There is no better way to start this section of my website than to discuss one of the crown jewels of the world’s selection of beer: Chimay Grande Reserve. Also known as Chimay blue, for the blue label its smaller sized bottle is affixed with, this beer represents the pinnacle of the Belgian style of strong dark ales.
The Chimay Brewery is located inside the Scourmont Abbey, a Trappist monastery located in the Belgian city of Chimay. It was founded in 1862, and produces three beers for distribution, and one weaker beer for the use of the monks of the abbey or in its nearby inn (although some stock of this periodically is found available elsewhere). The sales of the beer as well as the cheese also produced by the monastery supports the monks, various charities, as well as local community development. Less than a dozen breweries worldwide are similarly labeled as Trappist breweries, each one associated with a Trappist monastery and generally producing very high quality world-class beers.
Chimay Grande Reserve is a strong 9% dark ale, with a deep copper color, and has a highly complex character. It is best served in a chalice glass, in the Belgian tradition of serving beers in their individually appointed glassware styles to ensure proper taste and character. While this may seem ‘snobbish’ to an American audience used to having beer served in shaker pints or tall hefeweizen glasses no matter what the beer style is inside, there truly is an appreciable taste difference when beer is served in its ‘correct’ glass. This is especially true of the complex tasting beers in the Trappist ale styles.
As you find with this and future posts about beer, I do not try too hard to describe its taste and character in great detail. I do not have the trained palate necessary to accurately comment on these qualities in the beers I present, I will leave that up to the master beer judges and other tasting officials of the brewing world. I can offer basic tasting observations, however. Chimay Grande Reserve has wonderful hints of spice and fruit, and despite the high alcohol content it finishes subtle. It is also is well carbonated, and I find it pairs well with creamy cheeses and dry sausage.
Most stores sell the 750ml Grande Reserve bottle for $12-15. While this seems expensive, keep in mind you will probably need no further beer after consuming this bottle at 9% ABV. It also comes in smaller 12 oz bottles where it is known as Chimay Blue (or Bleue), whose cost may average $5-8 per bottle. Considering this is one of the world’s top beers (and my personal favorite), the price is more than reasonable.