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Chimay Brewery and Abbey - Enjoy the Tour
The Chimay Brewery is a Belgian brewery founded inside Scourmont Abbey, in the Belgian municipality of Chimay in 1862. The brewery produces three widely distributed ales and a patersbier exclusively for the monks; they are known as Trappist beers because they are made in a Trappist monastery. The brewing plant was updated in 1988, and now produces 120,000 hectolitres annually.
As with all other Trappist breweries, the beer is sold only for financial support of the monastery and good causes. The brewery business pays rent for use of the property within the abbey, which is used to support the monastic community. All of the profit from the sale of the beer is distributed to charities and for community development around the region.
Like many strong Belgian beers, those produced at Chimay age well and can be cellared for at least five years whilst maintaining quality. The Chimay Bleue variety can be aged for upwards of fifteen years.
The water for the beers is drawn from a well located inside the monastery walls. The filtered solids from the beer mash are recycled into livestock feed which is given to the same cows that produce the milk for Chimay cheeses.
Once brewed, the beer is transported from the monastery to the bottling plant 12 km away, which can fill 40,000 bottles per hour, of which many are returns. The beer is then refermented in the bottle for three weeks before being shipped around the world. 20% of Chimay beer production is sold on the export markets.
The ingredients have been the subject of interest: all the beers are made from water, malted barley, wheat starch, sugar, hop extract and yeast; malt extract is used in Rouge and Bleu for colouring.
Chimay Rouge, 7% abv. In the 75 cl bottle, it is known as Première. It is a dark brown colour and has a sweet, fruity aroma. The malt in this beer has a nutty character that goes well with the hints of pepper from the house yeast.
Chimay Bleue, 9% abv darker ale. In the 75 cl bottle, it is known as Grande Réserve. This copper-brown beer has a creamy head and a slightly bitter taste. Considered to be the "classic" Chimay ale, it exhibits a considerable depth of fruity, peppery character. The taste continues to evolve and develop with a few years of age, and is extremely popular with the Belgian population.
Chimay Blanche, or Chimay Triple, 8% abv golden tripel. In the 75 cl bottle, it is known as Cinq Cents. This crisp beer bears a light orange colour, and is the most hopped and dryest of the three.
Chimay Dorée, 4.8% abv ale, brewed from very similar ingredients as the Red, but paler and spiced differently. It is intended only to be drunk at the abbey or at the nearby inn Auberge de Poteaupré which is associated with the abbey. The monks themselves drink this variety rather than the stronger three. The Dorée is not sold commercially and the rare bottles which make their way out are through unofficial sources. Even the brewery's own web site makes no mention of this variety.