A Break From The Hype Machine: Chimay Grande Reserve (Blue)

My beerbecue output has fallen behind a bit lately. Unfortunately, work has me busier than a two-dicked dog. Although, each week I generally post once on beerbecue and once for my weekly contribution to the Sports-Glutton‘s Friday Football Fix. So, get off my back already.

The Haybag sent me to a Trappist beer class at Rustico, where I imbibed in the following: Westmalle Tripel, Chimay Grande Reserve, Trappistes Rochefort 8, La Trappe Dubbel, Orval Trappist Ale, Achel 8° Blonde. They couldn’t manage to get us any Westvleteren. Jerks.

It was interesting watching Neighborhood Restaurant Group Beer Director Greg Engert go into a beer shaman-like trance and recite the history of beer, eventually tying it in to the history of Trappist beer to present day. There were some interesting insights.

For instance, I had always thought, and it appears to be commonly accepted, that Orval throws Brett in the bottles at bottling to get its trademark funk. It was suggested, however, that they use ale yeast for primary fermentation, then they use their Brett strain during secondary. Next, they centrifuge it. Then they bottle it with a little ale yeast and liquid sugar for bottle refermentation. So, any Brett in the bottle is leftovers from the secondary fermentation. Let the disagreement begin…

And while it’s not entirely clear, it actually appears from Orval’s website that this could be the case. I even emailed Orval’s Cistercian monks to confirm. For some reason they never got back to me, though. I even played the fellow Catholic card. I was pissed until the Haybag reminded me that they probably have better things to do. Whatever.

A busy Cistercian monk… I bet the Benedictines totally would have replied.

Another interesting point was that not long ago, beer geeks would have shit their pants over a lineup like this. And that’s a good point. Maybe they got lost amidst the hype. Or maybe there really are just new, better beers out there in this style (Boulevard Long Strange Tripel, Ommegang Abbey Ale, and Russian River Salvation are a couple stellar American-made Abbey-style examples). I don’t think it can entirely be the latter, however, because these are still damn good beers. Case in point, Chimay Grande Reserve (Blue)…

The bottle was a 750, and the cork was stamped 06/11. It poured clear brown (initial pour was without the yeast from the bottom of the bottle) with Grand Marnier highlights and a touchy khaki head that leaves no lace. Cuidado: Without a careful pour, the head will get away from you. It smells like raisins, toffee, malt, and a nebulous fruit aroma presumably from Fr. Ted’s yeast strain. The taste follows the nose with added bananas, caramel, and slightly burnt brown sugar. All very subtle, though…and never too sweet or too dry. Also, I always notice a pleasant mineral quality in Chimay that must be from the monastery’s well water.

This stuff is easy to get, and it can handle sitting on the shelf for awhile…which is good, because sometimes I feel like it is unfairly overlooked.

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9 thoughts on “A Break From The Hype Machine: Chimay Grande Reserve (Blue)

  1. I was thinking about doing a beer review of a chimay sometime in the future. This may have been one of the most influential beers that got me into craft beer. I haven’t had it in a while, and I was thinking I need to get back to my roots. Sounds like a cool class you went to.

  2. It’s definitely a good thing to revisit these old classics from time to time. I get so worked up about trying new stuff or at least stuff I’ve never had before that I sometimes forget just how great some of these beers are. For my money, Rochefort 8 is the best beer in the world. Well… maybe not best in the world, but still right up there. My favorite Trappist beer though, and that includes Westy.

    • I like returning to the classics. They’re tasty. And it makes me feel rational amidst all the noise. Still, when people ask what my favorite beer is, I feel like I have a hard time answering, partly because I am constantly in a state of seeking out new beers. It’s like a never ending battle of my beer Yin and Yang…or something.

  3. Chimay is always one of my favorites. The blue will age for a long time, especially if you get a bigger bottle. When I was at the brewery, they opened a bottle of Grand Reserve 1996 that tasted spectacular.

  4. The blue is my favorite, but the funny thing is I often pass on purchasing it because I feel like should be trying something new out. I have to remind myself that one just needs to enjoy the good stuff on a regular basis.

    And as always we appreciate you making the time to contribute to the Fix…your words are like cocaine icing on the cake.

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