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