3.8AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 3/5 OVERALL 16/20
All rookie critics of any genre are inevitably faced with reviewing something that is considered among the best of the best. However, when such a situation presents itself the rookie might find himself forced into taking an opinion he doesn’t truly have. That’s how I felt about Chimay Blue Grand Reserve. It’s roundly regarded as one of the best beers on the planet, and while I did enjoy it, I couldn’t say I honestly felt the same way.
This is a very complex and flavorful beer, however, it’s also a challenge to drink and it didn’t amaze me the way I expected to. I can see why it’s so highly regarded by connoisseurs, but from the perspective of a regular beer drinker I have to admit it’s just very good.
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
Chimay Blue is available in capped 330ml and corked 750ml bottles (which is what I drank). The bigger bottle is easy to open and easy to pour, although it does come out of the bottle in glugs with lots of kickback. Its complexion is similar to a raspberry iced tea with a dark maroon color with an extremely hazy, cloudy complexion. Because it’s a bottle-refermented beer it’s extremely carbonated with tons of tiny bubbles constantly rising from the bottom of the glass.
It initially forms a thick, fluffy layer of off-white, soapy head but it fizzles away surprisingly fast and doesn’t leave any lacing on the glass. There is noticeable sediment poured from the bottom of the bottle.
The aroma is strong and indicates dark fruit like plums and raisins, along with a powdery yeast component. A bready maltiness is also detectable, but the beer is not nearly as flowery as the brewer’s website indicates. The alcohol is very well masked since it is virtually unnoticeable.
Having already tried the Chimay Red and White, I found the taste of Chimay Grande Reserve to be quite familiar. Upon my first swig my tongue was peppered with spices. This followed by a fairly rich flavor of dark fruit which in turn was finished with a bready maltiness.
As I continued to drink I felt the beer has a palate quite reminiscent of red wine as sour grape, plum and fig are the most prominent flavors. But much like the aroma, the palate also contains a significant dry component, which I assume to be the Trappist yeast strain. It’s slightly sour and slightly dry, but most of all it’s tasty.
As the beer warms it takes on an apple cider-like taste, making the palate something of a fruit cornucopia. I liked it, but I couldn’t help but feel something was missing: namely chocolate or some kind of darker, harsher flavors to balance the palate. Sure there’s a breadiness from the malts, but I’d prefer something stronger, maybe even burnt-like to negate the sourness from the fruit. At least there’s no bitterness or watery texture to the palate, so even the most inexperienced n00b could tell Chimay Blue is a beer with chutzpah.
I’ve never been a big fan of bottle-conditioned beers since their abundance of yeast tends to make for extremely carbonated beverages. Chimay Grande Reserve is quite bubbly from the initial pour to the last drop and never shows signs of relenting. Therefore, it’s a very gassy beer which means it’s difficult to drink except in sips. The mouthfeel is rather heavy as well, although it’s actually quite smooth as goes down.
I made a point of drinking Chimay Blue after a large dinner in order to prevent the 9% ABV potency from overwhelming me. However, I was quite surprised at just how quickly the alcohol went through my system. After less than one glass, Chimay Blue really made its mark. Additionally, the sheer density of the beer cannot easily be shaken off as it’s a brew you’re going to notice for quite a while.
Considering the reputation of this beer I’m actually a little disappointed that I didn’t jump for joy over Chimay Grande Reserve. I genuinely enjoyed the taste and appreciated its complexity, but was a little distracted by how much of a challenge the beer was to drink. Regardless, I can honestly say I liked it and would highly recommend it. At $10 for a 750ml bottle it’s a good buy, and if you’re a beer connoisseur it’s practically a steal.
NOTE: Read and watch my 2013 review of a 2010 vintage here: