I have lots of goodies squirreled away in my garage but have been slow to enjoy them and give the world (well, the beer world) my sage opinions. The very least that anyone should expect if they send me some beer is that I actually drink it. If I enjoy it and can give forth then so much the better.
Last Friday, I was seeking something to get me through Sports Relief, where one has to watch at least five hours of dross TV to discover the one or two nuggets that makes it worthwhile (Corden, you know that means you).
Just before Christmas, the good folk at Chimay, the second largest Trappist brewery, sent me a gift pack with their three beers and a glass that was just enough for an evening in front of the TV. I don't suppose it was the robed monks that sent the beer, more likely their PR girls. (Monks with PR - another tale altogether).
Chimay beers have been around for years, almost 150 years, but their distribution has been strong in England, Europe and USA over the last thirty and Chimay will often be the first Belgian beer that budding beer lovers of a certain generation will have encountered.
The "Red" (by label and cap) is a 7% brown beer, the "Blue" a 9% strong, dark ale and the "White" is a 8% triple style golden ale.
Tim Webb in his bible, Good Beer Guide Belgium, has become slightly dismissive of the beers in recent editions, giving a nod to the traditions of the company and the constraints of brewing in a monastery but bemoaning the fact that the beers are not as complex as they once were due to the more modern production processes required. However, popularity is not in decline and the beers still enjoy good export sales.
So you no longer get depth and complexity. What you do get is an aroma that is a blast from the past. A yeasty nose that brings reminiscences about what you first loved about Belgian beer. You get good, malty sweet, strong beers that made Belgium famous. You get a real tongue prickling, spritzy carbonation from the sludgy yeast deposit that tells you this has a genuine secondary fermentation in bottle. You get classic Belgian beers that just might provide you with the open gateway to exploring further the world of great beer.
Given their wide distribution, you also get the chance to lift them straight from the supermarket shelf rather than having to hunt around more specialist retailers.
You also get a very enjoyable, mellow evening drifting off in front of the TV if you drink all three in one session.