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Trappist beer is a special thing. There are seven breweries in the world that carry the official Trappist seal, and every single beer they brew is a masterpiece. All of these beers are brewed by actual Trappist Monks in monasteries. They have to have something in exchange for that vow of celibacy, right? Well, I don’t know if I would trade carnal relations for these beers, but they sure come a close second.

Six of the seven Trappist breweries are represented here. The seventh monastery, Westvleteren, couldn’t be with us today because they only sell their beer out of the monastery… in Belgium… damn. You can get their beer on Ebay, but I think it works out to a little over $100 for a six-pack of 11.2oz bottles. Another thing to note about Westvleteren is that they brew the #1 rated beer on the planet, at least according to the ratings on beeradvocate.com and ratebeer.com, the two most popular beer sites. When I get to try the Westy 12, I’ll let you know how it is…

I have picked out one beer from each brewery. From Koningshoeven, the quad is the only one I’ve tried. Rochefort does an 8 and 6, but the 10 is the best. Chimay has a white and red, but the Blue is my favorite. Westmalle has one or two others, but the Tripel is the only one I’ve had. I believe Orval and Achel only make one beer apiece. I’m sure I’m wrong somewhere in this paragraph; I’m just too lazy to research.

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La Trappe Quadrupel. Bierbrouwerij De Konigshoeven B.V. 10%ABV. 750ml bottle
Pours amber orange with a hint of gold. Has a small head that dissipates quickly.

Smell is complex and contains hard candy sugar and earthy dark fruits dried in orange peels.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied with a prickly carbonation. Taste has very sweet bread, like you walked into a bakery. Has a core of sweet brown sugar that sits on the middle of the tongue. The alcohol hits with an oak-like note, but is not firey at all. Lots of peppery tones float over the tongue. As it warms, just the slightest hint of premium vodka taste comes out to say hi.

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Trappistes Rochefort 10. Brasserie de Rochefort. 11.3%ABV. 11.2oz bottle
Pours a dark mahogany with a thick head that dissipates quickly. Floaties can bee seen if you are looking closely.

Smells of candied raisins soaked in brandy and old wood that’s been well preserved.

Taste is huge with raisins, figs and ripe bananas. Buttery toffee sits on the back of the tongue after the first swallow. On the exhale there is plenty of alcohol, but it is in no way overpowering. White pepper and pear are detected. Midway through is thick, heavy black bread with caraway. Is it a contradiction to say this has a subtle yet strong dark roasted malt? Figs come through.

Super complex. You could put this against any world class wine and I would bet on the beer. I would love to try one of these with a few years under its belt, but they always disappear from my fridge before that happens.

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Trappist Achel Extra. Brouwerij der St. Benedictusabdij de Achelse. 9.5%ABV. 750ml bottle
Pours a dark brown with a hint of amber and red. Head is thick at first and retains a fine coating throughout the drinking experience.

Smell has hearty, healthy dark bread spiced with a hint of cloves and brown sugar. Distinctive Belgian yeasts are everywhere.

This is a showcase of what strong ale should be. Mouthfeel is very creamy and smooth. Considering the high level of carbonation is it surprising that it doesn’t sting the mouth. The taste gives more of the hearty bread; a sort of rye-caraway mix that is full of fiber and can sustain you all day. The sweetness present is a sugary, water-thinned molasses. Bitterness is reserved for the back middle of the tongue; it is very dry and sits there as a reminder that all good things come in moderation. Alcohol warmth is present, but only just so; this is way too easy to drink quickly for such a high alcohol content. A light spiciness is present throughout the session, and gives the impression of a fruitcake that is not over sweetened, healthy, and very tasty.

I love this beer.

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Chimay blue. Bieres de Chimay. 9.0ABV. 750ml bottle
Pours a very dark, muddy pond brown. Floaties can be seen when held to the light. Head is fine and dissipates quickly but leaves a fine layer on top throughout.

Smell is powerful enough to smell from a few feet away. Sweetened figs, honey and tobacco from 50 yards away. Light piercing alcohol. Very faint ripe banana and apricot.

Great thick mouthfeel. Carbonation prickles the tongue. Sweet malt and caramel tones battle with nougat. Rich tobacco leaves create a roof over the experience. Hops are present with a dry grassy quality. Alcohol is warming, but not immediately noticeable. Very complex. Very old nutmeg is found towards the end.

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Westmalle Tripel. Brouwerij Westmalle. 9.5%ABV. 750ml Bottle
Pours a hazy blonde straw with lots of sediment floating. Head is thick and white… doesn’t leave lacing, but retains a fine layer the entire time.

Smell contains lemon zest mixed with orange. Lots of depth in the nose after the first smell that also contains sweet and savory spices that lean to the sweet side.

Taste is a huge surprise after the smell – not what I expected at all, in a very good way. Hit by a super creamy mouthfeel, carbonation is present but very fine. Feels like cream. Super complex taste with light apricot, horseblanket, fine dried grass. Bitterness lays a line down the middle of the tongue. Lightly dried tobacco leaves. As it warms there is a hint of marshmallow that has been left in a bag full of oranges overnight.

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Orval
Pours a hazy straw color with lots of carbonation. The head is thick and has the consistency of seafoam; dissipates quickly.

Smells of bright wet hay that’s just started to rot underneath. Lemon zest is also detected.

On the tasting there is a great blanket of heavy bitterness stabbed with lemon zest. Very faint cardamom with white pepper tones. Amazingly complex and yet simple. Yelling in the background is a honey sweetness that can be hard to find. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated with a light watery feel.

Very complex, not a beginner’s beer. If you are a beginner, try this right now and try it again in a year, after your palate has developed.

You may recall the Drunken Gamers raving about the Westmalle and the Rochefort a few months back, and they were right. My favorite? It’s tough to call, but the Rochefort 10 is probably it. The La Trappe Quadrupel is on the bottom of the list, but you can’t go wrong with any of these. All very highly recommended.

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6 Responses to Beer Talk: Trappist

  1. damo says:

    Hell yes! Trappist (and Belgian beers in general) are quickly becoming my favorites. I agree with everything you’ve said, and I’ll add:

    The Westmalle Dubbel is at least as good as the Tripel, and very tasty. I wish I could write a review of the Dubbel like yours, but I’m not to that point yet! Needless to say, if you get a chance, give it a try.

    I’ve had the Rochefort 8, and on the first taste it instantly became one of my favorite beers. I’ll really have to search out the 10 now that I’ve read your review.

    I know it’s not Trappist, but have you tried the Allagash Tripel? Holy shit.

  2. carrotpanic says:

    Horseblanket? “As it warms there is a hint of marshmallow that has been left in a bag full of oranges overnight.”?

    Are you serious?

    Did you dissolve a tab of acid into your Westmalle and write the review immediately after?

    But really, cheers on the article. I’d love to see a “best of” of imitation/pretender/influenced by trappists sometime.

  3. Grimmy says:

    La Trappe Quadrupel is one of my favourite beers along with R10. Good finishers, but never a good idea to start an evening of drinking with these beers…

  4. M.C. says:

    Zins, we still on for that Beer Talk Newbie Guide?

  5. Zinswin says:

    @ damo: I’ve not tried the Allegash, but have seen it. I’ll move it up on the to-try list.

    @ carrotpanic: the marshmallow/oranges thing is one of my favorite things I’ve written in a review. And it is true. For best of imitators, see the St. Bernadus article, but maybe I should get on some other Belgians. About a year and a half ago I was not into Belgians, but now I love them. It goes to show that the first try shouldn’t be your only try.

    @ M.C., yeah, that’s been floating in the back of my head. The important thing to remember is not to drink these beers like they are miller lite. Taking time and savoring is the key to drinking good beer. I have a friend who tried to chug Chocolat by Southern Tier, and the results were not pretty. She came away thinking the beer was gross… a shame.

  6. John says:

    I’ve been so busy the last couple weeks that I didn’t have a chance to read this until now. And now…I’m fucking thirsty.

    Great article as always!

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