I generally feel sorry for people with religious tendencies and a direct line to the Almighty. It seems like lot of hard work and sacrifice, and for what? The promise of eternal salvation? That's a little like working hard for a boss who never gives you anything in return, but promises you a pay rise "next month." Just as it was for Alice's Red Queen, so it seems with the Almighty: it's always jam tomorrow and jam yesterday - but never jam today. But perhaps it just seems like always when the pleasures are few and far between.
There is one group of inveterate lion-chasers however for whom I could only ever feel a twinge of genuine jealousy. These enlightened souls are the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance - also known as Trappist monks. Trappist monks have become world famous for their excellent beer, their delectable cheeses, their stunning architecture and their strict appellation that protects their use of the Trappist term. There are seven Trappist breweries:
- Chimay, who is the most famous;
- Rochefort and Westvleteren are held in the highest regard by beer hunters (think train spotters, but with leather jackets rather than anoraks);
- Achel is the smallest;
- La Trappe is the only non-Belgian Trappist brewery, and is the most notorious, having been being kicked out of the Trappist association after breaking some of the strict trading rules - they have since beer readmitted and are just now becoming available in NZ;
- Orval is probably the most distinctive, and my own clear favourite.
Westmalle beers (that's their abbey at the right, by the way) are available at most good bottle stores, supermarkets and all of the Belgian beer cafés these days. Their Tripel is a delight, and is a mind blowing experience for anyone whose only tripel experience was Monteith's deservedly maligned seasonal release last year.
The Westmalle Tripel pours a pale gold, slightly hazy, with a dense white foam and a complex heady aroma - firstly of apricot and sea breeze, then of sweet dough, sour fruit, white wine and woody spices. In the mouth it's dry, tart and highly carbonated. It has a strong alcoholic character underpinned by herbal notes, reminiscent of absinthe, and delivers a generously spicy clove-like finish.
An exceptionally complex beer that's perfect for indoor drinking at this "unseasonably warm" time of year.
If God does indeed exist, then Benjamin Franklin probably summed up his reason for being, when stating: "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." The Trappist monks would agree, God bless 'em.
Have a beery good weekend.
Slainte mhath, Stu
LINKS: Pascal's Wager.