Review of Six of the World’s Seven Trappist Ales

Last weekend I came together with some of my friends in Fort Worth for a Trappist Ale tasting. There are only seven Trappist monasteries that brew beer and we were able to acqure six of the labels, including the extremely rare and coveted Westvleteren. A special thanks to Christ Pate who was able to pull strings and get us the Westvleteren.

We could not locate the Achelse Kluis, so we did two Chimay’s – Red and Blue. We took detailed notes on each ale.

Let’s start with the food. We went with traditional meats and cheeses:

Black forest ham – similar to prosciutto
Copper Molinare – another cured meat
Love Dip from Central Market
Venison-Pork blend dried sausage
Chimay Cheese
Orange Cottswald Cheese
Dorothy Potato Chip Goat Cheese
Oanetik Osau Ships Milk Cheese
Crackers and Chips

Now for the Trappist Ales:

1. Chimay

  • Chimay Red – fruitiness, coriander, citrus (7% alcohol)
  • Chimay Blue – this was once the “Christmas ale” of the monastery. Dark, complex, peppery, medicinal, not much head (9% alcohol). This is my favorite Chimay.
  • We didn’t have the Chimay White (Cinq Cents) on hand – Chimay’s version of the Belgian Tripel. I’ve had it before, though. It’s light colored, dry and carries a citrus hop flavor and aroma. It’s my least favorite of the three.

2. Orval – hops, bitter, hoppy aroma, medicinal, dark, cloudy, huge head

3. Konings Hoeven Triple – lots of head, fruity aroma with hints of banana, wheat-after taste, nice finish, very drinkable, one of the evening’s favorite

4. Westmalle Triple – great head, light color, Granny Smith apple aroma (which I identify with non-flocked yeast), hoppy, hints of wheat, a great summer ale yet heavy to the end

5. Rochefort – thick head, dark-black, hints of licorice, citrus, floral, bean, nut, cocoa, smoke finish, carbonation is great and worth noting, tastes like a meal, even meaty — this is a very complex ale. Strong on the malt and light on the hops. I could pour this on some Belgian waffles and have an amazing breakfast.

6. Westvleteren – this is the rarest and most celebrated Trappist ale. This ale is incredibly difficult to acquire and all the brethren were waiting for its unveiling. All agreed that Westvleteren was the best ale, though Konings Hoeven (#3 above) and Rochefort (#5 above) were also big hits. Westvleteren has a Champagne nose, not much head, yet balanced carbonation. Earthy tones, can taste the “Belgian candi” flavor as hints of toasted sugar (caramel?), nutmeg, coriander, chocolate after-taste. Big taste. Indescribable complexity. Mystical. A lot of prayer went into this one!

Since this post was published, I was able to drink the seventh and final Trappist ale: the Achel. Here’s my review of it: Review of the Seventh Trappist Ale, Achel.

Read more about Trappist Ales.

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  • Joel A. Christian

    Excellent Review Dr. Marshall. Some brothers from “The House” and I are headed down to a Trappist Beer Tasting in Oconomowoc. I’ll send you a review.