Tag Archive: Trappist

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.

Rochefort: Trappistes Rochefort 10 (Belgium: Quadrupel: 11.2% ABV)

Visual: A dark cloudy brown body. Fizzy brown head that descends into light scrapings of bubbles very quickly.  When swirled the beer leaves a viscous brown smear across the glass.

Nose:  Really rich, full of figs and plums. Bitter chocolate, malt turning room air. Brandy.  Smooth and just crammed with fruit cake elements. Brandy cream.  Coconut. Caramelised brown sugar- crème brulee. Condensed cream.

Body: Chocolate, plums. Bitter coffee. Cherries. Slight bitter core. Nutmeg. Laced orange fresh back. Fudge.

Finish: Massive creamy milk chocolate, milky coffee, dry chocolate shavings. Nuttiness. Fresh chocolate orange.

Conclusion: I have for a long time wondered exactly how much difference ageing a beer makes, having tried aged beers, but never aged beers that I had previously tried an unaged version of. So I try this and wow, what a difference it makes.  Had raw this is a fantastic beer already, but this version with a few years under the hood really shows the extra smoothness and flavour it brings in.

The alcohol punch from the young beer is racked all the way down bringing out richness and smoothness unparalleled.  The aroma is cloying, heavy and fruity.  You could almost drink this beer through smell alone.  The body is sweet, thick and chocolaty into a rich finish.  This lasts as long as you could ever want it to, or until you sip again, whichever comes first.

Rich fresh excellence in a glass, it’s a real after dinner beer, that could be had as a pudding itself or as a brandy replacement. Up there with the best of the trappist, which means it is really in a class of its own as beers go for complexity and power.

If you can avoid drinking it for a year or two then this beer becomes one of the all time greats.

Background: An aged example of this beer, with about two years rest between creation and drinking, which is definitely noticeable.  As always, I’m a huge fan of the trappist ales, being made by trappist monks themselves.  Rochefort is second only to the legendry Westvleteren in my eyes for quality and I’ve sampled many of their small range over the years. This particular beer was being saved for a special occasion and drunk as such.

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.

Westvleteren Blond (Belgium: Belgian Ale (Trappist): 5.8% ABV)

Visual: Bitty shifting gold with a banana haze and light carbonation, a smooth creamy bubbled off white head that leaves sud trails. Almost crystalline shifting body.

Nose: Light crisp hops, fresh and wheaty. Restrained bitterness, fresh citrus and crushed oranges. Banana, honeyed, creamy and slight cloves.

Body: Dry wheat, syrup and rising hop oils. Very smooth creamy texture yet with a granite touch at times. Grapes and orange. Vanilla and light toffee.

Finish: Dry bitter hops, very crisp and dry in texture. Long lasting hop, lots of wheat, Slight fudge through the hops.

Conclusion: A smooth and bitter precursor to today’s trend for hopped blond Belgium ales like the XX bitter, yet the traditional Trappist brewing home could not be more different from today’s new wave breweries.

Lasting hops, a very smooth yet bitter body with citrus freshness. This is often the overlooked Westvleteren compared to its heavy duty brothers, but it still has a great sweet and hop balance and a great session flavour character. (Its ABV, whilst low for Belgium, is a tad up from what I would normally describe as sessionable). It’s a pity really that their relative difficulty to find makes it hard to get enough together for a session.

A well graced and lasting beer, and a creamy mix of heavenly hops, if only you could easily get a batch for a nights drinking it would find its perfect place.

Background: Westvleteren are the hardest of the Trappist ales to get hold of, and have an enhanced reputation in part because of that. They only sell a small amount of beer in order to maintain the monastery, and unlike most other Trappist brewers only brew enough to cover those costs. They only sell from their monastery, and you have to ring in advance to book. However there is a resale market with Belgium which is how I got my hands on this. Their reputation is not just based on rarity, the beers are all high quality, and their Westvleteren 12 has been repeatedly referred to as the greatest beer in the world.

Disclaimer: The Daily Mail Crossword book is not mine, I do not buy the Daily Mail. Anyone who has ever seen the Daily Mail will know why I felt the need to add this disclaimer.

Thanks to my parents for the Christmas gift of this beer.

Westmalle Dubbel (Belgium: Abbey Dubbel(Trappist): 7% ABV)

Visual: Dark slightly reddish brown with a decent light coffee brown froth head.

Nose; Malty hops, brown sugar, washing up liquid freshness but not aroma. Aniseed and liquorice. Figs and raisins. Overripe fruit sugar. Slight sourness, bitter chocolate and spice. Cane sugar

Body: Malt and barley, charring, liquorice and brown sugar. Raisins, bitter back. Slight cream and dark fruits.

Finish: Charring, aniseed, black hard liquorice buts, treacle. Bitterness and wheat.

Conclusion: If I remember rightly this was the beer that started my long love affair with Trappist ales.

It’s a dark sweet and just slightly sour beer, full force and slightly harsh and distinctly bitter flavours into a massive wheaty endgame.

Combine this with liquorice, aniseed and treacle and you have a harsh uncompromising beer, but one that appeals beyond its force. It has just enough release from the brown sugar and bitter chocolate to make it welcome.   In fact this has been brought along to several house parties and was found very welcome by drinkers who had not previously been exposed to its charms

Fantastically gripping and heavy beer, full of cane sugar and kicks far more that its not insignificant abv would suggest, this full of flavour that grips and manhandles you, but eases just enough to make you continue.
A great beer.

Tasting Notes: Orval: Orval

Orval: Orval (Belgium: Belgium Ale (Trappist):6.2% ABV)

Visual: Hazy brown filtering down to a lighter amber with a massive frothy just off white head that’s rock steady.

Nose: Light peppered and mild hops, smooth, coriander. Very slight coffee, light ground orange peel.

Body: Pepper, wheat, dark bitterness, touch of lime and brown sugar. Malt chocolate. Chalky texture.

Finish: Dry hops, dry bitterness, dry chocolate, kinda dry.

Conclusion: The weakest of the trappist ales, so still a very decent beer. A lightly peppered wheaty ale, heavily flavoured throughout, but without a massive range. Bitter, and some subtle flavours make for a more earthy experience with just a hint of chocolate sweetness.

A very good earthy dark ale, it only seems weak when compared to other Trappist ales.

Westvleteren 8(Belgium: Trappist Belgian Strong Ale: 8% ABV)

(Note drunk 02/01/10 Best Before 12/02/12)

Visual: Head is small and uneven due to slow careful pouring, and yet the dark brown red body is still cloudy brown from sediment. Soon becomes clear headed, like a placid black lagoon.

Nose: Cherries, grapes, white wine and sourness. Soaked alcohol and raisins. Fresh, slightly lactose with a sharp character and elements of rich fermenting fruit.

Body: Fizzy, then the elements start coming through. Figs, slightly dry, brown bread and tiny touches of cherry. Some rum like elements including an evident alcohol punch. Sweet shortbread and a cake base with sugar dusting. A sherbety mouthfeel filled with dried fruits – raisins and sultana then milk chocolate, the flavours swelling into the available space throwing out red grapes and plums. Touch of milk character again. Many complex competing flavours.

Finish: Bitter, figs and lots of dry bitter chocolate. Some nuttiness. Long lasting dusty bitterness, hoppiness and flour like character, Honeyed treacle shines through.

Note: Truly a beer that needs to be served at a warm room temperature. This beer was initially quite disappointing until it was warmed from its cold winter room temperature. The quality of the beer when warm was enough for even this northerner to put on the heating.

Conclusion: Whilst I have tried many beers since I first drank this, which was one of the first exceptional beers I tried, it still held up well against the wealth of beer tried since.

No longer is it the peak of beers, but it is complex and heavy – a more expressive beer in the style of Tsmisje Dubbel with elements of the contrary Gouden Christmas beer – a good sign as both are highly complex tempting beers with punishing pleasures within.

It is dark and powerful, bitter fruit flavours that take time to express, a liquid heart of darkness from the trappist monastery of pure thought. Not a beer of light heart and joy, its speaks of rich challenges and enlightenment through adversity.

No longer the best, but to have your tastebud tantalised by the extremes of a cruel yet exciting challenger who used to be no1, and picked up some tricks on the way.

Well that is still a beer to exalt in.

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