On the Sauce: Drunk as a Monk

MY FAVORITE GRANDMA, Hilda, was a sweetheart. She was also a teetotaler. Huh? She did not partake of the booze. Ever. She only drank alcohol once in her life, and it was by accident. She thought she was drinking apple juice that went a little off. Yeah, it was white wine. If she wasn’t my grandma and if I hadn’t been a baby, I would totally have said: SUCKA! But she was and I was and I didn’t.

Despite the fact that most of my friends are drunks (and I mean that in a good way, obvs), and we hang plenty, I have surprisingly low alcohol tolerance. Probably due to genetics. Thanks, sober granny.

So basically I’m pretty drunk right now. Wasted would def be the wrong word. But drunk for sure. I’m trying to eat almonds to soak up the beer I’ve been swigging, but I never heard almonds were good for doing that. Whatever. Groceries aren’t my strong suit.

TSJ readers, hello. Let me introduce you to our new beer column: On the Sauce. Today, all the way from the land of Smurfs, chocolates, and filigreed cathedrals (btw, favorite Smurf fact: Did you know that in Spanish, Smurfs are called los Pitufos? I think that’s hilarious), I bring you a selection of three strong(ish) ales. Two of which are Trappist. Why strong ales? I don’t know, but if I was a Trappist monk I’d need something stiff to chug, too. Hey. That’s not what I meant.

Two stray facts for you:

  • There are over 800 kinds of beer made in Belgium
  • Belgians drink an average of 150 liters of beer per person per year. I don’t know what that is in empirical measurements, but it’s a lot.

Is ale just another word for beer? Actually it’s not. The basic division of beers is into ales and lagers. The invention of ale predates the invention of lagers, and what categorizes the former is that they’re generally fermented at ambient temperatures. As a result, ales tend to taste rounder, fruitier and more complex than lagers.

ORVAL (6.2%)

The Back Story: Orval Brewery, located in the Gaume region of Belgium, is a Belgian Trappist brewery located in the confines of the Abbaye Notre-Dame d’Orval. It was started up in 1931 to help fund the reconstruction of Orval.

The Look: Pale orangey in color. You could use a word like honey and not be totally off. One reviewer said Orval has awesome head retention. But I can’t just go around saying that.

The Taste: It’s fizzy, creamy, and tart. Also it’s got a kind of yeasty aftertaste, but subtly so.

The Verdict: 7.

DUVEL (8.5%)

The Back Story: A family-owned business started the brewery up in 1871. Duvel, in various forms of Belgian dialect, means devil. No wonder I like it.

The Look: The pale ale looks sort of like your pee does when you have a bladder infection. So it’s like cloudy urine-colored.

The Taste: Tart, bitter, fizzy, well-rounded. Definitely my favorite of the three brews. Added bonus is the shape of the bottle. It is one shapely stubby. Maybe it’s the shapeliest stubby I ever met.

The Verdict: 9.


The Back Story: The Abbey of Floreffe was founded in 1121. So a couple years back. And in 1250 is when they started their brewing. There was some back and forth with money folks over the last couple of hundred years, but basically they’ve been going strong longer than Edward’s been alive.

The Look: Reddish. Thick head.

The Taste: There’s a real berry flavor to the beer that put me off, and it’s got a robust, oatmeally aftertaste. I don’t like fruity drinks. But those who like to toss a little splootch of perfume into their suds might dig it.

The Verdict: 3.


Related on The Smoking Jacket:
Getting Down with Trailer Park on Friday: We So Excited
Beers for Getting it On