A weekly review of Vas Foremost’s craft beer offerings.
You study the label with intrigue, not knowing exactly what will come next. Your favorite glass is washed, clean, ready to go. Twist once, twice, as many times as you need to lift off the wired cage. It lifts off easily. A firm grip on the cork peaks your curiosity as you say to yourself, “What kind of beer uses a cork instead of a cap?” Your heart is pumping faster. One more look at the label. Simple, descriptive, a smile starts to emerge on your face. Carefully you pour, the effervescent nature of the beer causes an explosion. The aroma fills the room. You close your eyes and time slows down as you take the first sip. In that moment, nothing will ever be the same.
Once a month in the Vas Review I am going to highlight beers that have changed the way we drink. Beers that have altered history and changed the paths and lives of many. At some point in my life, every single one of these beers has shaped my passion and pushed it deeper into an obsession. I am excited to be able to share with you The Classics.
Orval is a Trappist brewery. “Trappist” is a protected term that is designated only to products produced within the walls of a Cistercian monastery by or under the supervision of monks (profits that aren’t used to cover living expenses must also be donated or used for social work). Orval has been producing beer since 1931. It produces two beers, but only releases one to the public, Orval Trappist Ale. One of the most unique beers in the world, Orval (beer) is hard to group into a particular style (although some often try to). One thing everyone will agree upon is that it is an experience like no other.
Be careful when pouring out this beer. These is a bit of yeast in the bottle and most prefer to enjoy this beer without it (The yeast contained in this bottle is one of the main reasons why this beer is so unique). The beer itself pours out a beautiful dark orange copper color with a thick, cemented cream-colored head.
The aroma begins with some citrus fruitiness backed up by a peppery tickle. Incredibly floral with a perfume-like aroma that sits atop a field of lemon-grass and hay. A pinch of clove dropped into crushed lavender and coriander spice. The taste continues on the journey that the nose started and it isn’t afraid to turn at every corner. This leads to a beer packed with depth and complexity. Tobacco. Leather. Mushrooms. Lemon pepper. Biscuit. Flower petals. And that is only the beginning…
Orval Trappist Ale is a “choose your own adventure” book. Each time you take to opening the bottle, it is going to be a different experience than the last. Sadly, this product may not stand the test of time as the monastery is seeing its membership decrease significantly in recent years. This author can only hope that somehow, someway this beer will live on staying true.
One of the oldest and most influential Trappist breweries in the world, Westmalle Monastery began brewing beer in 1836. It only releases two beers to the public and both are worth the price of admission (Westmalle Dubbel is their other release). Of the two, few beers can claim more influence on the brewing world than Westmalle’s Tripel. It wasn’t the first attempt at a strong golden ale, but it is often considered the hallmark of its style. First released in 1934 with a slight recipe change in the 1950’s, Westmalle’s Tripel is the first beer to use the term “tripel.” Since then it has been imitated worldwide and rarely, if ever, outdone.
Westmalle Tripel is a beautifully slightly hazy golden color with a thick, pillowy white head. Be careful with the pour on this one as there is some yeast in the bottle. The aroma is enticing, fruity and spicy. Black peppercorn, wintergreen life savors and the springtime country side. It’s tough to wait any longer so I bring the glass up for a drink.
Around and over my taste buds dances a fresh squeezed orange flavor with a peppery clove and dried field grass. It has a slightly warming alcohol strength which shows its strength. A higher carbonation will lift the beer right off of your tongue. Rustic with hints of a rural farm. Minty with a touch of the ground (beer geeks would call this “earthy” or “dirt” and yes, it is sought after in a beer like this). The beer finishes devilishly fruity with a lingering spice on the tongue.
WestmalleTripel is one of those beers that always seems to bring a smile to my face. In my quest to try new beers, I often regret that this masterpiece takes a backseat to the newer craft beers with experimental ingredients. This year I hope to revisit those beers that hold a special place in my memories. I’m glad I have this blog to share those special beers with fellow enthusiasts. Cheers!
Next week in the Vas Review: Back to the Brewery spotlight!
Steve Pasko is a Certified Cicerone® and the Beer Content Writer for Vas Foremost. Follow him on Twitter or Untappd at Gardemybiere. Email him at Gardemybiere@gmail.com or Steve@vasforemost.com