Beer Review 0417: Chimay White Cap Tripel Trappist Ale

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Bières de Chimay is a brewery located in Hainaut, Belgium, and is one of eight breweries that produce Trappist beer. Trappist ales are beers made within the walls of a Trappist monastery, either by monks themselves or under their direct supervision. As part of the rules to carry the authentic Trappist logo, the beer cannot be produced for profit, only to sustain the living expenses of the monks and the maintenance of the buildings and grounds. Any leftover profit is donated to charity.

Chimay was the first such Trappist brewery to open; founded inside Scourmont Abbey in 1862, the water used to make the beer is drawn from wells inside the monastery walls. Chimay produces four beers — Red (a Dubbel), White (a Tripel), Blue (a Quadrupel), and a Golden, which is a lower alcohol content beer made just for the drinking pleasure of the monks. Once a batch is brewed, it is transported to a nearby bottling facility; each beer is refermented inside the bottle, or dosed with yeast, producing natural carbonation.

Chimay can produce around 3,200,000 US gallons of beer each year, thanks to a 1988 expansion, and yearly sales exceed $50 million. Perhaps the most common of the Trappist beer brands, Chimay can not only be found in dedicated beer bottle shops, but also in most higher-end chain supermarkets.

Chimay White Cap is a Tripel that comes in at 8% ABV (alcohol by volume). Known in the 750 ml corked & caged bottles as Cinq Cents, this beer is Chimay’s newest beer, created in 1968, and is meant to be enjoyed as young as possible.

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The pour issued up a large, soapy, long lasting bright white head that was fluffy and had large bubbles. The beer is golden-orange in color, with a significant amount of cloudiness. As you pour all of the bottle into the glass, the head gets much creamier, and the body becomes filled with a large amount of sediment — not big particles, but just a significant increase in the cloudiness. Lacing on this brew starts out really good, leaving behind thick, bready pods of suds, but the longer it sits in the glass, the more that starts to subside.

To put it bluntly, this beer smells amazing, and is super complex: bready yeast mixes with orange and floral hops, then combines with sweet, grainy malts. Those base aromas provide a springboard for the background players of grape skin, peppery spice, dark fruits, and gentle alcohol. Chimay White is just a great smelling brew that tends to keep the same aroma as it warms — inviting, and refreshing. The balance here is award worthy.

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Tasting, candied orange meets bready alcohol with a lively carbonation. Make no mistake about it, the 8% ABV is here, but it contributes solidly to the flavor. This tripel goes from dry to quite refreshing in the middle, giving off flavors of white grape, pepper, and floral hops, then turns dry again on the finish, which has flavors of alcohol, dark fruits, and a mild to moderate hop bitterness. This beer is as crisp as a lager, but with a million times the flavor. I found Chimay White to be light-bodied, but with a medium, foamy mouthfeel thanks to the high carbonation.

The selling point to this beer is the refreshing quality as well as the high complexity of flavors. For a tripel, I found this to be missing a little body, and I did think the alcohol played a bit too prominent in the taste, but that might be nitpicking. This is a super beer worthy of the reputation and of your time.

Chimay White Cap Tripel Trappist Ale, 95 points. Price: $4.99 US for one 11.2 oz. bottle.

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