Beer blogging: Chimay “Red”
I’m not sure this is the best approach to “beer blogging”, but I thought I’d post something about my current favorite beers, the three Chimay ales. The Chimay “red” was available at the LCBO (liquor control board of Ontario), so that’s what I’m drinking. I should note that, even though I’m a blogger, I received no money from Chimay to post this!
The Chimay line is part of the Trappist brewing tradition, in keeping with Saint Benedict’s desire that monks do regular manual labor, meet the needs of their monastery, and demonstrate hospitality to strangers. Travelers (if male), used to be able to stay in monasteries and get a good meal in many corners of the world. And, in some places, beer was the healthiest thing one could find to drink. It is not surprising that a certain monastic art of brewing developed. The Chimay brewery was founded in 1867 in the Scourmont abbey, a Cistercian abbey established in Chimay, Belgium in 1850. Today, the monks follow the same life they’ve led since the abbey was built: seven hours of prayers, reading and study each day, broken up with manual labor. The technology has been updated, but the brewing traditions remain largely unchanged. To this day, all of the proceeds from the sale of their three ales are used towards the upkeep of the monastery with all remaining money going to charity and local community development. I cannot say if this makes drinking the ales a good deed.
There are seven official Trappist breweries in the world; their beers are: Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle, Westvleteren, and Achel- all in Belguim- and Koningshoeven in the Netherlands. All carry the “official Trappist product” seal. Westvleteren has gained a reputation for taste that is, no doubt, somewhat heightened by the fact that it’s danged so hard to come by: the Westlveteren 12 is often called “the best beer in the world”, and this must have something to do with the fact that the St Sixtus abbey only produces about 160,000 crates a year and they will only sell their beer at the monastery to visitors who carry it away. I’ve friends who have made the trek, but it’s still just a beautiful, boozy dream for me.
When you pour Chimay in the glass (they recommend using a chalice shaped glass like the one pictured- and, yes, I own a special glass for this purpose) it creates a fairly thick head and the carbonation is noticeable when you drink it. However, the head will dissipate completely within a few minutes. The beer has a rich, dark taste with a hint of bitterness, a bit like the German dopplebacks; we could call it strong, but it’s also noticeably sweet and fruity. It reminds me a bit of coffee, actually, although no one I know agrees with me on that. The body is a bit heavy and it has a nice aroma. The color is fairly dark- somewhat like a dark iced tea. The combination of sweet and bitter along with the bubbles can catch you off guard the first time you drink it. The red has got a 7% alcohol content, the white is 8%, and the blue is 9% content, which is more than some domestics, although lower than most of the things I drink normally. However, let me note that I find all three Chimay beers to be absolutely delicious and a nice treat on a Friday evening. Also, while I’ve heard of them going for high prices in some places, here in Ontario, a wine-shaped bottle of Chimay goes for about six dollars and, in my opinion, is worth the price.
(Note: For the sake of accuracy, I drank a bottle while writing this on Sunday evening.)