In the days before supermarkets stocked half decent beers, thrill-seekers in search of unusual boozes would have to sail the high seas for a taste of the exotic. Our particular weakness was of the Belgian variety, which resulted in frequent and chaotic ferry trips to Brugge* to get our fix.
Some of our favourite ales were the ones produced by the six Belgian Trappist breweries – Rochefort, Westmalle. Westvleteren, Orval, Sint-Benedictusabdij and this week’s choice, Chimay, located within the Scourmont Abbey in southern Hainaut. Chimay Red was my go-to drink, a classy Trappist ‘dubbel’ brown ale and an absolute taste revelation for someone brought up on pints of warm Brew VI.
This week I had the good fortune to remind my tonsils of this brilliant beer, and of just what made us giddy for the Belgian style all those years ago. Pouring with a big old, frothy head, its distinctive fruity aroma whisking me back to my very first sip in ‘t Brugs beertje**. This booze is as smooth as a monks tonsure; malty but with a dry, slightly bitter finish – a holy trinity with which to bless the tastebuds.
Nowadays, Belgian beers can be obtained with relative ease but their now familiar sightings on these shores has made them all to easy to overlook, especially when there’s a whole host of craft beer boozes giving us the glad eye from posh offie shelves. But now that we’ve got a beer of the week to maintain expect us to dip more frequently into the Belgian beer treasure trove and reveal some more of our favourites over the coming months.
Belgium, we are pleased to rediscover you.
* We used to bunk down here. It was a rough and ready backpacker hostel back in the early 90’s. Judging by their website, it’s improved somewhat.
** Legendary Brugge beer house. Things went a bit wobbly in here on one particular visit, which occurred after one too many*** Delirium Tremens. On a positive note, we can claim responsibility of introducing the conga to Belgium, but we would like to sincerely apologise to the owner of the second bar we visited whose Christmas baubles we used as footballs… our behaviour was neither big or clever. There was no such larks on the way back to Blighty – a particularly rough ferry crossing combined with the mother of all Belgian hangovers meant that the four hour car journey back home from Dover was conducted in an almost mournful, monk-like silence, save for the odd whimper from the back seat.
Brewery: Chimay Brewery, Chimay, southern Hainaut, Belgium
Beer name: Chimay Red
Beer supplied by Ora et Labora, Bath