First, a little video featuring the late, lamented Beer Hunter (more from him tomorrow) to whet your appetite. I hope you speak either French or Dutch (if you want to see the whole episode with English subtitles for Father Theodore, go here).
Among those who aren’t necessarily beer connoisseurs but who like to drink good beer from time to time, Chimay is probably the most widely known and recognisable of the seven Trappist breweries, and possibly the most widely known Belgian beer too.
Although they don’t brew a beer specifically for Christmas, the Chimay gift set with one bottle each of Chimay Blue, Chimay White and Chimay Red label plus the much coveted Chimay chalice is a popular Christmas present among beer lovers. I reckon some even buy it as a Christmas present to themselves. Yep, I did. Unfortunately I broke my chalice earlier this year so I have to hunt down another, dammit.
The main reason for buying the gift set, which includes the three beers that you can buy just
about any time, is that fine-looking, gold-rimmed piece of stemware to drink your Chimay from. It’s a very pleasing object to hold, especially when full of Trappist ale. You can also buy the glass just about any time from online beer glassware retailers, but there’s something special about finding the gift set at the bottom of your Christmas stocking and looking forward to putting it to good use, maybe during Christmas dinner.
The trio of Chimay beers represents three of the five or six most commonly known Belgian beer styles - the dark and fruity Dubbel, the clean, crisp pale Tripel and the potent Belgian Strong Dark Ale. There’s one other Chimay beer which is brewed for daily consumption the monks - the lower ABV Patersbier. It finds its way out of the monastery as Chimay Dorée but you have to go to Chimay to get it.
What’s probably less well known about the monks at Chimay is that they also make cheese. Five cheeses in fact, ranging from soft to hard, mild to matured, and at least one with a beer-washed rind. While they may have taken a vow of silence, they’re no ascetics, these Trappists.
Belgians take a great pride in their beer, and rightly so - it’s among the best in the world. They’re so serious about it that almost every brewery has its own glassware, often a different shaped glass for each beer they brew, and it can get a bit confusing with so many variations. There’s a great deal of lore concerning beer glasses and their shape and some beerologists will go to, frankly, ridiculous lengths to make sure they have the right glass for their beer. Maybe that’s something we’ll discuss another time.
Jim Hughes, Head Beer Nerd, Alamo South Lamar
“If I had all the money I’ve spent on drink… I’d spend it on drink.” ~ Sir Henry Rawlinson