November 22, 2014

Belgian Pale Ale

Belgian Pales consume the Belgian brewing scene, and were initially brewed to compete with Pilseners during the WWII time frame. They differ from other regional Pale Ale varieties, by traditionally being less bitter, using aged hops for a delicate hop finish, and boasting sweetish to toasty malt overtones. They should be decanted properly, leaving the yeast in the bottle. This will showcase their brilliant color range from pale straw yellow to amber hues. Most will be crowned with thick, clinging, rocky white heads. Flavors and aromas will vary. Some have natural spice characters from yeast and hops, while others are spiced.

There's a recent growing trend to make much more "hoppy" Pale Ales, to entice the US market and its hopheads. See De Ranke XX Bitter.

Orval Trappist Ale

B- / 3.0
Orval Trappist Ale

Often referred to as The Queen of Trappists. It was first made in 1931, and has a complex and unusual flavor and aroma produced by a unique strain of yeast. The beer is light in color, slightly cloudy, and has a large, foamy head. There is a complex aroma of leather, horse blanket, spice, and many other earthy components.

As with all other Trappist breweries, the beer is only sold in order to financially support the monastery and some other good causes. All of the profits from the sale of the beer is distributed to charities and for community development around the region.

Beer critics consider Orval, like most Trappist beers, to be world-class quality, but it is definitely an outlier within the group. Its very distinctive taste is largely attributed to two parts of the brewing process. One of these is the use of dry hopping, in which large meshed bags of hops infuse the beer during the three week maturation period. The other is the use of Brettanomyces yeast during this same maturation, which are a local wild yeast.
Orval beer is bottled exclusively in a distinctive skittle shaped 33 cl bottle. The bottling plant has a capacity of 24,000 bottles per hour. The beer is then matured at 15°C for a minimum of four weeks on site before being distributed. Beer that will be sold at the Abbey or local cafe is matured for six months.

As the beer is bottle conditioned, its flavour can improve over the years with ageing, although its hop character and relatively low alcohol make it less suitable for this purpose than some other Trappist ales.