There are six remaining Trappist monasteries in Belgium that brew beer: Westvleteren, Orval, Rochefort, Chimay, Achel, and Westmalle. And the beer they brew is delicious. It’s so delicious that tourism for these places has grown fairly high in recent years. This has prompted the monasteries to build small restaurant outlets for tourists to treat as a destination, and sample the beer and cheese they make. My brother and I visited a few of these places some years ago, but we missed Orval. So I was excited to add Orval to the list.
We stopped at a local restaurant in the town of Orval, before we arrived at the brewery. We didn’t know it at the time, but the monastery was about 100 meters down the street. Anyway, the first thing to do was try the beer. They only make one kind, but after the drought of flavorful beers, it tasted phenomenal.
Next, we toured the ruins of the old monastery before it burnt to the ground during the French Revolution.
They were pretty awesome. I read all the signs, which taught me that the Orval logo (a fish holding a ring in its mouth) was based on a legend. Apparently, a countess (or someone like that) dropped her ring in some body of water, and after praying that she’d find it again, a fish brought it to her. I’m telling it badly. But that prompted the countess person to give a ton of money to the nearby monks, who started the monastery.
We got to tour a little building that explained how they make beer. They only sell one kind, but they also make a lighter beer called “Verte” (or “Green”) that the monks drink. It’s not for sale, but you can taste it in the cafe nearby.
The Verte was a bit odd. It tasted like it was brewed with herbs. I liked it okay. At least it was different; I have a lot of respect for beer that’s different.
Before we left, we picked up a 6-pack of Orval and a block of delicious hard cheese. The beer is sitting on a bench in our apartment. I’m doing my best to resist drinking one.
What temperature did the monks serve their own beer at? (I trust you carried your pocket thermometer.)
I really wish I had, but I haven’t found one yet. The bottle of Orval specifies 12 to 14 C, but this is an untested specification.