My wife and I recently visited Belgium on a self-planned vacation tour to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. First of all, I must say that the people of Belgium are engaging, friendly, helpful, and basically just wonderful. Although in the future I plan to write about other places in Belgium we visited, for this post I wanted to focus on my visit to the Orval Abbey and Brewery.
Orval is one of just eight Trappist Breweries in the world. That means that certain criteria are applied and strictly enforced in creating the beer, including that the beer is brewed within the abbey walls by the monks themselves or under their supervision. Orval Trappist Ale is a Belgian Pale Ale and is readily found in the United States. Orval also makes some delicious cheeses. There is a café, called The Guardian Angel, just outside the abbey where you can eat lunch while enjoying Orval beer.
Orval Abbey is located in the southeast corner of Belgium near the border to France. One of the reasons I wanted to visit Orval was because they have incredibly beautiful grounds and old Abbey ruins that tourists can visit for a modest fee. Tourists cannot visit the abbey grounds used by the monks of today but can get a peek. The abbey also has a gift shop where you can buy beer, cheese, postcards, or other items.
As my wife and I walked the open grounds and abbey ruins at Orval, we were immersed in tranquility. The ruins were from buildings that dated as far back as the 1100’s and yet the site was alive with beautiful ornate architecture that still spoke of the monks’ spiritual devotion and the activities of their daily lives. The monastery has a long history that dates as far back as 1070.
Orval Trappist beer has a beautiful amber-orange color with a slight haze and a magnificent white head. The aroma is of flowers and lemony citrus. The beer is crisp and clean on the palate and flavors of lemon and hay abound. There is a wonderful tartness and hop bitterness and the beer finishes exquisitely dry. Drink this beer on a warm summer day while eating some soft cheese on rye crackers and reflect on the simple glory of brewing beer.