Reverence: Chimay Ale

Chimay Rouge - Biere Premiere

What better week is there to pay homage to one of the finest ales the world has ever known?  Each year, Cycling Week in Belgium has me turning toward the top shelf of my regular beer peddler for a bottle of Chimay Red Label to be savoured on either the day of the Ronde Van Vlaanderen or Paris-Roubaix or both.   It is part of my annual Ronde/Roubaix ritual; a morning ride which includes rough roads and small steep climbs hopefully in gloriously shitty weather followed by some shop time tuning up the stable after a long winter, punctuated by strong Belgian Ale crafted in the monastic traditions of Trappist monks.  Life is good.

The Cistercian Trappist monks have been brewing beer and making cheese in Chimay since 1862.  Here’s what they say about life, beer, and God:

Here, in this heaven of peace and silence where since 1850 Trappist monks have dedicated their life to God, products are made which, in themselves, gladden the heart of man.

If this statement doesn’t beckon me to the cloth, nothing will.  Speaking for myself, there are plenty of reasons not to become a monk: Celibacy, atheism, sin, colorless wardrobe, dudefest, to name a few.  However, the promise of the finest beers and cheeses the world has ever known and relocating to Belgium just might get me thinking about making a few “sacrifices”.   Although I have only partaken in the Trappist beer, I imagine the cheese is to die for as well.  I believe it was Ed Abbey who said “we all have a friend in cheeses”.  Amen.

So whether it be Rouge, Bleue, or Blanche (they make a Doree label as well which I’ve never had) uncork some Peres Trappist this week, drown some frites in mayo, and watch what I believe to be the finest competition bicycle racing has to offer.  It only comes once a year but the nice thing is that it’s a whole week long.  Thank you sir, may I have another.

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58 Replies to “Reverence: Chimay Ale”

  1. @Cyclops
    Tricky one this, I can see that it’s a subject that needs considerable, in-depth research which I’m sure that I’d really enjoy. The downside to it is that I’m struggling to convert this summers glorious form into solid winter training, either by manning up and taking a dose of Rule 9 or submitting to the monotony of the rollers. Additional excuses and ale based lard is not what I need at the moment.

    That said, I will carry out a limited amount of testing, the aforementioned Lowlander also serves the carry out market and delivers. The Rochefort 10 has to be sampled!

  2. Drinking a “Belgian style” Ommegang Hennepin Saison ale at the moment. Excellent stuff.

    My favorite place for Belgian ales in London is the Dovetail. Things might have changed though because it’s been a few years since my last London trip.

    The Dovetail Pub

  3. Not a huge fan of Belgians (beers that is). But that’s probably because I’m Irish. Guinness at the top of the list for me, and not the shit that is pasteurized and bounced around on it’s trip across the pond. I don’t even bother buying pints of it in the states. But while out enjoying some craic (pronounced crack for you non-Gaelic speakers) in Kilkenny, nothing better.

  4. Why are Belgian Beers so expensive? Even the non-trappists cost a fortune.

    Anyways, if you would like to try a great American interpretation you should try Brewery Ommegang’s Abbey Ale and their Three Philosophers. The Three Philosophers is a quadrupel with kriek mixed in, and its rather good.

  5. @King Clydesdale

    Firstly, life in Belgium is expensive.
    Secondly,the price depends on the location of your pub (“café” in Flanders). in big cities it s more expensive of course, in the center most expensive.
    And trappists are expensive, because of the craftsmanship. this is obvious.
    Also in general, life became more expensive when the Euro was introduced, because all prices were round off upwards + high taxes on alcohol. then the economic crisis, you know the story.
    and what s more, brewers make agreements to raise their prices together, by for example 8%. “Brewers” often means Jupiler, Maes and Stella Artois (the three major brands). the rest is just following, so even water costs the same as a normal ‘pintje’.
    Another thing that matters is that most cafés are owned by a brewery and the “cafébaas” (= person who is in charge of the pub) is obliged to sell their brands only and can t impose his own prices.

    the funny thing is: everybody is complaining, but everybody still loves to drink their beer in a café, no matter how much it costs…

  6. Well I went out there and found Chimay Blue at the Bottle Shop and I’m finishing the last of the bottle now. While I stick by my previous comments about Ommegang, this stuff is really good as well. Went for a long ride today, as I felt it obligatory to treat such a beer as a reward. Paired with cumin rubbed cube steak quesadilla (not the perfect pairing, but the cumin provided a solid contrast).

    But now that the weather has turned warmer, I find myself searching for some Lindemans Gueze Cuvee Rene. Fell in love with lambics when first getting introduced to real beer.

    I think in fact the reason I like Ommegang’s Three Philosophers so much is that it combines malty goodness with tartness. I’ve been tempted to mix a good brown ale with some lambic to see the result.

  7. I know this has been a long dormant posting, but while catching up on the Articles, this older one happened to pop up, as if sent as a sign by the Prophet Himself. After taking my pedalwan learner out for his first real road ride,(bike trail be damned!) we stopped mid-point at a pub out in the country for some Belgian sports drink. Noting how well the malted beverage energized us, it came to me that on the way home, I should stop by and grab a bottle of Peres Trappistes Chimay Ale for the post-ride recovery ritual. I did, but did not partake of the elixir, for I felt I was not worthy. I have saved it for my end-of-week recovery post-hammer fest, as penance for neglecting the bike for a month. When Wednesday comes this following week, a 100km ride will be in order, as well as a new bottle for the next ride. If motivation comes from the strangest things, a Duvel  glass would be the vehicle…

  8. Living in the land of the Prophet I can confirm there are but 6 trappist beers in Belgium, one in Holland and one in Austria(?). Even tasted some of them on tap and bought last weekend a case of Westvleteren from my neighbour. Waiting for an occasion now to taste the nectar.

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