Friday, March 21, 2008

Beer O'Clock: Orval

Your Beer O'Clock post this week comes from Stu at SOBA.

It’s good to drink good beer on Good Friday. It’s just a shame we can’t buy it.

Orval is one such good beer. In fact it is very, very good. So good, to my personal palate, that it’s my ‘desert island beer’ – the one beer, amongst the thousand-odd I’ve tasted, that’d I’d pick to drink for the rest of my life if such a terrible decision was forced upon me by some kind of non-benevolent supreme being (or just bad luck).

Orval pours hazy rose gold with a large, lacy white foam. It has a champagne-like spritzy look and feel, with a nose that is lightly bready, with hints of boiled-sweets, a unique woody spice and a little dried citrus zest. In the mouth it is dry and effervescent, slightly leathery, pithy, and with a bitterness reminiscent of old style oranges. There’s a little cinnamon and anise in there too. Its subtle touches linger on the palate for a lot longer than the average beer. Orval is a very special beer but, like almost every good beer, is relatively affordable and can be enjoyed on any occasion.

Part of the unique character of Orval is the brettanomyces yeast (commonly called ‘brett’), which adds some of the aromatic spice and really dries out any residue sweetness in the beer. This yeast continues to work in the bottle and, while changing the characteristics of the beer over time, can add an extra percent or two to the labelled alcohol level. Beware.

The monks behind Orval also produce a Port-du-Salut style cheese. You can take this combination as an explicit beer and cheese-matching tip (contrary to the opinion of Kerry Tyack, beer and cheese really is a match made in heaven). The dry bitterness of the beer contrasts with the creamy sweetness of the cheese, while the subtle fruit characteristics of each complement each other.

A brilliant beer inside a beautiful bottle, fit for a gorgeous glass. What’s more, it is available all-year ‘round at bottle stores, supermarkets and good beer bars all over the country (except, of course, Good Friday). I’ll drink it nine times out of ten whenever I’m at any of the Belgian-themed bars littered throughout our main cities.

If God-fearing monks produce the beer, then surely God must want us to drink it. And if this beer is the word of God... Amen!

Next time, back on the beer style theme, we’ll look at why 'Amber and Dark Lagers Ain't Ales.'

Slainte mhath, Stu

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