Tag Archive: Chimay


chimay-white-tripel

Chimay: White – Tripel (Belgium: Abbey Tripel: 8% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellow gold. Large yellowed to white head. Moderate carbonation.

Nose: Peppery. Wheaty. Dry. Light bitterness. Coriander.

Body: Dry. Cane sugar. Peppery and wheaty. Light custard sweetness. Light bitterness. Light white wine and tart white grapes. Creamy. Lemon.

Finish: Light bitterness. Wheaty character. Dry. Dry lemon. White wine. Soft toffee.

Conclusion: Oh this is a so very well attenuated tripel. Dry, always on the verge of too dry for my tastes, but always done well enough that it doesn’t take it that step too far. It just looks over the edge without the need to step back, or overbalance and fall forwards. It works a base that is dry, wheaty and lightly peppery – actually feels kind of tending towards those Belgian wit spice flavours, but layered over a more dry attenuated base than those beers tend to go for. It then lets the sweetness rise into the middle of that – giving cream and lemon notes that rise to the surface for a few moments, then sink again to let the dryness return. Cane sugar shimmers over the top of that generally dry base, creating delicious contrast.

The lemon character rises as the beer warms, which gives even more of a Belgian wit meets super attenuated Tripel impression. This leans away from the super sweet, easy crowd pleaser tripel style and into something that is harder to get used to – but to my mind is much more rewarding for that. It does get creamier over time, but never loses that dry air around it.

It works very well, never too dry, never sugar shock sweet, and always has a lot going on. This is the blueprint for how to do a classy tripel.

Trappist beers still impress me after all these years, and this especially does not disappoint.

Background: Chimay was my first experience of Trappist ales – ales brewed by Trappist monasteries. I ran into them in York as I was starting to expand my beer horizons and the sheer weight of them just blew my mind. Think it was the blue I first tried. Anyway, decided to grab this – the tripel of the bunch from Independent Spirit. Something big like this deserved big music, so I broke out Two Steps From hell – Archangel – lovely big epic music.

Chimay Grand Reserve 2016 Viellie En Barriques

Chimay: Grand Reserve 2016: Viellie En Barriques (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 10.5% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Moderate creamy brown coloured small bubbled head.

Nose: Crushed almonds and peanuts. Funky yeast. Popcorn. Dry. Wholemeal bread. Fig rolls. Sour red wine.

Body: Smooth. Carmalised brown sugar. Fig rolls. Plums. Hazelnut liqueur. Vanilla toffee. Lactose. Fizzy and sherbety. Liquorice. Malt chocolate. Gummed brown paper. Raisins and sultanas. Red wine and Madeira.

Finish: Hazelnut liqueur. Cream. Plums. Vanilla toffee. Lightly woody. Gummed brown paper. Slight sulphur and smoke. Brown sugar. Slight funky yeast. Cloves. Cognac.

Conclusion: Chimay blue by itself is a big, rewarding beer. In fact one I really should have done notes for by now. This is bigger, and possibly even more rewarding. At this level of quality it is hard to say.

At its base it is a very familiar, big dark fruit, brown sugar, creamy and malt led drink with obvious Belgian yeast influences. So, at its base still the same dark heavy delight the blue is.

So, what makes this different? Well the ageing has given it smoothness. You still feel the weight that says this is an alcohol heavy drink, but a lot of the rough edges are worn down. Thankfully not completely – it still has enough charming prickly edges to not be mistaken for the (in my opinion) overly smooth American take on the style.

Ageing in the barrels seem to have given it some unusual characteristics to play with. There is a light oaken sour note mixed with malt drinks below that which remind me of a good quality Flemish red. There is also a definite mix of sour red wine and sweet Madeira styling – the second of which I’m guessing may be from the cognac ageing. Maybe. Any which way it works very well backing up the strong dark fruit flavours. The final odd note is a much larger nutty character – generally it stands well, though it is slightly overly dominant in the aroma which gives a weak first impression to what is an excellent beer.

As you can probably guess from the examining above, I am very impressed by this. Very smooth, yet booming in flavour. The only difficulty in detecting new flavours is managing not to get washed away in the flood of what you have already encountered as there is so much going on.

The only real flaw is the nuttiness which can be too present occasionally. Everything else is an excellent Trappist beer carefully nurtured in oak. Slightly less nuttiness would let the other notes roam more, but that is a minor thing.

Suitably subtle Flemish sour ale notes meets Trappist dark ale meets multiple barrel ageing. Not perfect, as said above, but definitely very well done. Wish I had one to age further.

Background: OK, this is a big one, Chimay Blue at the base, aged in a mix of French oak, new chestnut, American oak and new cognac barrels. Fermented in tank, barrel and bottle. It was an expensive one picked up at Independent Spirit, but you don’t see many barrel aged Trappist beers, and I am a huge fan of Chimay – I think the blue was the first Trappist beer I ever had if I remember rightly. There are very few Trappist breweries, and the beer has to me made or overseen by the Trappist monks themselves – so they don’t tend to play with the more new wave brewing tricks, like this. Drunk while listening to a mix of History of Guns tracks on random.

Chimay Doree

Chimay: Doree (Belgium: Belgian Ale: 4.8% ABV)

Visual: Hazy overripe banana skin. High carbonation and an off white thin head.

Nose: Orange peel. Dry mead. Shortbread and digestives. Funky yeast. Lightly milky. Cinnamon. Fresh cut apples and light lemon character.

Body: Sweet orange. Crisp hop character and moderate bitterness. Bready character. Banana sweets. Blackpool rock. Greenery. Coriander and carrot. Brown sugar.

Finish: Honey. Cinnamon. Banana. Brown bread. Minty.

Conclusion: I’m glad I came to this later in my beer drinking life. Back when I first encountered Trappist ales I was of the mindset that bigger was way better for me. Even the quality Orval seemed a but of a let down compared to its dubbel to quad brethren, I think back then I would not have appreciated this.

This is a very balanced and drinkable brew – with a restrained sweet base that feels like dry honey, speckled with occasional bursts of cane sugar styling. Those bursts allow it to push past the bready crisp hop character that is the mainstay of the beer. It doesn’t taste like a big beer, but neither does if feel the need to hide its light under a bushel. Despite the easier drinking character there is a lot going on, greenery and mint notes and light fruity esters.

It doesn’t feel challenging, it slips down easily. Though if you let it slip down you end up only really experiencing the thirst quenching bitter hop character. If you hold the beer then that is when the sweetness rises. Character wise it actually reminds me of the hoppier end of the saison market.

It is very drinkable, the only real flaws are that the crisp hop character does become slightly leaden by the end of the beer, and that as you get used to the base beer the middle of it can end up feeling slightly empty when compared to the top and tail. A pity as it was otherwise setting up to be the trappist abv equivalent of a session beer. Even with that slight flaw this proves a lovely easy going beer that you can break open with a meal or just for a relax with friends.

Background: Ohh, fun. This is only just available in the UK to my knowledge. For ages this was the beer that was available for drinking to the monks of the abbey. Over the years it has slowly got more available, being served on tap in Belgium, and then bottled, then finally turning up here in the UK. I saw it at Independent Spirit and grabbed it as quick as I could. Drunk while listening to some Propagandhi. No reason. Just like them.

Chimay Premiere (Red) (Belgium: Abbey Dubbel(Trappist): 7% ABV)

Visual: Ruby red (imagine that) with a fizzy brownish head of no life. Light carbonation.

Nose: Black cherries, brown sugar and plum. Lots of candy cane as well. Liquorice hints and hot cross buns. Very sweet and fresh.

Body:  Blackcherries, plum brandy. Buttered malt loaf. Honey. Barley and malt. More brown sugar and some nuts.

Finish: Malt loaf, liquorice. Slight bitter. Harvest influenced flavours. Peanuts.

Conclusion: I have heard this described as the most English ale styled of the Chimay beers.  While I do not entirely agree with the comparison I can see where the statement was coming from.

The nose is full abbey dubbel style, full of fruit and sugar. The body is where the comparison comes into play, with the fruit flavours and sweetness having a slight similarity to some of those found in Fullers 1845 for example (a good thing in my opinion considering the high quality of that beer) It is still distinctly a Belgium beer however, with just a hint to the English ale that earned this digression.

A weighty Dubbel, with a masked ABV. You could imagine drinking it pint style without realising its potency until your head hits the ground.

A very solid top quality beer. Then again it is trappist ale so I expect nothing less.

Background: A kind gift from Paul (thanks guv). Chimay was, to my recollection, the first Trappist, and possibly first ever proper Belgium (by which I mean not “wife beater” Stella Atrois) beer I ever drank, back when I was in the Evil Eye Lounge in York. As such it is a beer I thank as one of my break through beers into the quality beer world.  As an authentic Trappist beer (one of only six such breweries in the world) it is made at the abbey by the monks themselves.

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