[Ed.: Today we have a great guest post from Jake Metzler, a writer for Midwest Supplies. Jake spends his free time writing songs, brewing beer, and drinking his creations. He’s still perfecting the practice of doing all three at once. He also has a growing collection of brewing supplies. Thanks for getting in touch with us and providing us with this piece!]
Chimay Beer Review and the Search for the Rare, Golden Chimay Dorée
Whether you’re a Trappist monk at the Abbaye Notre-Dame de Scourment in Belgium’s Hainaut province or a beer-lover, chances are you’re familiar with Chimay. For the sake of readers that aren’t members of a Belgian beer-brewing monastic order or haven’t encountered Chimay secularly- it’s a top-shelf brand of ales much sought by connoisseurs. There are three varieties publicly offered by the Chimay Brewery: Rouge (Red), Blanche (White) and Bleue (Blue).
Should this inspire you to seek out some Chimay, it’s probably my duty to moderate the hypothetical sticker-shock. While not Châteaux Lafite-expensive, you can expect to pay between $5.50 and $8… per 12 oz. bottle. Chimay also comes in 750 ml bottles that will set you back between $11 and $15. However, there’s another variety of Chimay that would set you back considerably more than $15 to acquire (unless you’re one of the previously-mentioned Chimay Trappists)…
What’s so special about this Chimay that’s not available in any local bar or store, can’t be ordered directly from Chimay and isn’t even mentioned on their website? Well, this rare and precious (hops) flower is a patersbier– a beer brewed virtually exclusively for the brewers at the monastery. Ours is Chimay Dorée (Gold); available for purchase exclusively in about a square mile of Belgium at the Chimay brewery/monastery or their associated inn/restaurant, Auberge de Poteaupré. Without flying to Belgium, though, the only way to get your hands on a bottle of Dorée is to know someone that likes you enough to ship some.
Take heart- at least one of those benevolent souls do exist- something I can attest to, having been on the receiving end of their Dorée generosity. To provide a proper review of the private, golden patersbier some Chimay-context is necessary. So, in order of their alcohol content, Chimay’s mainstream selections are:
Chimay Rouge (Red) – Chimay’s red brew is a “dubbel” (double) style ale. The dubbel designation is a Trappist brewing convention that dates back to 1856 for creating a strong, dark ale. Without precise measuring instrumentation, Trappist brewers just doubled the ingredients they used in their brewing. Rouge has an alcohol by volume (abv) content of 7%. Dubbels are dark, often dry ales in which the ingredients combined are prone to pop individually. Expect to pick up hints of grain and fruit in a dubbel. Chimay’s Red is no exception- the notes of fruit are particularly apparent.
Chimay Blanch (White) – Chimay’s White is representative of another Trappist-originated brewing-class: the tripel (triple, obviously). Can you guess the ingredient-ratio that characterizes the production of a tripel? You are correct! At some point in the 1930s a clutch of Trappist monks somewhere were apparently feeling wild and tripled the quantity of their beer-production materials. Chimay’s gold-hued tripel is drier than both the Red and the Blue and once again discloses its formative ingredients to the drinker- hops rather than grain in Blanche’s case. A crisp and refreshing blend with an abv of 8%.
Chimay Bleue (Blue) – Bleue is generally considered Chimay’s flagship beer; the “classic” Chimay. An argument could be made that Bleue is the most popular of the Chimay beers because it has the highest abv- 9%. Blue can introduce itself to a neophyte Chimay-drinker with a seeming bitterness, but that impression soon retreats (a retreat-speed that probably increases as more Chimay is imbued). In the wake of that dryness, Blue leaves a spicy, fruit-laced depth that ably accounts for its popularity (even among the other Chimay beers).
Chimay Dorée (Gold)- So, why is this quiet, golden Chimay chosen for sole consumption by the Trappist monks responsible for Belgium’s (arguably) most popular beer? Well, for one- at 4.8 it has about half the abv of the other Chimay brews. This is done in conscious deference to the monastic lifestyle. Sobriety and moderation (along with prayer and hard work) are defining features of the Trappists’ lives and drinking beer with 9% alcohol can do away with sobriety in short order. They describe its flavor Rouge-like but with additional spices. That’s a pretty apt presentment. The Gold was good for Chimay, excellent for a beer in general and tasted a lot like the Red but lighter and a touch more exotic.
My final pronouncement is- if you’re going to be in Belgium, go by the Chimay brewery and/or the Auberge de Poteaupré Inn and have them draw a glass of Dorée for you (only 6 or 7 euros) and if you get the chance to drink it here, take it. However, good as it is, the Gold is not head (get it) and shoulders above Red, White or Blue. If the hankering for a Chimay takes you, pick up one of the commercially-available varieties and you won’t be missing out.