Orval Trappist Ale

My love affair with Trappist ales is well documented. Chimay produces some fantastic beers and some stellar beers. St. Feuillien beers were also really, really good. So, I am taking a chance on something that looks like it is trying to surf on their coattails. I could be wrong. This is legitimately from Belgium, so it has the bonafides already in order. I hope it has the flavor to back it up.

The color is an opaque orange-tinted brown. It is capped with a steadfast and fullsome head that did not spill out of the bottle as soon as it was opened, but it amassed immediately as it was poured. The picture on this page was the result of much careful pouring and several rounds of settling time. Eventually, the head settles to a gentle pillow across the top with a splotchy webwork across the sides of the glass for some really artistic lacing. The aroma is sweet - with raisins and a breeze of grains with a seltzer pop that tingles at the nose.

First sip is not nearly as intimidating as I expected. It has the requisite raisin and plum combination and it's definitely heavy with the sweat and tears of the brewers (not literally, because that would be... ewww). It's a bit heavy in general for a sipping beer - that's for certain. The bottle's 11.2 oz (instead of 12) make me suspicious of their motives for making a relatively expensive beer in such a small quantity, especially when the beer clearly needs to be swigged.

Tip-in is a very noticeable carbonation burn coupled with the raisins and some fairly musty hops. The middle arrives with a dry and grainy intensification of the raisins and adds plums with even a bit of caramel. The carbonation continues to burn impressively. The finish brings more of a stab of carbonation with a gentle hint of burnt grains that actually reminds me - for some inexplicable reason - of a particular barbeque place East of Nashville.

Bottom Line: Not a bad tasting beer, but there are others for this price that are better. It needs to figure out the carbonation.



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