Beer Review – Orval

Orval is one of the Trappist Breweries, a brewery owned and operated by monks.  Located in Belgium like most of the Trappist Breweries, Orval means valley of gold.  The current brewery was built in 1931, and they brew only one beer.  The recipe is said to date back to 1100 AD.  Orval has more hop presence that many of the Trappist beers, using Bavarian Hallertau, Styrian Golding and Strisselspalt hops.  Liquid candi sugar is added to the wort prior to fermentation and distinctive yeasts, like Brettanomyces, add much to this distinctive beer.

Vitals

  • Beer: Orval Trappist Ale
  • Brewery: Orval (Belgium)
  • Style: Belgian Pale Ale (6.9% ABV)
  • Price: $4.99 for a 12 oz bottle

My Review

The taste of an Orval evolves over time.  This particular bottle was bottled October 6, 2011 and consumed March 29, 2012.  It poured with an ivory white billowing head, that filled over half the glass and stayed around for a long time, kind of like the meringue topping on a pie.  As the beer settles the lacing it leaves behind is extensive, with big meringue chunks hanging on the edge of the glass. The color is a hazy honey brown.  The Brettanomyces yeast lends the expected grass/hay funkiness to the taste.  There is a crisp tartness, with complex spiciness, and subtle hints of fruit in the background.  The hops and alcohol make their presence known, but the hops used are much more earthy and spicy than their american counterparts (no grapefruit flavors to be found here).  It has a mildly bitter, super dry, clean finish.  The mouthfeel is smooth and highly carbonated.

Summary

This is a classic, and every time I try one it seems to get a little better.  It pairs well with food and is a unique, albeit much copied (Matilda, Rayon Vert, …) gift to humanity.  Some people consider this the best beer in the world, and I would not argue that point.

Note: The monks at Orval also make cheese, if you are in the mood for some pungent, old world cheese to go with your beer.  You can find it at Weiland’s in Columbus, among other places.

Rating: 9

Rating scale: 10 = perfection, 9 = excellent, one of the top beers in the world, 8 = very good, one of the top beers in its style category, 7 = good, a solid beer I’m happy to be drinking, 6 = average, not bad but not something I’m likely to buy again, 5 = below average, 3-4 = poor, should be avoided, 1-2 drainpour.

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