Tag Archives: chimay

Ü Two Should Meet – Chocolate & Beer Pairings

It was my parent’s 30th wedding anniversary recently. As a celebration, a family friend sent over a box of chocolates that were, to put it mildly, a decadent experience that transported us all to Cloud 9. Rich, smooth, creamy, and bursting with flavour, we vowed never to get celebration chocolates from the grocery store again. The chocolates were made by Ü Chocolate for the World a local business run by Mother & Son team Lydia and Andy Yue. Lydia, a longtime veteran chocolate maker, originally rose to confectionary stardom with her business Chocolateur, which had two storefronts in London, Ontario’s Masonville Place and Toronto’s Eaton Centre. Now, after an absence of more than twenty years, Lydia has returned and making confectionaries with high quality ingredients and incredibly rich and creamy swiss chocolate.

If you’re in Toronto, Ü Chocolate for the World has a temporary storefront at Holt Renfrew (50 Bloor Street West) for the 13th and 14th only. If you miss those dates or live elsewhere in North America, you’re in luck! They’re primarily an online shop, and can provide boxes of their wonderful truffles, chocolate coated fruits, and custom gift novelties.

So anyways…after being sent to heaven with these chocolates, I thought that it was about time I did a post on chocolate and beer pairing. And what better way to level the quality playing field than by pairing excellent beers with excellent chocolates? After all, a bar of generic, waxy, milk chocolate bought in a grocery store is going to provide a different experience than a well-crafted chocolate made with quality ingredients. It pays to have good quality on both sides of the pairing to get the best overall experience.

So chocolate primarily seems to go well with the darker beers such as stouts, porters and brown ales, with the occasional nod going to Barley Wines or a nice Pilsner. But like all pairings, it all depends on your personal preference to taste as well as the quality of what you’re pairing.

Now, for the selection of some of these, I went with what seemed to me like a fairly logical pairing based on what I knew about the beers. Sometimes they worked out, sometimes they didn’t and I had to figure out something else. As a result, I not only went with a dark and milk chocolate truffle pairing, but also went for two of the flavoured ones as well (I mean hey, you get a box of chocolates and it’s not just straight up milk and dark, right?). I have to say in, ahem, researching for this post, I was quite surprised by the tastes that went with the beers selected.

So here we go.

Dark Chocolate – Mort Subite Kriek Sour Cherry Lambic

Mort Subite Kriek is usually a beer I break out when I learn that a person doesn’t drink beer because of the bitter taste. It’s a good introduction to the versatility of beer and is a lovely occasional treat to pick up at the LCBO. While this particular one, brewed in Belgium’s Brouwerij Mort Subite, is made with cherries, the brewery does have a Raspberry variation as well. I find that one a bit too sweet though, and appreciate the wonderful sour cherries used in the Kriek.

I always love matching rich, bitter, dark chocolate with the taste of cherries and the choice of pairing the dark chocolate truffle with the cherry lambic was a wise one. The tartness was brought out more with the chocolate and provided a breif, wonderful explosion of cherry and cocoa, almost as if I was eating a cherry flavoured truffle. As the flavours died down, the sour notes of the lambic continued to swirl around my tongue while the chocolate provided and nice, creamy finish.

Mango – Chimay Grande Réserve (Blue Cap) Dark Belgian Ale

Admittedly this one threw me for a bit of a loop. The Mango certainley wasn’t my first choice for the pairing, but as an experiment I decided to try it out and…well, it worked. Marvelously in fact. Definitely helps that the chocolate was of extremely high quality, with the Mango flavours less overt and medicinal and more natural and subtle. The dried fruit and malty notes of the Chimay blended nicely with the subtle Mango note at the back. The alcohol burn I normally find in this Dark Belgian ale was all but diminished, making for a creamy, slightly dessert-like experience.

Milk Chocolate – Black Oak Nut Brown Ale

Again, I had a bit of a trial and error with this one. Unfortunately, dark chocolates paired with this beer just didn’t do either of them justice. But there was the Milk Chocolate truffle and I thought “Why not? Two longtime, solid favourites coming together. Let’s see how it goes.” and sure enough, it went well. The sweet creaminess of the milk chocolate matched the dark, slightly bitter malty notes and distinctive hop characteristics perfectly.

Irish Cream – Wellington Russian Imperial Stout

You can’t go wrong with Irish Cream Coffee, and the Wellington Russian Imperial Stout, with it’s strong cocoa and coffee flavours, was the perfect pairing for the milk chocolate Irish Cream chocolate and made for a wonderful final pairing on par with a nice cup of coffee with dessert.

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The Season of Giving: Beer Gift Packs

We’ve all been denying it and dreading it, but it’s time to come to terms with it: the holidays are here.  I don’t know about you folks, but this week and next for me will be a chaotic haze of gift buying, office parties, secret-santaing and dinner partying.

So you need to get something.  Ideally under $20-$50 and you kind of want to avoid getting everyone the same coffee table book of “Chairs Throughout History”.  While thinking about it you grab a beer…and then it hits you.

It’s one of my favorite seasons right now…BEER GIFT BOX SEASON!  That glorious time of year where breweries decide to make a box set that samples their beer and comes with a beautiful glass.  They’re cheap, they’re pretty and they’re tasty!  They truly are good gifts for the dinner partying or office partying crowd.

The following is a list of some favourites I’ve known of.  Speak to your local Boozemonger for information on purchasing/ordering.  Of course, prices may vary and I can’t be held responsible if you spoil the gift by opening it and trying it for yourself.

1. Historic Ales From Scotland Gift Pack
William Bros. Brewery
$9.60

This is a really fun set.  Comes with four bottles of historic ales (Pine Ale, Heather Ale, Elderberry Ale and Gooseberry Ale) which all, to my surprise the first time I tried it, taste just wonderful.  The story behind them is also amazing and listed on the back of the bottle so you can learn something (The Gooseberry Ale was originally brewed by 16th century Scots monks, the Pine Ale was brought over by the Vikings and so on).  This is a nice and cheap set which brings out a sort of adventurous spirit in people with the results always being good ones.  I strongly suggest picking up this set.

Taste of Belgium Gift Pack
Anheuser-Busch InBev
$19.95

To regular readers here, SHUT UP I KNOW HEAR ME OUT. Let’s face it, you’re bound to have some friends, no matter how much you try to pour craft beer down their throats, that are going to like the simple stuff.  This pack has three beers with accompanying glasses for each one. Stella Artois, Hoegaardan and Leffe Brune.  While I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the first two, I have to acknowledge that people love them and that’s cool.  Also, Leffe Brune is truly a wonderful beer and mixes it up a little.  While a beer snob would turn his or her nose up to this, it does make an ideal gift for a friend who likes that kind of thing and ESPECIALLY for “mystery gifting” at office parties.  It IS practical.

Mill St. Organic, Tankhouse or Coffee Porter Gift Pack
Mill St. Brewery
$6.95

I actually bought one of these (The Coffee Porter one) for a Dinner Party I’m going to tonight.  Three different packs; one for their Organic, their Tankhouse Ale and their very tasty Coffee Porter.  Each beer comes with a glass that will suit the beer (The Coffee Porter comes with a Snifter Glass, for example) and they pack a HUGE punch as a present for a really cheap price.  Once again, ideal for office party Secret Santas or dinner parties and the beer is of exceptional quality!  And screw it, I may very well buy one or two of these myself.

Erdinger Weissbier Bavarian Gift Pack
Erdinger Weissbräu
$9.95

A pretty damn refreshing beer!  This pack comes with two beers, the traditional Weissbier and Erdinger’s superb Dunkel as well as a glass that goes well with this style of beer.  The beer is tasty and is sure to attract even the beer-haters of the group.  And while Weissbiers are considered by a few people to be a better drink in the summer months, I think they are still quite amazing in the winter months.  The nice maltiness of the Dunkel will add to the holiday ambience considerably.

Chimay Gift Set
Bières de Chimay
$19.95

This is a gift set for the beer lover friend of yours.

You remember my post on Trappist Beers, right? Of course you do!  Chimay is one of the seven Trappist breweries in the world and are the most aggressive with their advertising and sales.  This set comes with their three famous beers, the blue cap, red cap and white cap, as well as a BEAUTIFUL Abbey Goblet to drink it all down with.  Seriously a wonderful set that allows you to try the brews of one of the more famous breweries out there.

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So there we go!  There are more out there, of course so be sure to get down to your booze emporium and check out what’s available!  And hey, maybe pick one or two out for yourself while you’re at it.

Let’s all try and survive the holidays, folks.

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Gateway Beers Part 3: Trappist Beers

Yes, GATEWAY BEERS.  Maybe you noticed some strange things happening with your son and/or daughter.  Leaving craft beer magazines lying around the house, starting a collection of coasters or glasses from brewpubs and microbreweries or even having a schedule of beer events happening WITH SEVERAL OF THEM CHECKED OFF OR CIRCLED. Yes, there’s no way around it.  Your kid is a Beer Fiend, a Hophead, a Malt Maniac, a Liberal, or whatever the hell kids are calling them these days. And it was all thanks to that damn Lambic!

Basically, this was inspired by the friends and family I have who have said “I don’t really drink beer, but when I do I usually drink _______.  What should I have?”.   

But you know what?  Today I feel reckless.  Today I don’t think I’m going to go with the template of “I usually drink ________”.  Today I’m going to just suggest a type of beer that you HAVE TO TRY before you die.

I am talking of the holiest of them all, the Trappist Beers. Cue the music to play along while reading this!

Trappists, also known as The Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, are an order of Roman Catholic contemplative monks who follow the Rule of Saint Benedict to the letter and have taken a vow of stability, fidelity to monastic life, and obedience.  While they don’t go so far as to take a vow of silence, talking too much IS discouraged.  Apparently speech disturbs a disciple’s duty for quietude and receptivity, and may tempt them to exercise their own will instead of the will of God.  A special sign language was created to further discourage speech and all meals are spent quietly listening to a reading.

There are about 175 monasteries and convents in the world and most of them make stuff! Turns out the Rule of St. Benedict encourages the monks to produce stuff with all income going to the monastery! This stuff ranges from clothing to food to toys…and BEER (which works because the monks don’t abstain from alcohol or think it’s particularly wrong).

In response to breweries, clothing companies and other non-Trappist purveyors abusing the Trappist name by calling their product Trappist, the International Trappist Association was formed which put a smackdown on the fakers and set up some strict rules to determine what is worthy of getting the “Authentic Trappist Product” sticker on their product.

Because this is a beer blog, I’ll give the rules as they relate to the making of beer:

  • The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist abbey, by or under control of Trappist monks (although this has been stretched to allow outsourcing to breweries outside of the abbey as long as the ENTIRE process is overseen by the monks).
  • The brewery, the choices of brewing, and the commercial orientations must be of secondary importance within the monastery and should reflect the monastic way of life.
  • Profit is not a goal.  Money received from sales goes towards the living expenses of the monks and building and maintenance of the grounds.  The rest goes to charity.
  • Trappist breweries must be constantly monitored to ensure the best of quality.

And if any one of those rules are broken BAM, The sticker comes off and they are no longer considered Trappist.  But why is that considered a big deal? After all, There are thousands of Abbey breweries out there.  This is true…but there are only seven Trappist breweries in the entire world (six in Belgium and one in the Netherlands), so staying on that list packs a lot of prestige.

Now I’m going to go through the seven breweries and say what I can about them.  Keep in mind that, due to limited availability, there are several that I have not tried and therefore won’t be able to comment on them.  Though with that it should be said that trying all the Trappist beers is something that should be put on your bucket list.

Bières de Chimay: Comes in three different, wonderful colours.White, Red and Blue. Chimay Red Cap was actually the very first craft beer I ever tried and the complexities just blew my mind.  First brewed in 1862, Chimay Red Cap has  a lovely copper colour, sweet apricot aroma and a taste that reveals the fruit nuances and delicious malts.  These folks also put more in to advertising than any of the other breweries and with their easy availablity are often a gateway in to the world of Trappist beers.

Brasserie d’Orval: This brewery makes two beers; one for the public and one just for the monks (but can also be purchased at the monastery itself or the cafe near it). The public one, Orval, has a light cloudy colour, is somewhat high in carbonation and with a spicy, leathery aroma.  Taste is sweet with some citrusy tones and a distinct note of pear and apple.  Slight hoppiness due to dry-hopping during the three-week maturation period.  Also should be noted that the brewery uses a unique local wild yeast for fermenting.

Brasserie de Rochefort: Never tried the three beers from this brewery. Rochefort 6 is only brewed once a year and is very difficult to hunt down, Rochefort 8 is their most popular brew and Rochefort 10 packs a punch with an 11.3% ABV, which I imagine adds some lovely distinctions to the flavour.  A fun note about this brewery is that they obtain the water from a well within the walls of the monastery.

Brouwerij der Trappisten van Westmalle: Westmalle makes three brews speculated to be based on the Holy Trinity. A Dubbel, a Tripel (the first golden strong pale ale to be called one) and Westmalle Extra, which is pretty rare.  Not going to lie here folks, when I first tried Westmalle Tripel I actually wept tears of joy.  The aroma is quite sweet, with hints of lemon zest, orange and sweet spices but the the taste is another matter. VERY creamy mouthfeel to it with such a complex flavour.  Really, nothing I can say about the flavour will do it justice.  Every time I try to do a tasting I’m just left dumbstruck.  Combinations of sweetness, bitterness and earthiness combine to form a holy trinity on its own.  For the love of all that is Holy (and these folks are pretty holy) try the Westmalle Tripel.

Brouwerij Westvleteren: These folks do absolutely no advertising, make just enough beer to support the monastery and the only official sell points are the brewery itself and a cafe across from the abbey.  Any other places you get it should be punished because once purchased the buyers are given their receipt with “DO NOT RESELL” on it.  No pubs have it either.  They have not changed the amount of beer they produce since 1946.  This kind of thing brings out the romantic in me and makes me want to go on a pilgrimage.

Brouwerij der Sint-Benedictusabdij de Achelse Kluis: The smallest of the breweries, the building of which was assisted by the monks at Westmalle and Rochefort. They brew six beers, two of which are available only on tap at the Abbey, one available in bottles only at the abbey and the remaining are distributed worldwide but to quite limited availability. I regret to say that I haven’t tried any of these beers, though I have been told that Achel Extra Brune, which seems to be their most popular beer, is “what a strong ale should be”, with a creamy mouthfeel and hints of rye, caraway, molasses and cloves.

Brouwerij de Koningshoeven: More known as La Trappe.  The only one of the Trappist breweries not based in Belgium, but in the Netherlands.  While they make about seven beers plus one seasonal, in my experience the three most popular are the Dubbel, Tripel and Quadrupel.  As luck would have it, a pub right down the street from my office serves all three on tap.  The tripel  has a rich, bittersweet taste with hints of pears and coriander while the quadrupel would have to be the sweetest of them all, with strong tastes of molasses, cloves, bay leaf, vanilla and raisins, a sticky mouthfeel and a very slight bitterness that only comes from it’s alcohol content (10%).  A personal goal of mine is to try the oak aged batches of the quadrupel, which adds a whole new element to an already fantastic beer.

PHEW!  So that’s all of them.  So here you have a group of breweries with a very rich history and a way of life that is so unique.  Not to mention that by buying the beer, you know the money is going towards maintaining the monastery with the rest going to charity.  In all respects Trappist beers are feel-good beers.

So now that this post is written, I’m going to get something to eat, head down to my local pub, purchase a bottle of Orval and let out a very solemn “hallelujah!”

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The Surprisingly Complex World of Beer Glasses

Yes, more than one glass for beer exists (And I’m not talking about different logos) and more and more I’m noticing pubs actually carry them.  And while they do look nice and pretty, they are varied for a reason.  This post will go over that reason and list off some glasses along with which beer styles go with them.

So to put it as basically as possible, the glasses help bring out the best in your beer.  If you want, think of a glass as a suit or dress that just suits you SO WELL and calls attention to all the right parts, showing no flaws.  That is the job of the glass.

To get in to specifics, similar to wine glasses, different types of beer glasses help compliment different styles.  With the right combination of beer and glass, the aroma, taste and steady carbonation of the beer will be greatly complimented.  So tell that to your wine snob friends next time they laugh about how unsophisticated beer is.

Perfect example.  It was a warm summer day and my mother and I were in a pub.  She wanted something light and crisp, so she ordered a Pilsner Urquell, which was served in a Pilsner Flute Glass (see picture above).  She adored the beer’s crisp flavour, biscuity aroma and to top it off, she was refreshed by the end of it. Fast forward a month later, she’s at home and feels like another Pilsner Urquell, so she gets a can from the liquor store.  We don’t have any flute glasses at home, so she picked a random one, an Abbey Goblet (also above) and in her own words “it smelled and tasted like piss“. So once again, the right glass for your beer will REALLY help bring out it’s best qualities and have you strongly consider a second date, er, tasting.

So where can you get these fancy glasses?  Well, there are plenty of ways.  Ebay is a good bet.  So is contacting the breweries individually or kitchen stores and the like.  And yes, there’s the dishonest way (and as it happens, my late grandfathers preferred way)  of just swiping them from a pub.  But that is dishonest and you should at the very least offer to buy the glass from them.

And now, because knowing is half the battle, I’m going to teach you about some of the more common glasses you’ll find in pubs and what should go with them.  For pictures, see the picture/chart above.  Keep in mind that there are many different styles of the different styles of glasses.  A flute glass can be stemmed or not, for instance, and a particular beer needs a specific one of those and so on.

STEMMED ABBEY GOBLET: These babies are usually for holding dark ‘n heavy Belgian Abbey ales.  Suggested beers: Leffe Brune, Westmalle Tripel, La Trappe Tripel, Chimay Red

SNIFTERS: Not just for rich guys with a passion for Brandy and cigars! Beglian ales, Barley wines and Imperial IPAs are great for this glass and really brings out the aroma. Suggested beers: admittedly, Delirium Tremens is the only beer I’ve had with this glass.  But damn, it’s lovely.

FLUTE GLASSES: For Pilsners, Lambics and fruit beers.  And dear lord, they make the brew look refreshing and beautiful.  Suggested beers: Pilsner Urquell, Budvar (Or Czechvar in other places), Fruli

PINT GLASSES: The classics.  We love ’em.  Nothing screams “traditional pub drink” than a nice pint glass.  This usually takes in the mainstream stuff as well as stouts, porters and bitters!  Suggested beers: Fullers London Porter, Hobgoblin Ale, Guinness, Arrogant Bastard

TANKARDS: For when you want to quench your thirst after a bloody battle.  Suggested beers: WHATEVER YOU WANT, YOU’RE A VIKING RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. Seriously though, see above in the pint glass bit.  I find those go really well with a nice Pewter Tankard that’s been left in the freezer for a bit.

And that’s all on glasses from me at the moment.  Hope it was enlightening! And now you know what glass to expect for which type of beer!

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