.  For me, as I mentioned above, that taste is what I expected and really like about this beer. 

The ABV of this beer is 6.9%.  This beer is widely distributed and can be found at most beer stores.  It sells for about $4.99 to $5.99 a bottle.


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