Tasting a series of Trappiste and Abbey beers seemed like the appropriate thing to do on a Sunday evening. As we tasted our way through a series of Westmalle, Rochefort, Chimay and St. Bernardus beers the wind increased and the angry surf sprayed foam 100 feet in the air, over the nearby forest. Hurricane Irene was passing through and 7 of us were huddled around the beer table in my 3rd annual 5-day beer course on Maine’s Whitehead Island, “The Art and Science of Beer: Brewing, History and Enjoyment.”
When it comes to beer, there’s no shortage of conversation. Enjoying Westmalle Dubble & Tripel, Chimay Red/Premier, Blue/Grande Reserve and Gold/Cinq Cents, St Bernadus Pater 6, Prior 8 & Abt 12, and Rochefort 6, 8 & 10 provided for high quality and pious debate. For me it was a reintroduction to a few beers I had lost interest in years ago, but rediscovered that a bit of reformulation may have me back in the fold.
In years past recall Chimay Red having been on the very fruity side. While there were fans of this style, Michael Jackson being an outspoken one, I found my preference drifted away to high Belgian ale fruitiness. This recent bottle of Chimay Red was smooth and lacked the fruitiness I recalled. It would now be a go to beer if offered the choice. Of course the Blue and Gold were exquisite as well. In fact all of these beers were superb on this Hurricane evening. Meanwhile I observed a reduced fruitiness in all of the Chimay beers.
One observation we had was that all the Rochefort beers had an unusual and very pleasant, creamy mouthfeel. We all noted the Rochefort ales excelled in their memorability and our overall preference.
We closed with St. Bernardus Abt 12. The brewer, I understand, used to brew Trappiste Westvleteren 12 – the hard to find brew in high demand. St. Bernardus Abt 12 “Abbey” ale was in the near perfect category and shared no shortage of enjoyment. St. Bernardus Prior 8 enjoyed accolades as a deceivingly drinkable go to beer.
The Westmalle beers, especially the Dubbel has always been low on fruitiness and rich in texture with a balance of toasted malts.
The morning brought clear skies and a clear head, though the landscape suffered from salt spray scorching, which reminded us of our Sunday evening service for days to come.
Coming up: Whitehead Light Station beer discussions and evaluations: Judging IPAs and Stouts, beers from Maine, One of a kind specialty beers, a selection of session beers and Hurricane Croquet, and what to serve with Lobster boil at sunset.