There are around a dozen Trappist breweries in the world and drinking a beer from each of them should definitely be on your Beer Bucket List. Even better is to visit all the monasteries that are open and drink the beers where they’re made. However, the monasteries are not exactly like your local brewpub. I want them to be dark, churchy places, reverential and quiet, but they are bright cafés that could belong to any national park—it just doesn’t match my expected vision. But they are still essential stops on the world beer map.
Drink Orval Vert At The Monastery One Of The World’s Most Revered Beers Photo Gallery
In Belgium, you can visit Achel, Chimay, Orval, Westmalle (this is a separate restaurant, but at the end of the monastery’s driveway), and Westvleteren (see post 139)—the only one not open is Rochefort. All but Westvleteren have draft beer, plus they all sell their bottled beers and some simple food. They are good places to visit, but just don’t necessarily expect a heavenly beer experience. The one exception to this is Orval.
Orval has the best-looking monastery, and there’s a nice tour through the grounds and a small museum, which you should walk around if you visit. Their café is called Á PAnge Gardien. It’s bright and a little sterile, like the other Trappist cafés, but they offer Orval Vert (“Orval Green”) on draft and this is the only place in the world where you can drink this beer.
The regular bottles of Orval are around 6.2% ABV. They are amber in color, deeply bitter and aromatic from being dry-hopped, and then each bottle is also seeded with the wild yeast brettanomyces, which gives the beer a secondary fermentation in the bottle. This dries out the beer and gives off some funky, tangy, earthy aromas, which change over time. It is a unique beer but one that is a favorite of many beer lovers, with individuals having a preference for how young or old they like it (they offer both old and young bottles at the café).
Orval Vert is a 4.5% ABV draft beer but without the addition of brettanomyces, meaning you’ve got a bitter Amber Ale, something like an old English IP A, bitter and powerful, yet intriguing with its floral hops and fruity-estery yeast aromas, and all with a softer, fuller texture than the bottled versions. If you like Orval, then you need to drink this beer and you should order it with some of the cheeses they also produce at the abbey.
There’s one other Orval beer that’s even harder to taste: Petite Orval. This is a low-alcohol version of the regular Orval, essentially watered-down, and it’s what the monks drink. This isn’t commercially available and only people who stay at the monastery are able to try this beer. It’s one of the rarest beers in the world—a definite bucket list beer.
WHAT: L’Abbaye d’Orval
WHERE: Route d’Orval, No. 1, B-6823 Villers-devant-Orval,
Drinking Orval is a heavenly beer experience.