Beer of the Week is sponsored by the Lion & Rose. Each week, we introduce you to a wonderful brew that’s a little bit different and well worth seeking out.
Chimay Grand Rèserve
For the last two weeks, we have enjoyed the Red and the White. Naturally, the Blue comes next. Chimay Grand Rèserve, or the Blue Cap, is the richest of the series and a beer that stands up beautifully to aging.
This Belgian treasure was first introduced at Christmas time, and what a gift it has proven to be. In the 750-milliliter bottles, it appears with a vintage date on the label, and you could store this the way you would a fine wine, in a cool, dark place.
But if you can’t wait, enjoy it now.
The magic doesn’t appear right off.
A new bottle, when opened, will release a welcome but not exactly overwhelming bouquet of fruit, spices, yeast and toffee.
Pour it into the glass and out comes something dark and cloudy, but not in an attractive way that other dark brews, such as Guinness or a chocolate stout, can appear. The rust-colored head is generous and lasts a good long time.
But the real magic doesn’t reveal itself until you get that first sip in your mouth. Suddenly, the yeast becomes like just-baked brioche. The fruitiness becomes identifiable as plums, figs and pears with a note of apple. The caramel candy notes are sweet and delightful. The spices, especially a hint of black pepper, adds a pleasant burn on the side. But it’s not the individual flavors that make you sit up and take notice. It’s the complexity of what’s happening in the glass and in your mouth. True, the mouth feel is more medium bodied than the appearance might have led you to believe, but the flavors make this a truly rewarding experience.
If you decide to age a few bottles, you’ll notice that it behaves like an older wine does. The yeastiness mellows, as it does on a fine Champagne. The fruit flavors mingle with the spices into something more transcendent. A creamy lushness takes over, leaving you just happy to have some of this elixir in your glass.
Pairing Chimay Grand Rèserve with food is the easiest thing in the world. It will go with just about anything you want to eat. It would do better with something with a bold spice level, though not necessarily hot. If you’re drinking this potent potable at the Lion and Rose, order it with the Yorktown Strip steak and liberally grind black pepper over the meat. Or slather the spicy mustard on a plate of bangers and mash. Sherwood Fries (sweet potato sticks) and a spicy ranch dip or the bacon-loaded Pub Club with Black Forest ham would also work. But, again, anything from Dockland’s Shrimp and Chips to Jester’s Grilled Cheese, would do well.
So, enjoy Chimay Grand Rèserve through the holidays and beyond. This is a treasure to savor all year round.