Trappist Ale, 6.9% ABV; bottled 7/17/2014, best before 7/17/2019
Brasserie D’Orval, Villers-devant-Orval, Belgium
By Bill Lau
Posted March 19, 2015
As the legend goes, before there was a monastery on the site, a widow named Matilde lost her wedding ring in a fountain there. Her prayers to the Lord were answered immediately, as a trout rose to the surface bearing her ring in its mouth. Matilde exclaimed “Truly this place is a Val d’Or ! “, and she decided to establish a monastery on the site in her gratitude. This story is remembered in the label design used on Orval Trappist Ale.
Orval is 1 of only 11 Trappist breweries in the world. Their beer is still brewed inside the monastery walls (by lay people working for the monks), and their website notes after 15 years of modernization and expansion brewing is now at annual capacity. In other words, they’re making all of the beer they can to meet the world’s demands, and we’re drinking it up!
And in case you wondered, income from royalties generated from the brand name goes to social welfare works and maintaining the brewery and buildings.
On to the review! Served in a stemmed Orval chalice after allowing the beer to lose some of the chill from having been in the refrigerator.
Appearance (5/5): Bright orange-amber hue with deep honey-gold highlight close to the stem. Clear. Absolutely gorgeous, voluminous head composed of ultra-dense, mousse-like beige foam forms peaks and valleys and sustains to the end.
Aroma (10/10): Very aromatic; notes of fruit and hints of spice leap out of the glass from a distance. My nose picks out some citrus zest, coriander, and clove.
Palate (4.5/5): Body a shade on the light side of medium, lifted by a very fine carbonation bead. The head provides a creaminess to the texture.
Taste (9/10): Bright and a bit tart initially with some clove & coriander notes, the sour edge becomes more prominent in the middle, then evolves into floral hoppiness. There’s some dry malt in there, joined by a pithy bitterness. The flavors continuously evolve and lead into a tangy finish with a lingering bitter edge and mild phenolic notes. Great complexity, yet also quite drinkable.
Overall (19/20): Very unique among the Trappist ales. I find myself coming back to this one over time to enjoy its refreshing and flavorful character. God bless those Trappist monks and their brewery!
One last comment – the beer evolves over time in the bottle, and if you noted the bottling and best by dates of my sample, there’s a window of 5 years; I suggest purchasing several to cellar and sampling them over time, to explore this flavor evolution.