Friday, March 8, 2013

The Bornhem

The phrase "abbey ale" or "abbey-style ale" is meant to invoke a specific image.  One of trappist monks working in the brewery attached to a monastery, producing beer for both the soul and the stomach.  Of course, it is just an image.  Trappist beers come with a specific label indicating that it is an "Authentic Trappist Product."  To have that label, the beer must satisfy some rather specific requirements adopted in 1992, including one in which the beer is produced entirely within the walls of the monastery.  If the beer cannot meet that requirement, then it cannot be labeled as an authentic Trappist product.

So goes the story of the Bornem.  Originally, the beer was brewed by monks at the St. Bernard Abbey in the Belgian town of Bornem.  However, during the French Revolution, the monks fled to England.  They returned to monastery after the revolution was over, but their numbers dwindled.  Eventually, it reached the point that the monks lacked the manpower to brew the Bornem beers.  Thereafter, they licensed Brouwerij Van Steenberge to produce the beers.  In so doing, however, the monks lost the ability to label their beers as a trappist product.  Instead, the Bornem beers, like the Tripel (or "Triple"), became "Abbey Ales."

The Bornhem Tripel pours a golden color, with a thick cloud of foam.  That cloud quickly recedes, leaving much smaller puffy clouds gently resting on the surface of the beer.  The aromatic elements of this beer have the characteristic spiciness of a tripel, suggesting cloves, bananas and even a little bubble gum.  There is little to no hop aromas, which is to be expected given that a tripel is produced with three times as much malts as an ordinary beer.  As for the taste, once again the Bornem displays the classic attributes of a tripel ... bananas with a light malty or bready flavor, as well as some hints of the Belgian yeast.  There is some spice, such as a hint of pepper in the background, but nothing that even rises to the level of the other elements in the beer. Finally, there is a hint of booziness in the taste of the beer.  After all, the Bornem Tripel has an ABV of 9%.

When it comes to pairing the Bornem with food, the most common suggestion is to pair the tripel with a variety of cheeses.  Indeed, this beer will work well with most hard cheeses, except those that incorporate whole seeds (like cumin seeds), as well as soft and blue cheeses.  Another common suggestion is to enjoy this beer as a digestif after a nice meal.  

I was given this bottle by my father, so I don't know how much it costs.  I have to say that I have not seen it in any stores.  But, if you should happen to run across it, it might be worth a try.  


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