Chimay Speciale Cent Cinquante (150 Anniversary)

Tasting: September 22, 2012 UPDATED October 27, 2012
Style: Belgian Strong Ale

Chimay Speciale Cent Cinquante

Chimay 150th Anniversary 1 photo (c)2012 popsonhops

September 17 marked the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam in Sharpsburg, MD. It was the single bloodiest day of battle in American history. A remarkable 23,000 casualties were recorded. Although declared a Union victory, many fault Union General George McClellan for not seizing on opportunities to crush the smaller army of General Robert E Lee. Especially since Lee’s battle plan was discovered wrapped around three cigars by a Union corporal 8 days before the battle. I guess you can say that criticism was justly earned or maybe McClellan thought it was a trap. Lee was given the opportunity to regroup in Virginia and fought on for nearly 3 more years.

I’m always fascinated by things that happen simultaneously. I recall reading a vintage newspaper about our first moon landing and reading details of the mystery around the death of Mary Jo Kopechne in Chappaquiddick on the very same page. It isn’t as significant, but I imagine that while this battle was raging in 1862, half a world away in a Belgian abbey, a group of Trappist monks began brewing beer that still exists today, Chimay. Here I am exactly 150 years later on September 17 buying this beer commemorating their anniversary.

Chimay is produced by a Trappist brewery in the Scourmont Abbey in Belgium. Trappist means that their beer is brewed within the walls of a monastery by monks. It’s a designation currently limited to just seven monasteries in Belgium, Holland and France. The monks denounce all possessions and produce beer and cheese to fund their charitable projects. Considering the size of their operations, I assume they must do some great charitable work. The Abbey opened in 1850 and began making beer twelve years later. They produce a very simple line of beer: red label, blue label and white label. Over the years they have produced very few “special releases” so this one is a rare step out of the box for the brothers. About 1,500 cases hit our shores. Surprisingly, New Jersey garnered 500 cases. So, it’s fairly available here and desired everywhere. It does sell for $23, but I’m sure people out of state would pay much more.

This one is cloudy and has a fairly potent carbonation as the cork pops with authority. Very frothy head that emits the signature banana bouquet. First sip is fairly fizzy and boozy — ah yes — a 10% Tripel. The fizziness subsides a few sips in and the flavor comes as a strong banana, clove and peppery spice float on top of a nice warming alcohol. Some honey but any hops are nearly absent. Admittedly, the nuances of Belgian ales might be lost on me. In my opinion, I don’t think the monks stepped out of the box too much with this offering. It seems to be just a slight notch above Chimay White. Hey you only have one 150th anniversary. I’ll still put it at 88 points.

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