Classy Hooch: Chimay (Blue)
These next few beer updates are part of a Christmas present that I’m finally getting to: The Chimay variety pack. It comes with all three varieties of this Belgian trappist ale. In addition to their flagship blue label, the pack includes a Chimay Red and a Triple, which has kind of a beige label, but I can understand not wanting to call it Chimay Beige.
Not only that, I get official glassware! Fond as I am of my Snake River Brewing beer mug, each Belgian beer is traditionally supposed to be enjoyed from their distinct drinkware. I am now officially a beer nerd and will start calling french fries pommes frites – I apologize for this.
In addition to beer and swell glassware, you get literature providing details on where this ale comes from. Who doesn’t love literature? Chimay’s a product of Scourmont Trappist abbey in Belgium, meaning it’s brewed by monks (they also make cheese. did you know they make cheese? i didn’t know they make cheese). This makes it a Trappist ale, but what I did not know is that there are only 6 beers in the world brewed in Trappist abbeys (the rest are “trappist-style”). Not only that, I’ve had one: Orval, which I’ve reviewed on this site. The remaining four are Westmalle, Westvleteren, Achel, and Rochefort, which is available at the local Kroger (so I guess I know what’s coming next).
I’m starting this flight with the Blue. It’s Chimay’s signature brew, and although I’ve had it before (at Pittsburgh’s excellent Sharp Edge Brasserie), it’s only been from draft, not the bottle. I’ll move on to the Red and Triple next time.
Uncap the Blue and you immediately get the aroma of yeast. You don’t have to swirl or sniff or really do much of anything – you open, you smell yeast. After this, though, the actual smell is much more complex. It’s thick, like other trappists, with that potent alcohol edge to it if you breathe deeply enough; that’s not surprising when you consider it’s 9% ABV.
Based on that smell, you might expect something heavier in taste. What you get is smooth but not syrupy. It’s got hops, but it’s good and malty, too, which I like. The beer has a dark flavor, but it’s complex rather than overpowering. There’s even a little scotch-like edge to it. There’s some floral taste to it (the Chimay people describe it as “rosaceous,” if that helps you), and while it’s not highly bitter, what bitterness there is hangs out on the back edges of your tongue longer after you swallow. There’s also some sourness, but again, it’s not something you’ll notice until after the drink is done.
After this start, I’m excited to taste the rest of the Chimay rainbow. This is a complex beer, and the rest of the family’s likely to live up to that standard.