Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Grande Réserve

Bières de Chimay S.A.

Style: Belgian Strong Ale
ABV: 9%

Eddie’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (World class.)

Well, we’re already almost halfway through International Month and I’m just now sitting down to write my first review. Yikes, I am one lazy bastard. Which would explain why I still haven’t cleaned the giant pile of dirty old beat up M.U.S.C.L.E. men (the original pink ones, not the lame purple and blue ones) out of the broom closet, despite Ma’s constant threats of defenestration (the ground is higher than the basement window, so it’s not much of a threat).

The banalities of the oh-so-normal Glick household aside, I usually like to start my International Month off with a world-class beer, and this year is no exception. Tonight’s brew of choice is Chimay Grande Réserve, better known as Chimay Blue.

Chimay is one of the six Trappist breweries, and was the first of these monastery-owned breweries to sell its beer to the outside world, starting in 1862. Like its name implies, Blue is their strongest (9 percent ABV) and most complex beer.

It pours a translucent amber underneath a big, pillowy tan head. Like all Chimay beers, this one is bottle conditioned, and the proprietary yeast strain was specifically cultivated to facilitate this, along with standing up to the high ABV. That yeast imparts a spicy floralness to the nose, over top the cake-like malt.

The body runs surprisingly light for a relatively dark beer. Raisins and figs make up the dark maltiness, mixing it up with fruity and peppery undertones from the yeast. The finish is, again, surprisingly, short and even crisp, a stark contrast to the dark complexities of the rest of the sip.

There is a reason this is by far the most famous of the Trappist beers: it’s a wonderfully complex, devilishly smooth brew. I still remember the shock of delight it gave me when I first tasted it years ago, and has become one of my touchstone beers.

(A word, or words, of caution, though. When it comes to imported beers, make sure you buy yours at a good beer bar that knows its Belgians or a bottle shop that takes care of its stock. My first attempt at reviewing this one ended with a slightly oxidized bottle—probably from sitting for months, if not years, on a shelf/boat/truck—and that really sapped the life out of what should be an extraordinary beer.)

Reviewed by Eddie Glick on February 11, 2013.
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