In Made Man’s weekly beer column, we point you toward the world’s destination ales.
Beer: Orval Trappist Ale
Brewery: Orval Brewery, Guame, Belgium
ABV: 6.9 %
Orval was dry-hopping before anybody knew what dry-hopping was. Orval was adding brettanomyces to beer before adding brettanomyces to beer was cool.
Tasting notes: If you don’t know what people mean when they say a beer “tastes Belgian,” taste this beer. Then you’ll know. In addition to traditional Belgian yeast, there are brettanomyces added to the bottle. In fact, many people point to Orval as the originator of the ubiquitous use of brettanomyces in American craft beer. That means you can definitely drink this today or let it sit in the basement for a few years while things change in the bottle. Orval was also an early proponent of the process of dry-hopping and you will definitely smell and taste hops more than malt. Belgian yeast gives this beer a slightly spicy back end.
Pairing ideas: If you’re drinking an Orval, you’re drinking a piece of Belgian history. Nothing works better with this beer than traditional Belgian foods. A big bowl of mussels and pile of “frites” with mayo, or a bit of smoked fish will make your taste buds happy. Also feel free to dip your Belgian waffles in it.
When to drink it: As delicious as this ale is, the bottle will last a couple of years in the right conditions, which makes this an ideal candidate for cellaring. Buy twelve bottles and drink one every 4 months and taste how it has changed. Or drink them all tonight — it’s what God wants you to do.
Many craft breweries use monk images and vocabulary to brand their beers. They’re celebrating the tradition monks and monasteries played in the origins of our current day beer culture. No brewery deserves more credit for this than the Orval Brewery in Belgium.
Although the brewery at the Abbaye Notre-Dame d’Orval officially opened in in the early 1900s, their website claims there have been beer-makers on the premises for hundreds of years. As legend has it, the monks made bread and cheese and beer within the walls for centuries. Even though lay people (non-monks) are working in the monastery’s brewery today, Orval still acts as a link to American craft beer’s past.