Beer Review 0418: Chimay Blue Cap Quadrupel Trappist Ale
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 Blue Cap is a Quadrupel that comes in at 9% ABV (alcohol by volume). Known in the 750 ml corked & caged bottles as Grande Reserve, this beer was first brewed as a Christmas offering, but was so well received it became year-round. Chimay Blue may be aged for several years, and is recommended to be served at cellar temperature.
Pouring kicked up a large, off-white colored head that had very nice staying power. Its texture was creamy, like a whipped frosting; the beer was a dark reddish-brown color, with a cloudy body. With the yeast dregs added at the bottom of the bottle, the cloudiness increased, adding significant amounts of sediment to the drink. Lacing is good, leaving behind almost solid sheets of suds, but with the yeast added, there is very little to report.
The nose continues the trend of all the Chimay beers — there’s bready and doughy yeast mixed with buttery, sweet caramel. It’s sweet with a very mild suggestion of an orange peel hop bitterness. As it warmed, touches of dark fruit surfaced, with a little grape skin and a very minor note of alcohol. Of all the Chimay offerings, the alcohol is most hidden in the Blue Cap. Nice aroma, if somewhat simple.
And the flavors pretty much follow the aroma; initial hits of buttery, sweet caramel (nearly candy corn) intertwine with toffee and bready yeast, then a wall of smooth orange peel. The flavors are very consistent until a mild hit of alcohol brings on the finish, which is sweet and filled with candied caramel, nearly like a frosting. Chimay Blue Cap is medium-bodied, with a medium, foamy, and drying mouthfeel.
While certainly a very good beer, Chimay Blue suffers a bit with a lack of complexity. It isn’t as interesting as the Tripel, and there are other Trappist quads I would turn to before this one. That being said, this is a solid brew that pairs well with just about any food, and I’d consider this a beginners look into Trappist ale, specifically the Quadrupel style. The drinkability is through the roof and you’ll quickly find yourself in trouble with this 9% beer.
Chimay Blue Cap Quadrupel Trappist Ale, 93 points. Price: $5.99 US for one 11.2 oz. bottle.