beer reviews Belgium bottled beer

Tripel Off, Round 1, Game 1: Westmalle vs. Chimay

We’ve come up with a list of eight Belgian and Belgian-style tripels that we’re setting against each other in a series of taste-offs to determine the ultimate winner.

We wanted to give Westmalle, the best beer in the world, a tough opponent and so decided to pit it against another classic: Chimay Blanche.

Blanche used to be too much for us, bowling us over with its sheer booziness, but in the last couple of years we really fell in love with it and figured that if anything might slay The Big W, it was this.

On this occasion Ray poured while Jess tasted sort of blind, with no idea which two beers were being tasted.

Glasses of beer.
Chimay, left, and Westmalle.

Both looked pretty in their glasses, all fluffy white foam and clear gold, though the Chimay (glass A) was noticeably darker. Westmalle (B) seemed to have  a much bigger aroma with spice and fruit spilling out on opening where Chimay offered only a little whiff of sugar.

Jess: Well, they both taste like tripels, but I much prefer B. There’s just more in the after-taste. A is fine — I’d be very happy to drink it any day of the week — but B is less harsh, and has more spice. The flavours seem more… blended. I sometimes think about the transition from fore- to after-taste and how great beers have a kind of smooth segue, which B definitely does. It’s somehow softer, but also has bigger flavours.

Ray: Interesting… Both seem quite harsh to me today. If I take bigger gulps, though, the beer in glass B [Westmalle] is obviously better, sort of mousse-like in the mouth, so satisfying. Leafy and peppery. Glass A [Chimay] just seems rough, all bananas and booze. It feels two-dimensional, somehow, whereas Westmalle has a lot of complexity and subtlety. It’s got banana notes, too, but not just that. Do you want to guess what they might be?

Jess: Umm… Well, neither of them is Westmalle, obviously.

Ray: Ha!

Jess: Oh.

So, of course, based on flavour, we both chose Westmalle. Even though it’s more expensive than Chimay we reckon it’s worth the extra, too, so on value too it wins. That means it’s through to the next round, and Chimay is out of the contest.

We asked our Patreon subscribers to vote in a simple poll — should we disagree between ourselves their vote will decide the winner — and they overwhelmingly voted for Westmalle, too.

So, can anything threaten the reigning champion?

Well, given that Jess didn’t recognise it, and that Ray found it a bit less exciting than usual, it’s all to play for, Brian, and so on.

We bought both beers via mail order from Beer Merchants; Westmalle was £3.25 per 330ml bottle and Chimay was £2.85.

Blogging and writing opinion

Golden Pints 2011

This is our contribution to The Golden Pints 2011, run by Beer Reviews and Mark Dredge.

Best UK Draught (Cask or Keg) Beer: Penzance Brewing Company Potion 9 (4%)
From our nearest brewery and, in fact, probably the last brewery in the country. (Everything down here claims to be the last, most southerly or most westerly one in the country.) Best consumed where it is brewed, at the Star Inn in Crowlas.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer: Fuller’s Past Masters XX Strong Ale (7.4%)
We liked the idea and liked the beer; and, as we’ve worked through a case, it’s slowly become one of our absolute favourites.

Best Overseas Draught Beer: none
We haven’t had a foreign draft beer which has really blown us away. They often seem a little stale by the time they reach the UK and (boo hoo) we haven’t been to Germany, the Czech Republic or Belgium this year.

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer: Westmalle Tripel
A new beer from an up-and-coming little brewery you might have heard of…

Best UK Brewery: Thornbridge
When we go into a strange pub and see a Thornbridge pumpclip, we get excited. Variety, consistent quality (at least in our experience) and style.

Pub/Bar of the Year: The Sheffield Tap
A great idea, great premises and great beer, and still going strong after a couple of years. We look forward to a Tap in every city. (Bristol next, please!)

Beer Festival of the Year: CAMRA Kernow, Falmouth
The only one we’ve been to this year. We had a great time.

Supermarket of the Year: Marks and Spencer
Their own range is varied and interesting and the quality keeps improving. Top marks for labelling, too.

Online Retailer of the Year: Beermerchants
We’ve found them reliable, friendly and they have the beer we want (Belgian, mostly) at the right price.

Best Beer Book or Magazine: CAMRA’s quarterly BEER Magazine
Where What’s Brewing is still the preserve of the man-in-blazer photograph and moldy old Keg Buster strip, BEER feels like a 21st century publication with an inclusive attitude and articles from many of our favourite beer writers.

Best Beer Blog or Website: it’s complicated
Any blog we’ve linked to in a post this year is one we like and/or find interesting. If pushed, though… The Beer Nut does make us laugh, and write beer reviews like nobody else.