There are only 7 trappist breweries in the entire world. Only beer brewed at an abbey, under the watchful eye of the Cistercian monastic community living there, can rightfully use the strictly controlled name of “Trappiste”. Belgium is home to six of the breweries entitled to use the “Trappiste” name: Orval, Chimay, Rochefort, Westvleteren, Westmalle and Achel. The seventh is Koningshoeven and is located in The Netherlands.
Each beer brewed at one of the seven trappist breweries is entitled to use the logo: Authentic Trappist Product. The logo is also used for other products manufactured in the Cistercian monasteries and under the supervision of the monks and nuns. It indicates that they are the manufacturers.
Orval is situated near Florenville, in the province of Luxembourg, south-east Belgium, in the immediate vicinity of the border with France.
As is customary with Cistercians, the Community of Orval provides entirely for itself through its own activities (mainly cheese-making, hospitality, and beer brewing). All generated profits are devoted both to various forms of social and charitable aids, and to the upkeep of the monastery.
Throughout the long history of Orval, it is assumed that there has always been a brewery on the grounds. Various facts corroborate this idea : topographical references on old drawings; a detailed description of production left by a Franciscan visitor three hundred years ago; an area called the “hop-field” very close to the monastery. Since the area was ill-suited for vine growing, brewing beer was customary. Beer was first and foremost considered for its nourishing properties : it was called “liquid bread”. (Source: Orval)
In 1931 the present day brewery was built, employing lay people and intended to provide a source of funds for the monastery reconstruction. It was designed by Henry Vaes, who also designed the distinctive Orval beer glass. The first beer was shipped from the brewery on May 7, 1932, and was sold in barrels rather than the bottles of today. Orval was the first Trappist beer to be sold nationally around Belgium. (Source: Wikipedia)
Now I know what you are thinking … enough of the history lesson – what about the freaking beer?
Ah yes. THE ORVAL Trappist Ale. A classic amongst the Belgian ales.
Merchant Du Vin is the sole importer of Orval. For a list of their distributors, visit this link.
To learn how Orval beer is made, visit this link.
THE BEER WENCH’s TASTING NOTES:
Appearance: Amber-orange color. Cloudy with large fluffy head – which lasts a really long time and leaves a thick film of lacing.
Aroma: Mild Belgian yeast aroma (sweet yeast with hints of cloves). Slightly floral nose with citrus notes (compliments of the hops, naturally).
Taste: Well-balanced ale! The ale has an interesting acidic “bite” that is nicely neutralized by a mild malt and mild yeast taste. The floral hops are apparent on the taste and help balance out the sweetness of the malt as well as kill some of the acidity. The finish is tart and slightly bitter, lingering … enough. Medium to full body. Nicely carbonated. Alcohol is very hard to detect on the taste, which makes it a super easy ale to drink.
OVERALL: As always, ORVAL is a classic. This is a MUST TRY BEFORE YOU DIE kind of beer. I don’t care who you are and if you don’t like beer – you must try Orval at least once in your lifetime.
Orval is a staple in my beer diet.
Why? Because it could very well be the quintessential example of what a well-balanced, well-rounded ale should look, smell, feel and taste like. It reminds me of Goldie Locks and The Three Bears. Not too strong. Not too weak. Not too sweet, not too bitter, not too sour, not too astringent -EVERYTHING IN BALANCE.
But as always, don’t take my word for it – try it for yourself and then feel free to call me out on it. After all, I am just a wench … wink wink!