WITH ITS PRONOUNCED BITTERNESS (“profound hop bitterness”, say they), lighter body, lessened presence of yeast, and increased astringency in the finish, Orval is the most distinctively different of Trappist ales, not least for its dry-hopping and use of brettanomyces yeast. Orange/amber in color and with a finely sea-foaming head, it is likely the Saison fan’s favorite abbey ale, but its clarity (in color and flavor) are less softened by grassy must. A little grassy in the nose otherwise citrus and cloves, it has a dry finish that nonetheless leaves the mouth watering. A peculiar brew, sensibly served in a smaller bottle, as a 750 of this might develop too pronounced metallic edge. Aging it further would almost certainly do it (and my palate) a boon.
Note: This may be a rating to regret later and more learned in life. If nothing else, Orval’s visual aesthetic is tops amongst Trappist producers, perhaps rivaled only by the austere beauty of Westvleteren’s XII.
Served: 33 cl bottled 06/10/11; best by 06/10/16)