Orval is consistently one of my favorite beers. Brewed in the Trappist monastery of Orval deep in the Belgian Ardennes, Orval has achieved international fame and a hugely loyal fan following. Of the 10 Trappist breweries, Orval’s beer is unique in style. Classified in the vague “Belgian Pale Ale” category, Orval is an amber beer with a huge depth of yeast character provided by its finishing yeast which contains Brettanomyces.
This yeast causes the bottle to develop over time as it ages. Orval fans tend to divide themselves into two camps: Young Orval and Old Orval. I love it no matter what age it’s at. As the beer ages, it gets dryer as the Brett eats the complex sugars left in the beer that regular Saccharomyces can’t eat. The body may get a bit thinner over time while the hop character recedes as the yeast character ascends.
This bottle was bottled on June 14, 2012, 2 weeks after I started my blog! I though it was appropriate time to pull this beauty out of the fridge for review in honor of my 2nd anniversary on the blogosphere.
Appearance: Hazy Amber, beige head, great retention.
Aroma: Caramel, pepper, funky, dirty straw, mango, some tropical fruit, cracker/bready notes.
Taste: Lightly tart with a peppery finish. Funky, dirty yeasty notes.
Overall Impression: At 2 years, this bottle had dried out considerably. The yeast is very present in the example with a huge load of funky, peppery notes. If you have the patience and space, you really should lay down a few bottles of Orval to taste them over time. Or better yet, buy a bottle every 6 months, store them, then pull them all out at once for a vertical. Truly a world classic, and a deserving beer to drink on the 2nd anniversary of my blog.
Availability: Nationally in better beer stores. (Check their importer for details: Merchant du Vin)