Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cheers to My Chimay!

The first time I took a sip of this Belgian brew was last year in Vietnam, upon the recommendation of friend and fellow adman, Barok Gutierrez, who was then based in Ho Chi Minh. It was a long but pleasurable day of sampling Saigon's gastronomical delights; but since I had already indulged in the local 333 (pronounced "ba-ba-ba") beer, I was up for a new experience. And so at Pham Ngu Lao where we spent after-dinner hours one sweaty November night, I had my first taste of Chimay.

There are 3 beers being produced by the brewery run by Trappist monks in the Belgian municipality of Chimay:

CHIMAY RED. This was the variant I tried in Vietnam. Neither blonde nor dark, this 7% alcohol beer has a rich copper color that's tantalizing in a frosted glass chalice. Bearing the flavors of dried fruit and pepper, I can so drink this with a platter of strong cheeses and spicy sausages. It's mild bitterness seems to be a welcome addition to a robust meal.

CHIMAY TRIPLE. Also called Chimay Blanche, it is labeled a Triple because the brewster starts with 3 times the regular amount of malt, producing more sugar in the process, and ending up with more alcohol. Thus at 8%, Chimay Triple is a potent drink with a deceivingly light, golden caramel hue. The beer echoes the flavor of raisins with a distinct bittersweet aftertaste that seems to complement bold, savory foods.

CHIMAY BLUE (Grand Reserve). This top fermented beer from the monks of Chimay carries a rich, pleasant taste of roast malt and 9% alcohol to boot. The darkest of the three, it is also the thickest, boldest and sweetest, with a curiously light flowery fragrance. This is my favorite of all. I could nurse a chilled bottle all night with a rich, hearty, spicy stew. Or as I am known to do, with a dense but moist turtle pie, or squares of the deepest, darkest chocolate available.

It is worthy to note that Chimay beers may be aged for a couple of years, with the Blue kind maybe even up to 5. Storing bottles is an art in itself, but experts swear that when cellared at the proper temperature, the flavor profile of Chimay beers mellows magically.

But the real mojo is that the three variants of Chimay are now available in the Philippines--I've seen them in some Robinsons Supermarkets. And while they come at a rather steep price (from P175 to P200), it might help to know that Chimay is sold only to financially support the monastic community and its charitable causes.

At least that's my thought as I write this and consume the 3 bottles on my desk right now...