Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A bit about Trappist ale before tonight's Chimay 25th anniversary party.

As a prelude to tonight’s observance of the 25th anniversary of Chimay Trappist ales being imported to the United States (at the Public House, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.), here’s an important consideration.

Abbey ales are one thing, and Trappist ales something else. This isn’t to say that all Trappist ales are superior to similar Abbey styles. The overlap is considerable, and the only way to be able to chart the similarities and differences is to drink as many different varieties of both as possible.

That’s why it’s fun being a professional.

“Trappist” does not denote precise characteristics. Some are dark, some pale. A few are hoppy, and others sweet. "Trappist" is an accredited appellation of origin, nothing more, nothing less. The rest is up to the individual monastery brewing team, and results vary.

For certification as a Trappist brewery, the brewing operation must be located on the grounds of the monastery; monks must retain overall control of the brewing operation (secular brewers are permitted); and a portion of the profits accrued from the brewing must go to charitable purposes.

The six Belgian Trappist breweries that wear the badge of officialdom are Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle, Westvleteren, and Achel. Koningshoeven, located in the Netherlands, is the seventh, and the only one I haven’t visited.

Interestingly, Wikipedia notes that there is an eighth member of the International Trappist Association (founded 1997): Mariawald, in Germany, which to my knowledge is not a beer producer. Since the Trappist appellation extends to all products emanating from member monasteries, perhaps Mariawald does cheese or wine.

At the tasting in Prost tonight, we have one case each of 11.2 oz Chimay Red, White and Blue. Tisha Dean from World Class Beverages will be pouring wee samples, and if you elect to buy a bottle, you may keep the special 25th anniversary glass (roughly 50 glasses on hand). Tisha is bringing cheese and chocolates, too.

No discounts for dressing like a monk.

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