Saturday, February 9, 2008

Trappist Beers - Orval

[Installment #3 in a series]

The Brasserie d'Orval is located at the Abbaye Notre-Dame d'Orval monastery in Belgium. Monks have lived at this site as far back as 1071. The ravages of the french revolution destroyed the abbey in 1793, which lay in ruins until 1927. The brewery was established 1931 in order to produce income for the Order. The brewery has been upgraded and modernized over the years since. As with some other Trappist monasteries, the monks also produce a cheese, only available in Belgium, France and Holland.

The name Orval comes from "Golden Valley." According to legend, Countess Mathilda of Tuscany was visiting the site, when she lost her wedding ring in a spring. She prayed to the Lord and at once a trout rose to the surface with the precious ring in its mouth. Mathilda exclaimed "Truly this place is a Val d'Or'!" In gratitude, she decided to establish a monastery on the site.

Orval produces two beers, only one of which is available to the public, Orval Trappist Ale. Petite Orval is brewed for the monks and is only available at the abbey. Orval Trappist Ale is a Belgian Pale Ale that checks in at 6.9% ABV. The beer comes in a unique bowling pin shaped 11.2 oz. bottle. Edit: The bottling date is 07/05/2007.

Pouring the Orval slowly into an oversized wineglass produced a full, billowing off-white head. The beer is a orange-copper color with some haziness. Spicy, malty aromas are released during the pour and picked up by the nose immediately. There's a pleasing peppery smell, along with some faint fruitiness. The taste is an earthy blend of yeast and a light, bready malt. A light sweetness is present, which balances the hop bitterness. A fruity aspect appears as the beer warms. The finish is somewhat astringent, but pleasant.

I enjoyed the Orval with some spicy Hunan Pork. Although the flavors of the beer are subdued, they stood up to the spicy meal very well. I had no trouble enjoying the complex flavors of the beer despite the red pepper spice in the dish. The heavy carbonation kept the palate refreshed.

I found Orval Trappist Ale to be an easy-to-drink, refreshing ale. The relatively low ABV makes it suitable for nearly any occasion. And, it provided a good start to this exploration of the Trappist beers. I look forward to opening the next one.

The first post in the series is here.


  1. David - You might add the bottling date if you still have the bottle. (And on the Trappist beers you taste going forward.)

    In the case of Orval that is particularly useful. The Brett is now added at bottling (rather than in secondary) and doesn't really start to come forward until 6 months after it is bottled.


  2. Stan, thanks for the suggestion. I have added the date to the post. I am assuming this is the European date format, so the bottling is May. Would you agree? I will revisit this batch in a few months.

  3. Yes it's definitely the dd/mm/yyyy date format.


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