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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Thanksgiving Beer Pairings: We be all classy ‘n s$%t

As I mentioned, dangermenparenting sent out the bat signal to beerbecue to come up with some good beers for Thanksgiving. That’s right…I said beer for Thanksgiving. What? Do you think Pilgrims and Indians had a bunch of Chateau Lafite Rothschild Bordeaux at the first Thanksgiving? That’s not what I learned in grade school. They had beer, dammit….and this:I received several suggestions from friends on past successes. I will try to give credit to them where possible. So, here we go..

We need something that can hang with heartiness, but not overpower earthy comfort. So for Thanksgiving, beerbecue says: screw the hop bombs for one day out of the year, and go with earthy, sweet, lightly spicy or fruity, or a combination thereof. There are several beers that can fit this bill, and I will throw a couple variations for turkey prep differences, and some dessert selections.

Pretty safe, but very tasty: Latch on to the sweet, earthy, and caramel with a Dogfish Head Indian Brown, a Brooklyn Brown, or, as Tom suggested, a good German Marzen. Or even go a little darker with New Belgium’s 1554 Enlightened Black Ale.

A little more adventurous: Belgian Tripels. These little beauties have a light to moderate sweetness, some fruit (like apple, banana, pear, or oranges), earthiness, and sometimes a slight peppery, clovey, or spicey flavor from the Belgian yeast. The carbonation does a good job of clearing the palate, but the high carbonation can turn some off…like the Haybag. Also, they usually manage to mask their high ABV, even though they aren’t correspondingly heavy. And we all know high ABV can help in dealing with in-laws.

Try any of the following tripels: Allagash (a suggestion from Tony (not the DMP Tony) in the comments to the previous post); Unibroue La Fin Du Monde; Westmalle, St. Bernardus, or even New Belgium’s Trippel, which is now pretty easy to find in the DC-area. Also, some sweeter variations include Gouden Carolus, Weyerbacher Merry Monks, and Green Flash Trippel.

Perhaps even more adventurous: Although typically a Spring and Summer beer, the Saison/Farmhouse style would work. These will be dry, earthy, spicy, crisp, and light-bodied. You can try Saison Dupont (see the poetic description from Tony on Beer Advocate that says its all). Or I can also vouch for Ommegang’s Hennepin. The Dupont has a passing, but typical, barn funk (wet earth and hay), that is worth giving a shot. The Hennepin, on the other hand, lacks da funk.

What funk? I don

Smoked turkey curveball: I think the above suggestions work for roasted or fried turkey. But for smoked turkey (like the beerbecue residence) you might could go for something to stand-up to and compliment the smoke, like Founder’s Dirty Bastard or Oskar Blues Old Chub.

Additional curiosities: Tom suggested Troeg’s Mad Elf (cloves, honey, and cherries…not a bad Turkey Day combo). Ommegang’s Three Philosophers has dark fruit, cherries, and brown sugar (slight sourness from the cherries). Tony suggested Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfen-Weisse, which apparently paired very well with a thyme-roasted chicken his wife made (I imagine the Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen-Weisse would work well, too). And Chris suggested Guinness with a Jameson chaser, which gets the prize for most efficient.

Dessert: For dessert, you can go with Founder’s Breakfast Stout, Brooklyn Chocolate Stout, or any of Southern Tier’s Blackwater Series Imperial Stouts or their Backburner Barleywine. Alternatively, if you don’t want guests sleeping on your couch, you could try Tony’s “lighter” suggestions for dessert: Chimay Blue (fruit, spice, rich malt) or a Unibroue Noire de Chambly (fruits, spice, and slight chocolate).

Uncle Sal had the Chocolate Stout...and a Budweiser.

The Haybag: I give a thumbs up on those Browns. Also, even though ruling out hop bombs is blasphemy in this house, I think we are going to roll with Oskar Blues Old Chub to complement the smoked turkey. And I am cooking, so keep ’em coming, “Uncle Sal”.