The Session #46, An Unexpected Discovery

This month's Session, the first-Friday-of-the-month beer blogging get-together, is hosted by Burgers and Brews on the topic of "an unexpected discovery". Which really got me thinking.

Many of my great beer experiences are meticulously planned. Twitter and Facebook alert me to the launch of rare beers. Pub crawls are researched on the web and driven by public transport timetables. Events, lunches, festivals are all attended with a clear idea of what awaits. So when I make an unexpected beery discovery it tends to be a real blindsider.

And this year, it was Chimay. Sounds odd? Well, it's not like I was discovering their beers for the first time, but 2010 has brought me a number of Chimay revelations. It's romantic to think of the beer being brewed by a couple of monks in a back room at the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Scourmont, but the reality is somewhat different. I got to visit the abbey this year and was taken aback by the size of the enterprise, moreso by the tankers that take the beer down the road to a huge purpose-built bottling facility. Yet it's not really surprising - after all, the brewery produces almost three million gallons a beer a year.

And I knew nothing of Auberge de Poteaupré. The brewery's own hotel and restaurant, it was the perfect place to enjoy the beers, sat out in the sun with corks popping and plates of cheese to nibble on.

And I never knew aged Chimay Blue could be so complex. Sure, you hope for a particular depth of flavour in a vintage Trappist beer but this was something else - the kind of complexity that you'd associate with a great sherry.

And it was a pleasant surprise to go to bars and find Chimay was the house beer. Not surprising in the town, perhaps, but it's difficult to imagine an eight or nine percent beer being the first choice tipple here in the UK. At L'eau Blanche, the bar near my hotel in Lompret, tables by the river ordered trays of Chimay White. In town, the Armes de Chimay saw rows of outdoor diners enjoying Chimay Blue. To be sat outside at 9pm, eating the freshest salad I've had in twenty years, helping myself to more than my fair share of pike escabeche was amazing enough - to realise that thirty-plus people were all drinking Chimay Blue and havign a good time was a revelation. Opposite tables didn't remain strangers for long. No-one was drunk. Everyone was relaxed. The beer was important but it was only one component; time, place, culture, attitude all complemented one and other.

And as I sit down to write this tonight, I had one more unexpected discovery. Haviing just moved house, I found an old box that ended up being used as an impromptu table in the old conservatory. Inside the box - a bottle of Chimay White that's been sat in there for three years. I'm drinking it now, thinking of good times this summer and realising that sometimes the biggest names in the beer business can still proffer an unexpected discovery.


  1. Nice evocative post.

    I'm a big fan of the bleu. It's crazy really it's easy to get hold of and can be great value (£1.67 in Asda) and it's a classic example of a Belgian quad - which ages magnificently. Also brilliant with food - pairs well with fish, stews, cheese and chocolate.

    Thanks for also reminding me of the vintage Chimay Bleus that I have in my 'cellar' and that I should organise a vertical flight soon.

  2. It's the Auberge de Poteaupré.

  3. Thanks for that, link was dead too. Now all updated :-)