Orval – Belgium, 5.2 per cent
Brasserie d'Orval is unique among the Trappist breweries - you won't find the abbey producing a range of ales for export, rather just the one, monolithic beer: Orval.
Generously dry hopped with aromatic noble hops and conditioned in the bottle with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis (a yeast many brewers consider a contaminant), while the beer that leaves the abbey doors is all of the same ilk, this secondary yeast strain noticeably dries the beer and alters the flavour profile, sometimes dramatically, as the beer ages.
As such, Orval's flavour forever changes depending on how old the beer is, with aged Orval sought fervently by enthusiasts, even if the beer's fingerprint remains the same.
Pouring a hazy copper toffee, with a billowing white head, the immediate impression is an aroma of warm muesli, gooseberries, and a smoky, phenolic edge of Brett. funk.
Somewhere under all this lies a grassy, nettle tea hop character and a sliver of lemon garnish.
The body is light, medium dry, and refreshing, as a golden syrup sweetness rises from a chorus of lemon cheesecake and grapefruit pith which lingers on the palate, enhancing the beer's dryness. A gentle dandelion bitterness is present in the finish, along with the characteristic sweat and warm hay of the Brettanomyces yeast. Even if you've had Orval before, there's never an excuse not to return to it once more – it really is one of the best beers in the world.
Recommended by Michael Bates, Trembling Madness, Stonegate, York
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