Posts Tagged ‘blue’

Beer Review: Chimay Blue Pères Trappistes Trappist Beer

28 July, 2009

THE NEXT unusual bottle to come from Crossharbour ASDA is this $1.74 pence bottle of Chimay Blue Pères Trappistes. Maybe it’s not all that unusual. Somebody left a comment on this blog a few weeks ago that mentioned it. I think it looks like the dumpy little bottles of Duvel Golden Ale which is also Belgian and happens to be delicious. I’ve also got a suspicion that this might be an unfiltered, live, cloudy, yeasty Belgian. And that is a very good thing.

Chimay Blue bottle

Around the neck, are words and a symbol are embossed. But what do they say?

Chimay Blue things embosesd around shoulder of bottle

The “A D S” doesn’t mean anything. Until you read the words underneath it. “Abbaye de Scourmont” is what I could make out. Corrections in the comments at the end of the post please.

Down on the front label, everything is calm, tasteful and, thankfully, much easier to read.

Chimay Blue front label

The numbers either side of the “Chimay” shield logo. Does “2009” make this a vintage conscious beer in the same way as a wine? Is 2009 good or would 1909 be better? Most of the rest of the front label helpfully explains, in a multitude of European languages, that this is a Trappist Beer.

The serenity of the front label is replaced by multilingual overload on the back. It does however, do a good job of answering our questions.

Chimay Blue back label

Considerately, the English language version of the story comes first. They start by pointing out the “Authentic Trappist Product” symbol, which means it was brewed in a real monastery by the community who live there. Monks if we’re honest. Then comes some unexpected news. Apparently, some of the revenue from this beer goes to the monks to support their charitable works. That makes me feel less guilty for buying beer. Thanks monks!

Then they start the description of what Chimay Blue is about. Enticingly, they describe it as “powerful and complex”. They go further than many by giving the narrow temperature window of 10°C to 12°C. I don’t know what that is, so I’ll leave it in the fridge for a while and hope for the best.

Ingredients, at least the ones on the label, are no surprise. “Water, barley malt, wheat, sugar, hop, yeast” are in the list. But look below all the languages, and we spot some things that are a surprise. There’s a cross over a picture of a normal glass, with a side, almost wine glass shaped thing next too it. Next to shat is the same sort of diagram telling you to store the bottle upright, not on its side. Together with the temperature thing, this is turning into one temperamental brew. It also hints at the yeasty sediment that must be floating inside the bottle.

Then we get to the vital statistics. Yes, the 0.33L bottle is little surprise. But the alcoholic volume is. At 9%, Chimay Blue is right up there with the strongest European continental ales, British strong ales and the super-strength alcoholics favourite lagers.

The last bits of detail are just above the barcode. The brewer is one S.A. Bières de Chimay N.V. in Belgium. The Inter-tubes must have reached the Trappist monks of Chimay because they have a website at www.chimay.com. To save you time, you can find history at http://www.chimay.com/en/history_53.php, the Blue homepage is at http://www.chimay.com/en/chimay_blue_220.php and at http://www.chimay.com/en/intro_241.php you can read about the cheeses that they are very keen for you to eat while drinking Chimay.

With that out of the way, it’s time for the fun part. What does Chimay Blue actually taste like? Will I like it, even though I don’t have any cheese? Should you try it? And will many people leave angry comments because I used the wrong type of glass? Let’s find out.

Chimay Blue poured into the wrong type of glass

The closest I could find to the label picture was a wine glass. Despite this, it still frothed up. Fortunately, the froth went down as fast as it went up. And whatever glass you choose, it looks and terrific. Just look how dark brown it is, and how good it looks with the thick, bubbly head. The downside is that I can’t see the yeasty sediment swirling around.

Then there’s the smell that you can smell from the moment you start pouring. Chimay Blue smells unlike anything I’ve smelt before. It smells richly, deeply of dark fruit. A bit like a red wine, port or cherry. But it’s smoothed by the rich maltiness, familiar from other favourite Belgian ales. Oh, and it smells of alcohol. Strongly of alcohol.

What does Chimay Blue taste like? The first sip revealed a taste much like that of the smell. It also proved the vague label description to be spot-on. It is as “powerful and complex” as anything you have ever drank. A few more sips and some sense starts to be made of Chimay Blue.

A few more sips and I’m thoroughly enjoying Chimay Blue. But I’m beginning to wander if that complexity is all it’s cracked up to be. Yes, it’s a hundred times more complex than lager, but I can’t detect a rainbow of flavours. Just a very powerful taste. It does have a flavour. I think. One of rich, dark fruit that reminds me of wine, port, cherry or fruit cake. Then there’s the aftertaste. On the palate, this is as powerful as it’s 9% volume promises it to be. That smooth, distinctively Belgian taste kicks in, the fruitiness goes into overdrive and you receive a delicious taste of lightly roasted maltiness. I love it.

Specifically, what do I like about Chimay Blue? That mysterious Belgian quality always wins me over. Try Hoegaarden White Beer, Leffe Blonde or Duvel Golden Ale to see what I mean. They all have the same quality that this has. Next, there’s that taste. The only thing I can compare it to is the British Old Tom Strong Ale. That had the same sort of strong taste of dark fruit, but Chimay Blue does it the Belgian way. And that keeps its points for distinctiveness intact. I like very much how well made it is. It’s strong, but not too bitter. Amazingly, they’ve kept it balanced. 9% volume is rarely this easy to drink. I also like how clearly this is one of those drinks to be savoured and drunk slowly, in a civilised way. This is one of those ales nudging into wine territory. On top of all that, it’s not too gassy.

What of the downsides to Chimay Blue? Well, it is strong. There’s no denying that. Even though I got used to it soon enough, it’s going to put off the less intrepid and more lager inclined. If you can find a girl who says she likes Chimay Blue, hang onto her. Then there’s the problem of finding the right time to drink this, and all very strong ales. What is the right social situation? If you know, leave a comment. Lastly, Chimay Blue is probably not going to be half-price at your local supermarket. That means it is going to be hard to find where you live.

How can I sum up Chimay Blue? It is the Old Tom Strong Ale I tried last time, but Belgian. It is just as strong, just as dark, warming, fruity and interesting, only in the form of an unfiltered Belgian ale. It is an exceptional beer. If you’ve ever wanted to drink a fruit cake or find ordinary red wine not beery enough, this is the one for you. Just remember to go slowly and savour it, or you risk becoming sozzled, as I have just become.

Rating: 4.375

Have you tried Chimay Blue? What did you think of it?

Do please leave your opinions, facts, corrections, recommendations, requests and places to buy, here in the comments.

Beer Review: Ridgeway Brewing of Oxfordshire Blue

30 March, 2008

SOUTH of the border this time for a bottle of beer from Oxford. This one is called Blue and it’s from Ridgeway Brewing of Oxfordshire.
Ridgeway Blue bottle

I usually ignore the neck label when in the shop, so it wasn’t until I got home that I noticed this…
Ridgeway Brewing of Oxfordshire Blue neck label

It turns out that this won ‘best beer’ at the Tesco ‘brewing awards’. That makes this the second I’ve tried, with Broughton Champion Double Ale was the first Tesco winner I tried. And very good it was too. This upshot of which is that I now have higher than usual expectations going into this one.

The front label is round. And features mainly blue text. I’d describe what the illustration is of. But I can’t tell what it’s supposed to be. Can you?
Ridgeway Brewing of Oxfordshire Blue front label

The bottom edge of the label has their address. The full address. Post code and everything. And that’s unusual, as the address normally goes on the back label. It does prove that this one comes from South Stoke in Oxfordshire however. Also down there, in tiny writing is “Alc 5% vol.” It’s so small, you’d think they were trying to hide that fact.

Either side of the roundel are a couple of facts. On the left, it says “whole leaf hops”. And on the right, “maris otter malt”. How that will affect the taste, we’ll find out soon enough. If you think you can explain what it means, do by all means leave a comment at the end of the post.

The first thing that jumps out at you on the back label is the “CAMRA says this is real ale”. That’s not something I’ve seen on any other bottle I’ve reviewed so far, and it’s a welcome sight. Always good to know that the Campaign for Real Ale gives it’s approval to something, so that clueless drinkers, like me, can enjoy with one less thing to worry about.
Ridgeway Brewing of Oxfordshire Blue back label

Ridgeway open the rear label with some marketing speak about sharing this bottle or drinking it at a barbeque. Fortunately, they have some useful advice in there too, in the form of a description of what the drink will be like. As always, that’s immensely helpful, as it gives me something with which to judge the success of the drink. This one includes words such as “distinctively hoppy”, “lively” and “refreshing”.

They also suggest “drinking cold”. Whether they mean that the bottle should be cold, or that you should drink while feeling cold is unclear. Assuming they mean that the bottle is the one that should be cold, the include a nice touch underneath it in brackets saying that it’s not compulsory. I like that sort of touch.

The, the label goes on to explain something really rather interesting. And something I’ve met before without realising it. You see, Ridgeway helpfully explain what “Bottle Conditioned” is all about. It turns out, that live yeast sediment goes into the bottle, so that it can ferment some more while it waits for you to open it. And that all Ridgeway beers are bottles that way because it makes the flavour “brighter” and “fresher”. I’m not sure about those two adjectives, but I do know that Hoegaarden does something similar, and that it is one of the best I’ve ever had. And yes, looking closely into the bottle, you can see some of that yeast sediment. There go my expectations up a few more notches. Not just for Blue but for all Ridgeway bottles.

Down to the small print, and this is a moderately priced, 500 millilitre bottle from my local Tesco. It contains malted barley. And the web address given on the bottle is www.ridgewaybrewery.co.uk. Which doesn’t work. Why do so many bottles feature web addresses that are wrong or go to sites that aren’t there? Come on chaps. You’re making bottles of beer for Tesco now. Not just for the county fair.

In a glass, it has a thin head. And yes, while pouring, a small lump of that yeast sediment plopped in. The colour is a cloudy dark gold. And the smell is… quite nice. It smells almost citrusy. But I could be wrong about that. There’s definitely something ‘clean’ and ‘fresh’ about the way it smells. You’ll also pick up hints of the malt, hops and yeast that are in there too, if you sniff hard enough.
Ridgeway Brewing of Oxfordshire Blue in a glass

First thing that hits me is the smoothness. Then the light and palatable bitterness. And a taste and aftertaste of hops and yeast. If you don’t have ale very often, and want to try something that typifies the entire category of drink, this is looking like a good choice.

What else can I say about it? Well, it’s not to gassy. It’s easy to drink, being inoffensive to all but the most beer averse taste buds. And you needn’t worry about the sediment. This is not like drinking orange juice with bits, if that’s something that worries you. Instead, it’s more a smooth cranberry juice, of a beer. Refreshing, but with a sharp bitterness.

Towards the end of the bottle, and I’m growing to quite like Blue. It’s something you’d probably have with a pub meal. But it’s nor without its problems. I like ales to have character and complexity. But Blue is lacking both. The tastes and flavours are straightforward. It does what it does, very well, but ‘best beer’ award winning? I’m not entirely sure.

I liked Ridgeway Blue enough to want to try Ridgeway‘s other bottles. In fact, I will definitely be looking out for them on the shelves. This is a good, decent, quality, solid ale. But it just couldn’t reach my lofty expectations. It’s still worth your money trying though.

Rating: 3.5

Have you tried Ridgeway Blue or any other Ridgeway beers? Let the world know your thoughts and opinions in the comment box below.
Also any ideas for what you think I should review next.


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