Ciney vs. Chimay

chimay_ciney.jpgFor the last few days, we’ve been seeing advertisements for Ciney beers, which we’d never heard of before. The astounding thing is that Ciney have completely borrowed Chimay’s logo and typeface. What’s more, even though they’re not a Trappist or even an abbey brewery, they’ve stuck a church spire in their logo to give that impression. In fact, they’re owned by the huge Alken-Maes Group.

So we assumed they’d be, at best, clones of the Chimay beers and, at worst, horrid.

When we found ourselves this afternoon in the legendary bar “A La Morte Subite” and noticed that the menu had a full range of both Ciney and Chimay beers, we thought we’d compare them. We ordered them in pairs — Ciney Brune with Chimay Rouge; Ciney Blonde with Chimay Triple.

And do you know what? They were not at all similar. Ciney’s beers are characterised by an underlying sourness. They smell sour — fruity sour — and taste slightly less so. Both the brune and the blonde are excellent, but the brune was the real stand out. It’s rich and full of flavour, but not heavy. If you see it, give it a go.

Few of you need us to tell you about Chimay. Suffice to say, they were also great.

To follow in the next few days:

  • Restobieres — “No soup for you!”
  • Chez Moeder Lambic
  • Ghent
  • Westvleteren — easier to find than we expected… but is it real?
  • Deus — posh, expensive, but is it any good?
  • “Fake English”: Belgian attempts to “do” English beer
  • Cantillon brewery (if we get up in time tomorrow…)

7 replies on “Ciney vs. Chimay”

There’s always a bottle of Deus in the corner of my local supplier. Every time I go in I wonder if this’ll be the time. So I’d very much like to know if it is, indeed, “any good”.

lookin forward to restobieres (i have my own opinion about the place …)
chez moeder lambic?
deus – very interested what you think. we recently bought/ drank a bottle.
fake english? curious.

I’m the opposite – I didn’t really like Chimay before, but having had the triple on tap I’d like to give it a proper go again.

The Deus is being saved for a special occasion. Fortunately, it’s my birthday next week so that might be it.

I have just spent a week based just outside Ciney in Hamois. I think you can not go wrong with either but it is worth trying several cases to get the differences.

First off in terms of style rather than substance the glass and motif are different. The Ciney glass is similar in that it goes for the wide open top to allow the flavour and aroma to be swirled and to get air into it. However the base is different. Chimay is like a cognac glass but Ciney has a much flatter bottom. I think the Ciney glass is actually better than the Chimay one in terms of feel. The motif is very different, but I do accept that a lot of Belgian beers do try to trade on some type of Abbey connection.

In terms of substance I put away a reasonable amount of Ciney Blonde and Brun. The Brun is 7% and in my English view is like Turbo charged Newcastle Brown. On the down side it is very similar to Super de Fagnes and Judas and does not stand out from this outstanding crowd. The blonde is 7% and in my view is not massively different from many of the other Belgian Blondes eg Leffe.

Chimay have a wider range and can also be found on draft. Although it is an Abbey beer, and gets some kudos from this it is brewed at a commercial premises off site and I could not see too many monks around when I popped in for a look. In my view the 7% red is the stunner with the best balance of hop and malt. However, what is incredible is that they can brew such a wide range of types of beer that are all above your average brilliant beers.

The Belgians will probably hate me for it but my recommendation would be to go for the Chimay Red in the Ciney glass.

Then cycle down to Orval, where there are Trappists brewing on site.

Nicholas J Breakwell

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