Trappist beer meets whisky, Chimay Grande Réserve Fermentée en Barriques 2018
Author: Erik Verdonck / Published: 2018-07-15 15:58:06 +0200 / Last Updated: 5 months ago
The new, elegant tasting glasses bearing the ancient insignia of the famous abbey arrive, and the ceremony can begin.
The tulip-shaped vessels protect the scents of this fragrant beer beautifully, while the lily engraved on the bottom of the glass produces a splendid head of froth. The three rings engraved on the long stem refer to the triple fermentation process: in tank, in wood, and in bottle.
A dark beer hides under a creamy, frothy head, releasing hints of wood, pear and plums in the nose. The taste is coloured by impressions of bread crusts, roasted and smoky touches, and a hint of honey and vanilla.
This Chimay is a complex degustation beer – and strong, at 10.5% ABV that needs to be discovered at a leisurely pace. It will make a welcome addition to the dining table, preferably towards the end of a meal, when it might be paired with a Chimay Poteaupré cheese, drawing out its aromas of hazelnut, or a fruity Chimay à la Rouge, with its apricot and peach flavours and intensely bitter notes.
If you prefer to finish your meals on a sweet note, there are still plenty of ways to welcome this Trappist to your gathering. Chimay Grande Réserve Fermentée en Barriques 2018 makes a great companion with a sabayon, crème brûlée, or desserts made from dark chocolate (particularly those with touches of vanilla, pistachio or orange), or with berries.
This is slowly becoming a welcome tradition: In 2016 the first Chimay Grande Réserve Fermentée en Barriques - that one was aged in cognac barrels - came onto the market. The subsequent edition spent time in rum barrels from Martinique, and, in 2018, it is whisky’s turn to take centre stage.
These three editions can be bought as a beautiful gift set from the Chimay Visitors’ Centre, the Auberge de Poteaupré (the Abbey’s own pub), and selected beer merchants. The packs comes with a booklet that will help you fully enjoy these sophisticated beers.
Producing brews with such complex characters takes time. Barrel aging, as practised at Chimay, is another way for the brewer to show his art and expertise. The aim is always to create a balanced beer, not one that is dominated by the taste of the spirit that once inhabited the barrels. For this the choice of wood is the prime variable: for this edition it is split between French oak (34% of the time), American oak (41%) and recycled whisky barrels (25%).
Following its main fermentation, the beer will be oak-aged while it re-ferments. Regular tastings of this degustation beer will help decide when it is ready to be moved to the warm chamber, where it will re-ferment again in the bottle. This is typical of the Trappist approach: don’t do anything by halves but don’t force anything - take all the time you need.
The wisdom of owls
At the Belgian Owl distillery in the rural Fexhe area, just a stone’s throw from the city of Liège, huge pot stills have been installed in a barn restored to its impressive former glory. This farm-yard distillery, run by Etienne Bouillon, is surrounded by the fields where the barley for its whisky is grown.
Chimay is working with Etienne because of his expertise and evident respect for the local terroir. For example, the water he uses is pumped up from a depth of 38 metres and filtered naturally through a thick layer of loam and chalk.
The first spirit out of his stills was a jenever, but he has since grown in confidence and in craft. The Belgian Owl is a Belgian single malt, made from 100 percent malted Belgian barley grown on this very farm. Single means that the whisky is all produced by Etienne, there is no blending. His owl logo pays homage to the expertise of the maker and the wisdom displayed by the drinker (or so we hope).
This is a very mellow whisky, aged in bourbon barrels, with a delicate perfume of apple, pear and white flowers, and touches of vanilla (from the bourbon), hazelnut and cinnamon. The worlds of beer and whisky are closely related; after all, they contain the same ingredients with the addition of the hops that flavour beer.
Etienne knows all about this, and his love of a good tipple goes well into and beyond beer. At the request of some of the brewers he has got to know, Val-Dieu for example, he has set up a second, smaller distillery to create spirits made from their brews - collaborative works of art on which his signature should still be clearly visible.
More Information on Chimay & Espace Chimay
Bières et Fromages de Chimay
Recent Blog Posts
MECHELEN - The historic city of Mechelen, halfway between Brussels and Antwerp, is truly a hidden gem. The presence of the Dukes of Burgundy, who ruled here in the late middle ages, still permeates th ... [ read more ]
BRUSSELS/ZAVENTEM - This year Brussels Airport is 60 years young! The airport is planning to mark this milestone by showcasing the very best of Belgian produce, which would not be complete without ... [ read more ]
LIESHOUT/STEENHUFFEL - Since 2016 the Palm, De Hoorn and Rodenbach breweries have been owned by Bavaria, a Dutch-based brewer. Two years after the takeover, Bavaria has been re-named Swinkels Family ... [ read more ]
BRUSSELS - To be authentic is not a competition and neither is it a fashionable attitude. You either are an authentic brewer or you are not. You are driven, you make great beers that have a soul, you ... [ read more ]
LEUVEN - 12,500 fans made their way to Leuven for what was already the 15th edition of the Zythos beer festival. Many fans travelled a long way to get to Belgium. They flocked here from many European ... [ read more ]
You must be logged in to leave a comment
CHIMAY/COGNAC - Chimay Bleue stands out as a classic amongst Trappist beers. Nevertheless, its brewer continues to break new ground. The first ‘limited edition’ Chimay Grande Réserve Vieillie en Barriques saw the light <... [ more ]
CHIMAY - I find myself in the green ‘boot of Hainaut’ just below Chimay. This is the region of escaveche, where you come across eel or trout pickled in vinegar. This dish, found on menus everywhere in the Chimay region, ... [ more ]
CHIMAY - If you have a good product, there is no need to shout it from the rooftops, it will speak for itself. The Chimay Trappist beers travel around the world and are enjoyed everywhere they go. ... [ more ]
BOURLES/CHIMAY - A visit to the Chimay Abbey and its brewery is a unique experience. I step into a world that appears to be untouched by time. Standing below a tall sequoia tree in the enclosed ... [ more ]
CHIMAY - The Chimay name has a resounding reputation in the beer world. This Trappist beer can now be found in 40 countries. The town itself, its surrounding region and the Trappist cheese are far less well known than <a... [ more ]
To celebrate Christmas 1948, the monks of Chimay decided to produce a Spéciale Noël. But from the time their new brewing hall opened (in 1954) you could say every day has been Chr... [ more ]
Beer Tourism Newsletter Signup
Enter your name and email address on the right and click "SignUp" to join.