Styles & Seasonals
May 29, 2003 Written by bierkoning
La Tropica, NETHERLANDS -
Serious beer tasting in my case started at the age of 17. One of my first favorites was Chimay Speciale, at Ratebeer conveniently called Chimay Blue, because of the blue cap. The first years had painted bottles with the year on the cap, in later years the year of brewing was put on the label.
By rumor I had heard that Chimay Blue bettered in taste when it was kept in the cellar, and even 25 year old samples were still very drinkable. I decided to buy some bottles (in my case the 1977 and the 1979 vintage) and store them. They have followed me throughout the years, everywhere were I lived. I kept on buying bottles, and now I am the proud owner of most vintages between 1975 (found at a breweriana collectors meeting) and the early ninetees. The beers havenít been cellared in an optimal way. Temperatures in my house vary in summer and winter, but they are kept in the dark and have remained untouched for years.
Exclusively for Ratebeer Iíve decided to open some bottles (it hurt badly, but it had to be done), taste the contents and write down my expressions and views. Of course, my opinion doesnít have to be the same as that of most Ratebeerians. But maybe I can explain how the ageing of Chimay Blue influences the aroma and flavor of this great beer.
I have awarded all these vintages a rating. They are not by any means "official", itís just a way of pointing out how IMO the beer develops. Everyone will rate a beer his or her own way. That is what makes Ratebeer so interesting.
Chimay Blue 2003
33 cl bottle, tasted 12.05.03. Beer gushes out of the bottle. Steady frothy head. Peppery, malty aroma with grape fruitiness. Sweetish, fruity and malty flavor, with some licorice and roasted malt. Fairly raw flavor, with aromas still in the bud, the beer needs some time to develop.
33 cl bottle, tasted 28.04.03. Malty peppery, raisinny aroma. Good lacing. Sweet, fruity flavor with grapes, raisin and licorice. Alcohol clearly present. Hopbitter, fruity finish. Nice, fresh and fruity trappist ale that needs some more cellaring to gain complexity and character.
75 cl bottle with cork, tasted 16.05.03. Sadly, the bottle is corked, the flavor and aroma of cork is clearly noticeable in the beer and especially overpowers other aromas. Caramelflavor with bitter walnuts and alcohol. Good lacing.
33 cl bottle, tasted 01.05.03. Best until end 1997. Very small head that fades away almost immediately. Very little lacing, the color has become much lighter, compared to a "fresh" Chimay Blue. Porto and toffeearoma with grapes. Also a porto flavor with licorice and grapes. Some bitterness in the finish. Canít notice the alcohol at all. Still a good beer, but doesnít keep itís quality a long as older vintages.
33 cl bottle, tasted 13.05.03. Small head, fading away quickly. Still a decent lacing and a firm body. The color has faded way somewhat. Sweetish flavor with malt, porto and licorice. Some hopbitterness. Slightly metallic aftertaste. Great beer, just past its peak, but has held better as the other 1992 Iíve tasted.
33 cl bottle, tasted 24.04.03. Best until end 1993. Aroma has raisin, porto and licorice. Very small head with still a good deal of lacing left. Sweet flavor with licorice, raisin, porto and pear. Medium bodied with a faint hint of sourness. Very soft taste, all the sharp edges are gone over the years. The alcohol is very well hidden.
33 cl bottle, tasted 14.05.03. Small head, fading away quickly. The color has lost some darkness, but there is still a deep orange dark brown color. A decent lacing left. Porto, licorice and laurelaroma. A porto flavor with apple and licorice. The alcohol is clearly noticed, because the beer has become somewhat thinner over the years.
33 cl bottle, tasted 19.05.03. The beer has kept its color fairly well, traces of a head left. Strong portoaroma, licorice and milk chocolate. Still a reasonable lacing left. Flavor has pepper, chocolate, porto and licorice. The beer has become somewhat thinner, so now the alcohol is clearly noticed. This vintage has kept its quality well, the beer is still full of life.
33 cl bottle, tasted 31.03.03. Aroma has raisin, porto and milk chocolate. Nice red brown color. No head, but still some lacing left. Licorice, raisin and chocolate in the flavor. The beer still has a decent body and some life left, but the texture is becoming a bit watery. Now you can taste the alcohol really well.
33 cl bottle, tasted 01.04.03. Still a little bit of head and lacing left. Aroma has milk chocolate and porto, but disappears quickly. Sweet flavor with raisin and porto. Full bodied, not a trace of wateriness. This beer kept its quality very well. The alcohol is still well hidden.
33 cl bottle, tasted 15.05.03. The color has faded significantly. Traces of a head left. The lacing has almost disappeared. Porto and sherry aroma. Still full bodied. Porto flavor with ripened grapes, apple, pepper, some well rounded sourness, licorice and salt. Way past its peak but still a lovely beer.
33 cl bottle, tasted 31.03.03. Aroma and flavor of pure chocolate and sherry. Sweet apple flavor. The color has become significantly lighter. Still beer with no head, the lacing has totally gone. Has become much thinner over the years. Still a very drinkable beer, full of flavor.
Browsing through the ratings you can notice that until 1982 Chimay Blue has kept its body and quality fairly well. The beers from 1983 and younger still age well, but lose color, body and texture faster than the older vintages. The alcohol shows more. I really canít prove it at all, but there seems to be a small change in recipe from 1983 onwards.
All in all, Chimay Blue seems to be at its peak after 3 or 4 years cellaring. The harsher flavors have eased away somewhat and the aroma is at its peak. After those three years the beer deteriorates very slowly, but keeps its quality for a very long time. †