Christmas would not be the same without beer from Belgium and for my first Belgian beer this year I have gone for a large corked bottle of Chimay Bleue. Chimay is the largest of the Trappist breweries and probably the most famous. It was founded within the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Scourmont in the Belgian municipality of Chimay back in the 19th century and the beer has been available in bottled form since 1885. Annual production is now in the millions of litres and about half of their output is exported.
Chimay comes in three colour-coded forms. These are, in increasing strength, Rouge (7.0% ABV), Blanche (8.0% ABV) and Bleue (9.0% ABV). The Grand Cru versions come in the Bordeaux-shaped bottle and this year I chose the Grand Cru version of the Bleue which is known as the Grande Reserve. After removing the wire cradle the cork is carefully removed with a champagne-like pop. It is advised to let the beer breathe after opening. This allows some of the natural carbon dioxide produced during bottle fermentation to dissipate.
This beer is a classic dark ale. The has a gorgeous vinous fruity aroma. This carries through into the flavour in a big way. Initially it was a little fizzy (I didn't let it breathe!!) but this does disappear afterr a while. It really is Christmas cake in a glass and it was indeed first brewed as a Christmas beer which explains the presence of a 'vintage'. Lots of rich heavy fruit flavours along with some caramel and despite the strength it isn't particularly boozy. Very drinkable, quite dry despite the richness and quite a spicy hop character in the finish. It is a beautiful beer that I never get tired of drinking.