Thursday, September 24, 2009

Visit to the Orval Monastary & Brewery

Hello loyal blog readers,

We have had no internet at home for six days. After reading nearly all the books in the house (I highly recommend Zeitoun, by the way), all we have left is In Search of Lost Time and Tristram Shandy. Thus I've gone out and found an internet cafe.

Last weekend, we visited the Orval monastery and brewery with Aaron's lab. Orval is one of the seven Trappist beers in the world (the others are Chimay, Rochfort, Achel, Westmalle, Westvleteren, and La Trappe, all but La Trappe are brewed in Belgium). In order to be an official Trappist beer, the beer must be brewed by trappist monks in a monastery, and the profits from the beer (minus the monks' living expenses) go to charity.

Chimay and Orval, if my memory's right, are the easiest of these beers to find in the states. Those cartons behind Aaron in the picture are destined for Canada.

Westvleteren, by contrast, can only be purchased at the monastery where it is brewed, and only after Kafkaesque bureaucratic acrobatics. To buy some, you must call the monastery and give them the license plate of the car in which you plan to arrive. They will then tell you the day (but not the time) on which you are allowed to come and get your beer. On the given date, they will call you, at which point you have one hour to get to the monastery, or you lose the right to buy the beer.

It's widely regarded as the best beer in the world (see below), but since we haven't managed to taste it yet, we can't yet disregard the influence of supply and demand on its reputation.

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