Chimay Grande Reserve to usher in 2012

Here’s to another year of good reads, good food, and good beer!
I figure there’s no better beer to usher in a new year than with the ale that marked a lot of firsts for me. Chimay Grande Reserve (or Chimay Blue, if you will) was the first really good beer I tried, and it really opened the door to appreciating beer. I first picked this up in a duty free store in Subic. I had no idea who Trappists were, what hops were, or the difference between ales and lagers. Honestly, the only reason I was attracted to Chimay was the name. Filipinos, of course, are familiar with the eponymous derogatory slang term for household helpers. So while the beer started out as novelty, and even though I swigged this straight from the bottle – the only way I knew of drinking beer at the time – I found the Grande Reserve to be the best beer I had ever tried at the time. It would hold this personal recognition for several years – until this past 2011 to be exact, when I really started getting into beer.

Thus, revisiting Chimay to end 2011 and begin 2012 seemed but apropos. I’ve never actually drunk Chimay from a glass, and this was my first time to lay my eyes on this beer. Visually, and perhaps politically incorrectly, I’d say this was a beer for a man’s man. Just ogle the opaque dark brown with an epic head that refused to be contained by the mighty Duvel tulip. The nose was not as pronounced as many of the other Trappist ales I’ve had the chance to try more recently, like Rochefort and Orval. This was the first time I really bothered to appreciate the aroma of Chimay as well, and while it was nothing extraordinary, it was everything I’d come to expect from a strong Belgian brown ale. The same can be said with the flavor – it had the sweet malts and fruitiness you’d come to expect from an abbey ale; a bit of hops, but not the overpowering American varieties. What really sets the Chimay apart is its mouthfeel and drinkability. It’s smooth, yet full-bodied. The carbonation is just right – not too much that it tastes like soda, and not too little that it tastes flat. The alcohol is expertly concealed. This is a great beer to pair with cheese, and Chimay even produces cheeses to match their beers. But for me, I love just sipping this classic ale by itself, with an occasional chuckle at the name. I wonder if they serve this beer over at Cafe Havana?

Appearance: 5.0 Aroma 3.5 Taste 4.0 Mouthfeel 5.0 Overall: 4.5

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