Tag Archives: Chimay

The top 15 beers that I drank in 2014

By Alan J. Wax

It was a very good year.

Over the past dozen months I’ve sampled and rated hundreds of beers. To be sure there were a few duds—beers I couldn’t swallow, but most of them were very good. Quite a few, in fact, were terrific, but more than a handful of brews really stood out.

Since taste is a very personal thing, I don’t expect everyone to agree with my choices. Readers may not enjoy the specialties that I do—Belgians, Belgian-inspired beers and sours were prominent on my list of top-rated beers. For the record I am not a fan of big, in-your-face hoppy beers, so if you’re hoping to see some on this list, you’re out of luck. Some of these beers here are regarded as world classics and I was pleased to renew acquaintances; others were new to the market and I was pleased to have discovered them.

Here, alphabetically are the top 15 beers that I drank in 2014; all rated five stars out of five (to see the runners up, and others, visit my Untapped.com profile:

Chimay Spéciale Cent Cinquante by Abbaye Notre Dame de Scoumont of Belgium, Released in limited quantities in 2012 to mark the Trappist brewery’s 150th anniversary this Abbey tripel is hazy gold with a dense foamy white head and a spicy nose. It’s full bodied and lively with notes of black pepper, licorice and malty sweetness.

hell gateHell Gate Golden by Blind Bat Brewery, Centerport, NY. A Belgian-style unfiltered tripel. Murky deep gold in color and rich in body with notes of cardamom spice and bubble gum.

Hottenroth by The Breuery, San Diego, Calif. In the style of a Berliner Weisser, this refreshing brew is hazy gold with a short head and sour apple nose. It’s lactic. Lemony, light and delicious.

Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel by Belgium’s Brasserie d’Achouffe. A Belgian IPA that’s golden hued with a rocky white hear and nose that is at one fruity, floral and resiny, Beautifully balance flavors with sweet malt, Belgian yeast character and grain notes,

Jonge Kriek (Ghost Bottle) by Brooklyn Brewery. Cherries dominate this oak-aged, Brett-tinged brew which used Brooklyn Local 2 as its base.

Life and Limb Batch 2 by Sierra Nevada Brewing, Chico, Calif. A deep brown American strong ale with a nose that redolent of malt and spice.  Rich and velvety mouth feel with notes of spices, chocolate and dried fruits. 

kwakPauwel Kwak by Belgium’s Brouwerij Bosteels. Belgian Strong ale, brown in hue and complex with notes of honey, caramel, brown candy sugar and a hint of anise.

Rodenbach Caractère Rouge by Belgian’s Brouwerij Rodenbach. A Flanders red ale brewed with macerated fresh cherries, raspberries and cranberries. A brassy red hue with a nose of oak and berries. On the mouth, there’s a delicious complex blend of sour fruit flavors

Saison Dupont by Belgium’s Brasserie Dupont. A golden hued brew with a huge head and spicy nose. It’s extra dry, citrusy and bready with a lip-smacking finish.

Logo-SaisonSaison by Brasserie St-Feuillien of Belgium. A classis example of the style with a golden color and notes of yeast, pepper and malt.

Surette Provision Saison by Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project, Denver, Colo. This deep hazy golden brew has a prominent brettanomyces nose, extraordinary lip-smacking tartness with hints of oak toast and a dry finish.

St. Bretta (Spring) by Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project, Denver, Colo. A hazy orange colored brew with a huge citrus nose precede the lip-smacking tart, orange, apple, spice and, of course, metallic brettanomyces notes. It’s a great palate cleanser.

St. Bretta (Winter) 2014 Batch 5 by Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project, Denver, Colo.  I had this winter delight on a summer night. Almost ebony it didn’t have much of a head, but lots of fizz and a winey nose. Deliciously sour, citrusy and dry.

collab-woot-bttle22Drew Curtis/Wil Wheaton/Greg Koch Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout by Stone Brewing Co., San Diego, Calif. Dark brown in color with nose that that redolent of: alcohol, nuts, and roast notes. On the palate: it’s rich, syrupy with notes of dried fruit. The finish reminds you of this imperial stout’s 13 percent ABV.

Westmalle Trappist Tripel by Brouwerij der Trappisten van Westmalle, of Belgium. This golden hued brew has a white rocky head. The nose offers notes of grain, yeast and anise. Its mouth feel is velvety with a soft malt palate that echoes the nose.

That’s my list. What’s on yours?  Tell everyone in the comments section.


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Luc “Bobo” Van Mechelen: The face of Chimay in the United States

Chimay brand ambassador Luc “Bobo” Van Mechelen at New York City’s the Beer Authority

For many beer-loving Americans, Luc “Bobo” Van Mechelen is the face of Chimay, the celebrated Belgian Trappist beer.

It’s a cheery face, covered by a full, largely gray beard and accented by tortoise-shell eyeglasses over twinkling eyes.

Belgian by birth and wide of girth, Van Mechelen, is the U.S. brand ambassador for Chimay, the best known of seven breweries worldwide that produce Trappist beers.  Chimay’s beers are produced by the Cistercian Trappist monks at Chimay, a monastery also known as Notre-Dame de Scourmont near the French border in Belgium’s Ardennes region. Chimay was the first of the Trappists to brew commercially, according to the late Michael Jackson, a British beer writer and author of “The Great Beers of Belgium.”

Van Mechelen’s official title is special projects and regional sales manager of Manneken-Brussels Imports, the Austin, Texas-based U.S. importer of Chimay his job is to promote the brand through his travels around the U.S. Recently, he stopped by the Beer Authority in New York City to mark the brewers’ 150th anniversary.

Born in Leuven, some 20 miles east of Brussels, it seems, he says, he was born to beer. Leuven is Belgium’s uncontested beer capital. Its first breweries were established in the 15th Century, about the same time as the city’s Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, home to Belgium’s well-known brewing school. “If you wanted to be a brewer you went to Leuven,” says Van Mechelen. The city also is the world headquarters of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest beer company.

Van Mechelen ties to beer are strong. His family owned a pub on the city’s main street for more than a century.  Before coming to the U.S. in 1979, he worked for his grandfather at the bar and also sold Lindt chocolates to pastry makers and bakeries.

As a younger man in Leuven, he got to know two American students who studied in Brussels and partied in Leuven:  Bob Leggett and Lanny Hoff. After their return to the U.S. in 1978, the two Americans established a company to import Chimay, Manneken-Brussels.

It was 1979 when Van Mechelen decided to seek his fortune in the U.S. He looked up his old friends in Austin and decided to stay. He opened a Belgian-style café and bistro called Gambrinus, which he operated until 1990, when he started working with Belgian brewer Pierre Celis (of Hoegaarden fame) on a microbrewery project in Austin. In 2000, Miller Brewing bought Celis Brewing, closed the Austin brewery and sold the brand to a Michigan brewer. Subsequently, Van Mechelen joined his friends at Manneken-Brussels and in 2005, when Chimay took complete ownership of the company he was asked to stay on.

As brand ambassador for Chimay, Van Mechelen’s life is spent largely on the road and on his feet. On average, he says he spends four days a week traveling on behalf of the importer.  He does, however, take four or five weeks off a year, occasionally returning to Belgium.

He carries a pedometer.  New York “is a hard city,” he says.  “Yesterday I walked 7½ miles. Today, I walked 6½ miles.” He complains climbing the stairs at the Beer Authority that all the walking has taken a toll on his knees, but he confesses that the problem is due to his weight.

Van Mechelen’s efforts to promote Belgian beer have resulted in his being knighted by the Chevalerie du Forquet des Brasseurs, the Belgian Brewers Union. The recognition seems well earned. Chimay has never had a down year in the U.S., even during the economic crisis of 2008-2009, Van Mechelen says.  Last year, he said, sales rose 11 percent. “We only sell 380,000 cases of Chimay in the U.S. Not bad for a monastery,” he says, noting that the figure represents a third of the brewery’s annual production.

And selling Chimay, he says, keeps him happy – and alive. “I’ve always been a salesman. Put me in an office and I’ll be dead in a week.”


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Limited quantities of Chimay 150th anniversary ale to arrive in September

New Chimay beer is called Speciale Cent Cinquante

A special bottling of Chimay ale, marking the 150th anniversary of the Trappist brewery’s founding, is expected to hit U.S. markets in September, but availability will be limited, according to brand ambassador Luc “Bobo” Van Mechelen of Manneken-Brussels Imports, the Austin,Texas-based importer.

The beer, called Chimay Spéciale Cent Cinquante, the first new brew from Chimay in a little more than a decade, will be a blonde ale of 10 percent abv.

Only 2,500 cases are being sent to the U.S., Van Mechelen said, with distribution starting on the East Coast.  The shipment is expected to reach the U.S. shore in August

“I asked for 10,000 cases,” Van Mechelen told CorksCapsandTaps.com during a July 26 interview at New York City’s Beer Authority bar. “Twenty-five hundred cases are enough to piss people off.”  He said some key markets, such as Philadelphia and Texas, would see none of the beer.

Restaurants and beer merchants who want the beer will have to request it, and it will be distributed on a first-come-first-served basis, Van Mechelen said.

Union Beer Distributors, the Brooklyn-based distributor for New York City, will receive just 165 cases, each 12 bottles. RED Dacquel, Chimay brand manager for Union Beer, said his customers have already ordered150 cases, leaving him with just 15.

Here’s how Chimay describes the beer on its web site:

“This special edition is a full bodied and distinctive strong beer developed within the abbey to celebrate and honour the 150th anniversary of the brewery. Produced with 100% natural ingredients, its pale golden robe and champagne sparkle is topped by a rich white head of foam. The distinctive bouquet evokes the rich fruity and complex notes of the Chimay yeast in harmony with a delicate spicy note and the fragrance of fresh noble hops. At 10% alcohol, the flavour is full bodied and complex with a slight but refreshing tang note and a crisp hop finish that will delight the palate.”

Espace Chimay,  a Belgian blog about Chimay, showed a photo of beer with a wooden box. It reported the package would sell for 15 Euros (US $15.50).

Chimay currently produces just four brews, three of them bottled.

● Chimay Red Cap or Première, which was the first beer brewed at the Notre-Dame de Scourmont Abbey by the Trappist fathers in 1862.

● Chimay Blue Cap, also known as Grande Reserve, is a dark Trappist beer first brewed as a Christmas beer in 1948 and renamed in in 1982.

● Chimay Tripel, labeled Cinq Cents, is the newest of the Abbey beers. It was created in 1986. A draft version was introduced in 2001.

Chimay beers have been made since 1862 by the Cistercian Trappist monks to support their monastery, the Notre-Dame de Scourmont Abbey. The monks also produce a range of Trappist cheeses. Chimay is one of the six Belgian beers that can carry the logo, “Authentic Trappist Product,” of the International Trappist Association. That means that it is brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery under the control and responsibility of the community of monks, and whose revenue is devoted to social service.

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