Tag Archive: Trappist


Trappistes Rochefort: Tripel Extra (Belgium: Tripel: 8.1% ABV)


Visual: Hazy lemon juice colour. Evident sediment in the body and a moderate sized white tight bubbled head.

Nose: Slight lemon. Bready hop bitterness. Dry. White pepper.

Body: Sherbety mouthfeel initially. Dry attenuated character later. Naan bread. Lemon sherbet. Cheese puff crisps. White pepper. Slight mature cheddar. Lemon juice.

Finish: Moderate bitterness. Moderate yeastie funk. Wotsits crisps. Slight mature Cheddar. White pepper. Dry lemon. Slight sulphur.

Conclusion: Now this is definitely an interesting one. A lot of Tripels go for the sweeter route, with either evident residual sugar, or a smoother malt sweet style.

This says “Fuck that noise”

This is dry, very well attenuated, with lots of flavours that would normally be expressed in a sweeter way instead being so dryly done that they come across almost savoury here.

Yet it also defies the smooth American take on the Abbey Tripel style – it has good levels of bitterness, which is very unexpected, a savoury yeast funk that calls to the rougher edges of some of the best Belgian takes. It has all the polished brewing skilled mixed with a touch of rough gem style you would expect of a Belgian Tripel, just drier.

This slightly different take allows it to play with more unusual flavours. The dry lemon matched with an unleavened bready bitterness for a refreshing yet savoury base – then with white pepper spiciness and subtle mature cheddar notes that give the complexity and challenge. There is a lot more savoury style than you would expect.

So how good is it? Well it may not win a place as a favourite, return to often beer for me, but it 100% got my attention, and with that I enjoyed it more than most other Tripels I have had recently.

It is a challenging one, and doesn’t declare itself as a must have for me as there are just some aspects that don’t quite click – but those are more personal things than signs of its quality, I still dig it, and would still recommend it in general.

A more bitter, more attenuated, more different Tripel. Brilliantly made, just not for everyone nor one for every time.

Still worth trying.

Background: I’ve had a few of these, before doing notes today. This is the first time it poured with the very evident sediment mentioned in the notes. As a huge fan of Rochefort, hearing that they were turning out this – a rare new beer release from them, was very interesting so this was a must grab. So grab it I did, from Independent Spirit. Yes again. Went with Stay Alive by Laura Jane Grace as music while drinking. I’m a big fan of Against Me! So was interested in this solo album. In other thoughts, was nice to have an excuse to break out the Trappist beer glasses again

Westmalle: Extra (Belgium: Belgian Blond Ale: 4.8% ABV)

Visual: Straw coloured, lots of carbonation. Medium sized white bubbled head.

Nose: Hay fields. Lightly earthy. Very crisp. Palma violets. Lightly peppery. Lemon cakes. Doughnut dough.

Body: Good bitterness. Earthy and doughy hop character. Mineral water. Vanilla. Dry fudge. Greenery.

Finish: Good bitterness. Slight granite touch. Mineral water. Lemon cakes. Greenery. Good hop character. Dry honey.

Conclusion:So, this is the for so long hidden Trappist. I will admit this is not like what I expected. For on thing, mineral water like notes? What is up with that?

I guess that that odd character may be part of why this is viewed as the session Trappist beer, so now I just need to work out if that is a good thing or not.

Ok, so let’s warm up gently and start on the more standard side of the beer; The body is gentle in the malt styling with vanilla and dry fudge character. It is nicely attenuated, not too heavy. It is flavoursome but sessionable. A good start.

The hops character is probably the strongest point of the beer. This is heavily hopped for a Belgian beer and done in a crisp way that is very drinkable. Starts out very crisp on the nose, then lightly earthy and peppery. It manages to give a real solid bigger character and a doughy hop feel that adds character and heft without an accompanying weight that would ruin the sessionable character.

There is also some light citrus counterpoints that keep it fresh, but the more bitter hops are what keep my attention.

So after all that, mineral water character. This is very minerally. Initially I disliked it, it felt watery, and intrusive. Now, after a few bottles tried on separate occasions I actually find it interesting. I’m not 100% sold, but the mineral side of it adds flavour and the water side seems less intrusive, which means I am interested enough to grab a few more and see how I find them. It is different, and not unpleasant now.

Right now it is very good, and interesting even if I am not 100% sold on it. Well worth a try to see how it suits you. Probably not the “ultimate Belgian session” in my opinion though. Possibly got hyped up due to how hard it was to get.

Background: Oh this is something I was very excited for. I first heard of this in “100 Belgian Beers To Try Before You Die” Where it is described as “The ultimate Belgian session beer”. At the time it was only available to the monks in the monastery, and occasionally to visitors to the monastery. So, pretty unlikely to get hold of. It only just got a general bottled release so I jumped on that as quick as I darn could. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, my old faithful during lock-down, I drank this while listening to Billy Nomates: No. A quirky, politically active album, which still warms my heart. Worth noting, the 100 beers book lists it as 5.5% abv as opposed to the current 4.8% so it is likely the recipe has changed slightly over the years. Also the book lists it as having “like mineral water” elements, though it seems to view them more favourably than I did.

Tynt Meadow: English Trappist Ale (England: English Strong Ale: 7.4% ABV)

Visual: Very dark cloudy brown with a good sized creamy brown head that leaves suds.

Nose: Chocolate dust. Roasted nuts. Light lactose. Figs. Dark fruit. Dried plums. Crushed peanuts. Ash.

Body: Creamy. Plums. Malt drinks. Bitter coffee. Light oak. Fig rolls.

Finish: Bitter coffee. Ash and smoke. Brown bread. Cashew nuts. Slight mint. Earthy.

Conclusion: Unlike a lot of the new Trappist breweries, this doesn’t seem to be worried about aping the usual Trappist style selection. While it wears some similar notes to a quad, this is very much influenced by the English Strong Ales and ESBs rather than its Belgian cousins.

This is creamy and thick, using a lot of dark fruit notes, backed by ash and earth subtleties to underline it. It isn’t as polished or big as a lot of the Trappist beers – it instead concentrates on doing a strong dark ale well. So, it is not unusual for a heavy British ale, but still works well

The creaminess is the most pushed character – nothing too sweet, just very thick – with light herbal notes and grounded backing meaning that it ends up a quite savoury take despite the dark fruits and higher abv.

Nicely filling and chewy as a beer – nothing too exceptional but does the base job well. I would be interested to see how ageing one of these goes.

Not quite up to levels of awesome I expect from a Trappist brewery, yet at least, but different to most of that crowd – albeit more normal for a British beer. Ok. It is a good start, and I’m interested to see what else they bring out.

Background: Ok, it is kind of old news to most of you now – but I am still shocked by the (ok kind of slow) explosion of Trappist Breweries. It may not seem like much, but considering there used to be only six, amazing quality, Trappist breweries, the double digits amount available now seems like a spoil of treasures. As long as they keep the quality up that is. As you may be aware, a Trappist brewery is one accredited saying that the beer will be brewed by the monks themselves – with the money made going to help the upkeep of the monastery, and in general their quality is very high. This, however is the first English Trappist beer – I’m not a big on patriotism, or go England, or whatever, especially these days, but it was a curiosity that caught my attention. I’ve had it a couple of times before this, may grab one for ageing, but not really taken time to sit down and examine it before this. Grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Erocks metal covers of the Doom soundtrack. One day I will bore of covers to game soundtracks. Today is not that day.

Kievit: Zundert 10 (Netherlands: Quadrupel: 10% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown with an inch of crisp and mounded browned head that leaves a rim around the glass.

Nose: Raisins and fruitcake. Cinnamon sticks. Brown bread. Liquorice touch. Vinous notes. Touch of strawberry.

Body: Fizzy, sherbety feel. Fruitcake. Bitter almonds. Brown bread. Earthy backing. Vinous undertones. Port soaked raisins. Glacier cherries. Turmeric. Tart grapes. Chocolate dust. Liquorice. Dry toffee. Caramel late on.

Finish: Earthy. Cinnamon. Brown bread. Dried sultanas. Chocolate dust. Dates and figs.

Conclusion: Hmm, chewy and yet sherbety up front. Yep we are in heavy duty quad time again!

Let’s break from tradition and start by examining it mid body for once. As indicated it is sherbety and fizzy on first sip before settling down into a mix of sweet caramel and toffee malt body, an earthy rustic spice weighing heavily over that and deep vinous and dark fruit notes washing around underneath. So, as you may have guessed it has got that quad style down pat for its base.

This definitely leans into the rougher edged Belgian take on the quad rather than the super smooth USA abbey style. It uses it to emphasise darker savoury and liquorice notes – along with giving the earthy spice notes much more roam than is usual for the style. So while it definitely has the base style down pat, it isn’t afraid to push its own take. It moves away from over heavy sweetness , and even to a degree away from the more evident vinous notes to make the core of it the more heavy, earthy notes.

It is a good beer, leaning sweet and vinous in the aroma, spicier and earthier in the finish. Main body it feels like a heavy quad that has been filled with mulled wine spices and let loose into the world. It get sweeter over time, with a few caramel notes coming out, but the contrasting spice rises similarly.

It is recognisable as being fairly close to the Belgian take on a quad, but has its own style. A good heavy duty, earthy, spicy, grounded quad. I am impressed. Must try their Tripel if I get the chance,

Background: Kievit, the other Netherlands Trappist brewery! Yep, got my hands on it. After so many years with only 7 Trappist breweries, of which I had tried the vast majority of their awesome output, the nigh doubling to 12 (or actual doubling to 14 if we include the two that have not got the Authentic Trappist Produce Label) recognised breweries means I have to put more leg work in to see if these newcomers can live up to the high quality of their predecessors. Go on tell me there have been more since and make me cry. I did a quick google, but not an in depth check to make sure things haven’t changed since I last looked. Anyway, found at Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Iron Maiden’s more prog influenced album – The Final Frontier. Pretty cool, not their best, but different enough that it makes them sound fresh again.

La Trappe: Dubbel Special Edition 2018 (Netherlands: Dubbel: 8% ABV)

Visual: Dark brown. Good sized frothy beige head.

Nose: Orange zest. Peppery. Malt chocolate. Crushed lemon drops. Yeast funk touch. Lightly nutty.

Body: Peppery. Palma violets. Vanilla. Tobacco. Malt chocolate. Yeast touch. Slight resin and hop oils. Orange zest. Lemon drops.

Finish: Tobacco. Milky chocolate. Praline. Nuts. Yeastie. Peppery. Slight orange skin. Lemon drops.

Conclusion: Ok, I need to do an admission up front. It has been bloody ages since I last tried La Trappe’s standard dubbel, so I can’t really compare this to that. Sorry. I’m just going to have to treat it as a beer in itself. Hope that is ok.

This feels like a, comparatively, gentle dubbel for the style. There is malt chocolate, but not the full on brown sugar, chocolate liqueur, or the rough gem edges that you see in some expressions. What stands out instead is a peppery, slightly oily and resinous hop character, along with a decent yeast funk that makes this feel akin to a dubbel mixed 50/50 with an orval.

That is the main flavour hit for a while – a slightly more hop influenced, orval like, dubbel. Late on though the flavours twist to show new facets – orange zest and lemon drops come out giving a slightly hard sweet citrus style as a gentle additional character.

This, above and beyond everything before it, makes it interesting. The more gentle dubbel character now means that these lighter notes have room to roam.

It feels like a more new wave hopped orval, albeit not as awesome as you are now imagining from that description. It is quite easy drinking, especially considering the abv – the subtle hop bitterness helps encourage further drinking.

It is never super exciting but it is interesting – wearing the light hop flavours, yeast character and light dubbel notes pretty well. At a lower abv this would be a session god of a beer. As is, it is worth trying, but probably not one I will return to often.

Background: La Trappe. Probably my least visited of the Trappist beers (well of the ones I have tried – there are a few new ones I still need to dive into), but this one caught my eye. A variant of their standard dubbel, this one is made with an experimental hop variety, which they say gives a spicy aroma and floral character. Or at least that is what google translate tells me they said. Take with a pinch of salt. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit, had in the cupboard since tail end 2018 – decided to break it open now. I went again with the haunting electronica of Marie Davidson as background music.

La Trappe: Quadrupel (Netherlands: Quadrupel: 10% ABV)

Visual: Mahogany polished red touch in a clear fizzy body that has a small grey, evenly spread head.

Nose: Sawdust. Honey. Fresh toffee. Fresh fudge. Fresh crusty white bread. Lightly creamy. Shaved red wood.

Body: Cherries and shortbread. Fizzy mouthfeel. Honey to golden syrup. Liquorice touch. Sherbet lemon. Hop oils to generally oily. Gummy sap. Frothy. Nutty.

Finish: Clean, bitter oils. Palma violets. Light greenery. Sap. Oily. Licking varnished wood. Resin.

Conclusion: This starts out a fairly standard Quad – big hit of cherries, honey and fudge notes. Basically the big sweetness you expect to come with the big abv and big malt bill. However it soon moves on from there.

It starts the change with the more oily character coming out – some of it is hop oil notes, but generally it is just a more oily, into thick sap feeling character that gives a chewiness and stickiness to the beer along with light resinous notes. Already with just this extra element it feels different to the big sweet quads out there.

Then it gains more range – a palma violets to noble hop feel and taste, light greenery that starts seeping into an oily nutty character. The nutty character sticks around, going into a more nutty weight as the sweetness behind it bleeds away just leaving a soft vanilla and creamy backing.

This feels like what would happen if a biere de garde met a quad – big and oily with slow sweeping flavours. Considering the comparison I am now wondering what ageing would do to this? On one side the fizzy sherbet notes help offset the heavier notes and I feel they would be lost with age, but I can imagine this becoming a smooth still bodied beast with time.

Creamy backed, oily fronted – nutty with sparks of the fruity quad style. A very different quad and worthwhile as that, if not quite as fine as St Bernardus or Westvleteren at their best.

Background: Having the USA Spencer Trappist beer recently reminded me that while I had tried a lot of beers from the first non Belgian Trappist brewery – La Trappe, I had never actually done notes on any of them. So I grabbed this quad from Independent Spirit – from my memory it was my favourite of their beers when I first encountered it, so thought it was a good one to return to and see how it held up to memory. Had been to a Propagandhi gig the night before so put on Potemkin City Limits to listen to – in my opinion still their best album.

Spencer: Trappist Ale (USA: Belgian Ale: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Ruddy apricot skin colour, with a cloudy body. Thin off white head.

Nose: Lemon sherbet. Funky yeast character. Popcorn. Wheat. Light earthy, bready bitterness.

Body: Bready – brown bread. Light earthy bitterness. Lemon sherbet. Peppery. Light vanilla milkshake. Milk.

Finish: Lemon sherbet. Lime touch. Earthy hop bitterness. Peppery. Yeast funk. Popcorn. Kiwi.

Conclusion: Ok, first impressions, this definitely seems to be aiming for the Orval style within the wide Trappist Beer theme. It is the lesser walked path for Trappist breweries, or even breweries in general. Will be interesting to see how it goes.

Now, I don’t mind Orval – in fact my appreciation for it has grown significantly since I first did notes on it, many a year ago – however I have not been as wild about it as many, so I may not be the best to compare the two, but this USA take seems fairly solid.

It has the yeast funk that really defines Orval, along with the mildest sour twist, slight earthy bitterness and a bready character matched with peppery notes – all that call to Orval. This is a beer that wears its influences openly on its sleeve with pride.

It has a slightly more sweet character with more sweet vanilla undertones, and slightly more fruity in the lemon and lime character that expresses itself in a sherbety fashion, so for all the Orval influence it is not just a cheap clone of that beer.

It is easy drinking, though the extra creaminess gives a weight that means it is less thirst quenching than the style would suggest. It racks in at roughly the same abv as Orval, so is playing in the same field, but has a bit more thickness without needing more booze – which, depending on what you want – easy drinking or weight, may or may not be an advantage to you.

It is decent, maybe needs to be just a tad drier in my opinion, or maybe a tad bigger in flavour if they keep the extra thickness, but it is decent. Hopefully they are still tweaking the recipe as with some work this could be one to watch out for in the future.

Background: So, the …9th I think Trappist brewery and the first American one. I first head about this in Japan, but at the time they had not turned out any beers yet. So, here we are, years later and I have beer from one of the newest Trappist breweries, courtesy of Independent Spirit (a quick google tells me we have had two more since, for a total of eleven – not many but seems a ridiculous amount considering the six I was aware of back in the early 2000s) . Whoop! Been looking forwards to giving this a try and put on a bit of Iron Maiden to go with it. Been reading Bruce Dickinson’s autobiography, which is pretty good, and it put me in the right mood for some of the old irons!

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.

Rochefort 8

Rochefort: 8 (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 9.2% ABV)

Visual: Dark brown. Large bubbled brown froth head.

Nose: Raisins. Wheaty. Figgy pudding. Smoke. Burnt grains. Brandy cream. Bready. Fortified red wine. Cherries. Chewy.

Body: Very vinous. Sour grapes. Sweet port mixed with Madeira cake. Black liquorice. Bready – both brown and unleavened. Lightly creamy.

Finish: Dry sultanas. Malt drinks. Madeira cake. Liquorice. Brown bread slices. Lightly earthy feel and peppery.

Conclusion: One day I will have to do Rochefort 8 and 10 side by side – I always seem to end up describing them with similar notes. Then after drinking both I will instantly collapse due to my weak alcohol resistance before their strong abv levels.

From memory this sets very neatly between the 6 and the 10. It has the big, fruity and vinous character that is similar to the 10, but without the wonderful, indulgent, malt load sweetness. It delivers the wine and plentiful dark fruit in a drier style, matching it with liquorice working against the sweetness. I’m not a huge fan of liquorice in beer most of the time, so that is a mark against it, but generally it is a very good set of flavours.

From the style of the 6 comes that bready, slightly Orval like drier character, which is what prevents the beer reaching the insane 10 like sweetness. For such a big beer in flavour and abv it feels very well attenuated, ending up dry and slightly peppery. It makes it a reined in rather than dessert like beer.

When the beer is cool it learns a bit too much towards the dry side for my tastes, but at room temperature it becomes fruitier and more fell – and here it is the standby of the Rochefort crowd – managing the flavour of the ten but without the excesses.

Despite that, I must admit I prefer the 10, I just love it, it is one of my favourite beers. This, I will admit, is the better balanced beer though, even if it is not my favourite of the three. It is still very impressive, and will age to a true gem of a beer if you give it time. So, if you prefer sweet go with the 10, if you prefer dry go with the 8. Any which way you will find a great beer.

Background: For ages I thought I had already done notes on this one, for a long time the Rochefort beers were my favourite Trappist ales and I grabbed them whenever I could. So, once I realised I had not yet done notes on them, there was only one thing I could do. Grab a bottle (from Independent Spirit again) and take my time with it. As you are probably aware, there are very few places allowed to call themselves Trappist beer producers – of which the majority are in Belgium. The brewing needs to be done, or overseen by the monks for it to count. Drunk while listening to Iron Maiden: Book Of Souls – an odd album in that I enjoy it, but none of the tracks really stand out by themselves.

Rochefort 6

Rochefort: 6 (Belgium: Belgian Strong Ale: 7.5% ABV)

Visual: Light cloudy brown with overripe banana skin touches. About a centimetre of white tight bubbled froth for a head.

Nose: Raisins. Wheat. Quite crisp. Brown bread and brown sugar. Fruitcake.

Body: Raisins. Brown bread. Restrained bitterness. Frothy feel. Very smooth. Peppery. Dry and wheat. Malt drinks.

Finish: Some bitterness. Nan bread. Dry feel. light pepper. Slight funky yeast effects.

Conclusion: The restrained Rochefort, welcome back, how are you? Ok, it is only kind of restrained – it is a Rochefort after all. Actually, no, it is pretty restrained all things considered. The heavy intense fruity notes that are so telling of Rochefort have been reined in here – pushing forwards but never really pushing past the background of the beer.

It is instead marked by a quite dry, bready front with a bit of an orval feel to it, albeit with much less funky yeast effects. It is the most sessionable a totally unsessional 7.5% abv beer will get.

Now it is not as strong or as intricate as the eight or ten, but there is something very much moreish about it. The malt base is solid, but restrained, as is the bitterness. There is a lovely frothy front to the mouth feel, smooth, but soon becomes contradictory and drying towards the end into a pepperyness that is by far the longest lasting element. It really does invite another sip.

Quite a few people seen to find this a let down compared to the other two, but for a long while it was actually my favourite Rochefort. Lots of fun, very easy to drink without the boozy alcohol notes of the others. In recent years I will admit I have been taken by the weight of the aged versions of eight and ten, but even now returning to this reminds me what a charmer it is.

If you go in expecting a heavy duty Trappist ale you will be disappointed, but I think this is worth giving a try for something high quality but a bit different from the monks.

Background: You know, I have never done a note on Rochefort 8. I was convinced I had. I thought picking up the six for notes would compete the set, but no. Turns out for all the times I have drunk the eight, I never got around to noting it. Huh. Anyway, Rochefort is my second favourite of the Trappist ales, after Westvleteren. I had found this at Corks of Cotham a while back so grabbed it.

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