In a Shot: Chimay's are premium monk produced Belgium Ales that are considered by many to be the best beer money can buy and I plan to taste it's portfolio.
North east from Paris and just south west of Bruxelles, lies the Belgium municipality (small territory defined by city, town, village or small collection) we know as Chimay. Since 1862 the Cistercian (Taken from the monastery of Citeaux, founded in 12th century Burgundy) Trappist monks of Chimay have been developing the production of Trappist beers and cheeses as a method of obtaining needs and sustaining employment in the region. These monks devote their life to God in prayer and meditation, vowing celibacy while living their lives in a community securing aid for the poorest people. The Abbey of Scourmont, just outside of Chimay is where the brewery is located and though no longer run by direct administration of the monks, the brew is created in the abbey and ran by S.A. Bières de Chimay.
One of the seven Trappist abbeys producing beer, Chimay's line of premium ale's have the character and quality that is well known and has enjoyed great success. The bottles were all originally only sold in 25.4 fl.oz, corked and wire sealed bottles but have evolved in offering a smaller 11.2 fl.oz with bottle caps. To respect monastic lifestyle, the brewery is only open from 7 am to 4 pm but still manages to produce two batches up to 52,850 pints of their product daily. Drawing water from two wells located on the abbey, the mash tun includes kiln dried barley and wheat. After filtering the wort, the liquid result from mixing the water and grain in a mash that can not yet be called beer, the drunken solids of grain husks and insoliable residues is shipped off to be fed to the very happy cows of Chimay whom eventually produce the millk to make Chimay cheeses! It is rumored that after a night of heavy chimay drenched grains the cows sneak out of there barns and go 'people tipping' an adolescent event where the cows sneak into the homes of sleeping people and knock them out of there beds. It's funny because once people fall they have so much trouble getting back up!
All joking aside, this wart is then boiled which is where the hops get added and removed at the end (much like making a flavored simple syrup on a massively larger scale). This sterilizes the wort and infuses the bitterness and aromas. After beeing clarified and cooled the wort is then fermented with a starter yeast (selected by Father Theodore in 1948) that then turns the liquid into beer. Centrifuged (as in centrifugal force, a method of seperation) and cooling, the beer matures in a vat then gets clarified one last time to remove cold produced cloudiness. The final and very important step is to add fresh yeast and liquid sugar to create a second fermentation process in the bottle which is going to bring the alcohol to it's desired level as well as give the beer it's effervescence. At each stage, laboratory work is done (Chimay has it's own purification plant) to ensure quality. As of today there has been no record of a return case of any of the Chimay products. Now that's customer satisfaction guaranteed!
Recommeded to use a Chimay chalice shaped glass known as Gourmet (The webste describes it as essential to experience the aromas and flavours of a beer on which scrupulous care has been lavished throughout its production) it is acceptable to use a brandy snifter or balloon shaped goblet. Regardless, the glass needs to be clean and polished with no finger prints or residue left in it's bowl. It is the only way to consume these products. Please drink these beers between the temperatures of 42.8 - 53.6 degrees Farenheit. Pulling the bottles out and drinking them 30 minutes to an hour after refridgeration should bring the bottles to recommended temperature. Pour the bottle into the glass tilted slowly. Be very careful not to touch the glass or the head with the neck of the bottle. There should be a full set of head against a rough inch of beer. Look at the color of the brew and the the color/density/consitancy of the head and look for the beads running through the glass. Smelling the head from the moment you open the bottle to the point of filling the glass is a great start to forming your opinion on the nose of the brew and then taste the drink by allowing some of the beer to fill your mouth, all it to sit for a moment and bring some air into your mouth for oxidation, swirl the drink lightly in your mouth before swallowing. Note the moment the beer touches your mouth, the standing moment, and the finish from beginning to ending. Now you have truly tasted a Trappist beer!
Some specialty stores sell these fantastic products but I actually have found these bottles in Safeways now! I have seen in a World Market all three bottles and a Chimay Gourmet chalice all in one for twenty dollars! It's highly recommended you obtain one of these for the rare glass alone.
I am going to taste and note these beers over the course of a few days and will post this blog in it's completion.
Visit the Chimay website and learn more about it's beers and cheeses!
(Fun Fact: There are actually four beers produced in the abbey though only three are commercially sold. Chimay Dorée (Golden), 4.8% abv ale, brewed from very similar ingredients as the Red, but paler and spiced differently is a patersbier, intended only to be drunk at the abbey or at the nearby inn Auberge de Poteaupré associated with the abbey. The monks themselves drink this variety rather than the stronger three. The rare bottles which make their way out are through unofficial sources. Even the Chimay web site makes no mention of this variety)