Category Archives: Val Dieu

#216 – Val-Dieu Triple

#216 - Val-Dieu Tripel

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 9 %

The Brasserie de L’Abbaye du Val-Dieu is in actual fact the only non-Trappist brewing Abbey in Belgium. I won’t go into the history of the Abbey as I covered that when christening the Val-Dieu Biere de Noel (#127) but that opening gambit is certainly an interesting enough nugget of factoid to whet my appetite for the Val-Dieu Triple.

The whole rules and regulations thing which governs becoming ordained as a Trappist brewery has been covered before (#7) although I will need to refresh slightly to explain how the Abbey at Val-Dieu was left high and dry. Firstly in 1997 the brewery at the Abbey ceased to function as a fully operational monastery – there were simply not enough monks remaining. Today at the brewery all the main duties are carried out by laymen, and it looks likely to remain this way for the foreseeable future, despite the fact the Abbey remains a fully functioning religious institution.

The other issue, which is much more complicated is that which relates to the subtle differences between Trappists and Cistercians. For a starter explanation have a read of the Witkap Pater Tripel (#94) but essentially the Cistercians were a splinter group from the Benedictines, and the Trappists were a splinter group from the Cistercians. It’s very loose, but essentially the Trappists are actually known as ‘Cistercians of the Strict Observance’, and they focus far more attention on being contemplative. This aside – the bottom line is that the Abbey at Val-Dieu is Cistercian and always has been.If this religious pendancy wasn’t quite so rigid we would see far more designated breweries across the world than the Magnificent Seven we have in Belgium (and the Netherlands). In particular in Germany there are many non-Trappist monasteries producing beer just like the one at Val-Dieu. Its just they aren’t Trappist.

Anyway, the beers in question that are produced at Aubel are based upon an original recipe from the Val-Dieu monks, and they bear the hallmark which designates them as Authentic Belgian Abbey Beer. The Val-Dieu Triple regardless of its designation was a particularly decent beer – as standard a tripel as I could describe in terms of looks, aroma and taste. It was sweet, strong and quite dry on tasting but it didn’t jump out in any way from its competitors. In many ways, just as all the above will confirm, it really is the nearly-man of Belgian beer.

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Filed under 7, Abbey Beer, Abbey Tripel, Val Dieu

#171 – La Ploquette

#171 - La Ploquette

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7.5 %

This is an important beer for the town of Verviers as it purveys the rich history of the flourishing wool industry here. Although the beer is now brewed at the nearby Val Dieu, it was actually once brewed just outside Verviers at the Brasserie Ruwet, which now just concentrates on cider.

The strange bowler-hatted characters depicted on the label of this rare little beer are actually wool merchants; typical in the Vervietoise region of East of Belgium. The characters are based on a 3 metre high bronze statue by Louis-Pierre Wagelmans (Marchand de Ploquettes, 1999) which stands in the town of Verviers in the Place des Martyrs. These typically jolly merchants in bygone days would earn their living wandering the towns and countryside with the finest local and international wools for sale. These wool samples were cylindrically packaged in blue crepe paper ploquettes which can also be seen in the hands of the merchants on the label.

The beer represents a golden age for Verviers; an age when the town was once considered to be the Wool Capital of the World – something that perhaps only Bradford in the UK, Monchengladbach in Germany, and Roubaix in France could have equally lain claim to. In fact even now these places are twinned! The wool, or “soft gold” as it was once known locally was said to be of such a high quality due to the quality of the water from the Vesdres river which flowed through the town. Although the wool industry may have waned somewhat over the years, the town of Verviers is now more recently famous for its water. It is regarded as a Ville d’eau (water town), with the showcase being the Parcours des Fontaines (Route of the Fountains).

The beer itself was surprisingly good. I had picked it up quite some time ago in a great ramshackle beer store in Annevoie, and have never ever come across it since. It poured a hazy blonde with some floating yeast, although it soon settled nicely. It hit the palate with an impressive fruitiness with just enough spice to keep it interesting. I would say if you see this beer sitting on a dusty shelf somewhere – give it a home.

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Filed under 7, Belgian Strong Ale, Val Dieu

#127 – Val Dieu Biere du Noel

#127 - Val Dieu Biere du Noel

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 7 %

There was a time when I seemed to drink an endless swathe of Abbey beers, but its been a while since I was able to talk purely about an Abbey. In fact the Abbaye d’Aulne (#60) was about the last monastic history lesson.

The Abbey of Val Dieu started way back in 1216 as a tiny settlement, following the migration of a few monks from the Maastricht area who were looking for an uninhabited haven to settle in. This place, now Aubel, deep in the east of modern day Belgium, they decided to call Val-Dieu – the Valley of God, such was the splendid location. Here the monks were able to reap the land, brew beer and live to the Cistercian ways (#94).

The original church buildings didn’t last long though as in 1287 the War of Succession in the Duchy of Limburg caused irreperable damage. She was rebuilt again only to be destroyed in 1574 during the Eighty Years War, and then again by the armies of Louis XIV in 1683. Shortly after this the Abbey began to flourish as one of the most renowned in the country under the jurisdiction of Jean Dubois, but bad luck of course struck again during the French Revolution, and she was destroyed for the fourth time.

It would be a slow return for former glories as between 1749 and 1844 the once regal premises remained empty becoming eaten by the ravages of time. A local monk who had lived through the Revolution, and four monks from Bornem eventually restored the Abbey, which survived as a working Abbey until 2001. Since then it has been home to a small Cistercian community, and of course a brewery.

The Val Dieu Biere de Noel was a fairly solid amberish Christmas beer with good legs and a yeasty topping – the head dissipating into what looked like a trail of amoebas. The beer was too inherently thin to be a classic, but was powerful enough on the taste buds to be enjoyable. I melted back into the sofa and let the last vestiges of the weekend wash over me.

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Filed under 6, Abbey Beer, Belgian Strong Ale, Christmas Beer, Val Dieu