Chimay Blue (Grande Réserve)By
After all the build up I’ve experienced in anticipation of the Chimay Blue, I was a little nervous that I might be disappointed tonight. A common refrain among many of my worldly readers and beer enthusiasts was, “If you liked (insert great beer here), just wait until you try the Chimay Blue.”
High expectations, indeed. But I’ll admit I was just a touch disappointed . . . disappointed not to have had a 750ml bottle! In aroma, taste, and mouthfeel, Chimay Blue carried itself as a timeless classic and a new favorite I won’t be able to enjoy again until 2010, when my “one a day with no repeats” challenge is over. The empty 11.2 oz bottle left me pining for more.
My first impression of the Chimay Blue wasn’t the aroma, or even the appearance of the beer. As I poured the Blue into my chalice, the sound of the pour was more pronounced than that of any beer so far this year. As the ale slipped carefully into the glass, the carbonation hissed and cracked and created a long, sustained fizz while a surprisingly delicate head formed and dissipated.
The body of the Chimay Blue was ruby brown, a smooth mahogany marred only by a dense constellation of orange suspensions that could have been the inspiration for Goldschlager. The speckles glimmered when held to the light.
With a deep inhalation, my nose filled with the sweetness of raspberries. There’s an undercurrent of yeast and bread in the aroma, but raspberries and rum-soaked raisins dominate the smell. I could keep my nose in this beer all night, but my mouth would be jealous.
The taste builds on the aroma: raspberries, raisins, molasses, even some pineapple. There’s a spicy bitterness to this beer that seems alive and mischievous. It can bounce along your tongue like electric sparks, or it can converge with a surprising sour bitterness on a small group of taste buds at the top or sides of your tongue.
The Blue has a leisurely aftertaste. As the fruit from my first sip faded, bitterness began at the back of my mouth and slithered down the sides and around my entire tongue. It lingered, then faded to sweet fruit with just a touch of sourness.
Yes indeed, this is a sipper. I used the occasion to rest in a comfortable chair by the window, listening to and watching this evening’s rain. Lovely, relaxing, and refreshing.
I didn’t think the alcohol (9% ABV) was apparent in the taste or character, but after my first several sips I could feel the warmth on the back of my tongue. In itself, that warmth became another aspect of the experience, blending with phantom sour patches and bittersweet fruit.
The Chimay website describes the Blue as follows:
Named Grande Réserve in 75 cl (25.4 fl.oz.) bottles, it is principally distinguished by its character of a strong beer. This is a beer whose fragrance of fresh yeast with a light, flowery rosy touch is especially pleasant. Its flavour, noticed when tasting it, only accentuates the pleasant sensations perceived in the aroma, while revealing a light but pleasant touch of roasted malt.
All three of the Chimays have been a treat, but I owe a word of thanks to the fine folks on Twitter who made sure I ended the Chimay session on Blue.
It can be hard to judge the difference between these beers by the label alone. Other than the color, there are only subtle differences between the labels of the White, Red, and Blue Chimays. The White flanks the Chimay logo with the word “TRIPLE”, but there is no such designation on either the Red or the Blue. Each beer lists a different ABV percentage, but the most telling description comes on the back of the label, where the very last sentence is different on each beer.
On each, it begins, “To fully appreciate. . .” and ends:
Chimay White: “. . . the agreeable combination of fresh hops and yeast of the Chimay Triple, serve chilled, in a wide-mouthed glass.”
Chimay Red: “. . . the pleasant sharpness and light hint of bitterness of the Chimay Red, serve slightly chilled, in a wide-mouthed glass.”
Chimay Blue: “. . . the strong character of the Chimay Blue, serve slightly chilled, in a wide-mouthed glass.”
If you haven’t tried these beers yet, I hope I’ve given you a reason to grab one of these bottles from the shelf at you local package store. If you’re new to Trappist ales, let me know what you think when you try them. And to the Chimay fans (or haters, if you are out there), I’d love to hear your thoughts on White versus Blue.
Let’s continue with more Trappist ales on Friday!
Recommended reviews of Chimay Blue / Grande Réserve:
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