The golden valley of Orval, Belgium has a long, rich history; monks first arrived in the year 1070 from southern Italy and after being granted land from the lord of the manor immediately begun construction on a church, the Orval Abbey.
Fast forward through several structure fires, wars, abandonments, and resurrections to the year 1931. The monastery was looking for additional income to aid in rebuilding efforts, and there was some history of brewing having taken place at Orval for the monk’s consumption, so they set out to build a brewery on the grounds, Brasserie d’Orval. Only, the monks were already very busy producing other products; ordinary citizens were brought in to handle the operations involved with brewing. The first brewmaster was Mr. Pappenheimer, a man from Germany along with two workers of Belgian origin. They each brought something unique out of their previous experiences which led to a recipe that was completely unparalleled.
Orval Trappist Ale comes in just shy of 7 percent ABV and 32 IBUs but what makes it truly unique amongst the Trappist Ale world is its use of dry-hopping and brettanomyces.
The pour showcases a warm golden orange hue with massive amounts of carbonation leading to a tan colored head. The carbonation is so high that I am only able to fill the snifter half way before the foam spills over. The aroma is caramel and earthy—read brettanomyces—forward with some Belgian yeast clove-like spice and apple cider notes.
The taste is surprisingly sweet, nutty, bready, with some dark fruit notes of dates and raisins. There is also an interesting cigar quality as well. This is one complex beer. Even with the sweetness Orval remains very dry on the palate with a fluffy mouthfeel thanks in part to all that carbonation. As it warms some additional brett character comes through and only adds to the complexity of this behemoth.