Have You Never Been Mellow?

(Apologies to Olivia Newton-John)

by Jim Lundstrom

Chimay Grande Reserve Ale (also known as Chimay Blue, thanks to the blue label; there are also white, gold and red Chimays) turns one into a very mellow fellow, so mellow, in fact, that the 1970s-era Olivia Newton-John song popped into my head as I was mellowing out with a bottle of the 9 percent Trappist ale.

“There was a time when I was in a hurry as you are I was like you There was a day when I just had to tell my point of view I was like you Now I don't mean to make you frown No, I just want you to slow down Have you never been mellow?” It comes in a corked bottle. As soon as I popped the cork I was blasted with with a not unpleasant yeasty aroma.

Poured into a snifter, it forms a bulbously beady tawny head on top of the chestnut-colored strong ale. This beer was first brewed in 1948 as a seasonal Christmas ale, but today, thankfully, is available year-round. The taste is a mellow combination of malty liquid fruitcake, with not a hint of the relatively high alcohol content. It finishes with just a hint of pepperiness. In short, this is a very easy-drinking strong ale. 

This beer is made by Trappist monks at the Scourmont Abbey, near the Walloon town of Chimay. The monks settled there in 1850, and soon they were operating a farm, dairy and brewery. Today the monks are as well known for the cheeses they make as they are for Chimay beer.

They make A La Chimay Premiere, a cheese made from local milk that is washed in Chimay Premiere (Chimay Red); the mild and creamy Grand Chimay, which is said to be the perfect cheese to pair with Chimay Grande Reserve; Chimay Grand Cru, said to pair best with Chimay Cinq Cents (Chimay White); Le Poteupre, supposedly the “cream of the Trappist cheeses,” which pairs with Chimay Doree (Chimay Gold), an ale that had been reserved exclusively for the monastic community but is now available to the larger world; Vieux Chimay, the original cheese from the monastery; and A La Chimay Bleue, which is washed with Chimay Blue.

The monks have also opened a hotel and restaurant on the abbey grounds. On their website, chimay.com, they offer 15 recipe using their ales and cheeses, including a rabbit dish with Chimay Red. With so many enterprises going on, you might think these are some wealthy monks, but, no. “The bulk of sales revenue is used for social assistance,” the website states. Now, if that isn’t mellow, I don’t know what is.