This Tuesday in Middletown CT, Eli Cannon's Taproom featured Chimay as their Tuesday Night Tasting beer. Though there was only one beer on tap (the Tripel) from Chimay, the quality of the brew makes it arguably the only beer that Chimay needed to show its quality.
The crowd was a typical size for a Tuesday night, with many outside on the patio enjoying the final days of summer. From the patrons interviewed everyone either drank Chimay before and loved it, or was looking forward to trying this Trappist-brewed beer from Belgium. A lucky few who got to the tasting early also got some sweet swag: a glass Chimay chalice perfect for drinking the heady beer from.
Pat Raggio, the direct importer pouring the beer, was proud of his brand and had plenty to talk about concerning Chimay. The brewery is located in the Scourmont Abbey in Belgium: a real Trappist monastery. Founded in 1862 Chimay remains one of seven real Trappist-brewed beers in existence today, only six of which are actually available in the United States. Within the brewery, every monk has a job that they strictly adhere to: whether it's cleaning, brewing, bottling, growing food, or any other task that we would associate with living in a sort of commune. According to Raggio, the location of Chimay Brewery is what makes the beer so interesting. On one side they have Germany who have extremely rigid purity laws in concern to brewing beer, and on the other side Chimay has the French who are world renowned for their culinary creativity. "This makes Belgium a great melting pot," Raggio says.
Chimay Tripel is popular, but not the biggest seller from Chimay who export three of their beers to the USA. The other beers available are the Chimay Rouge (or Red which is slightly less potent than the Tripel) and the Chimay Grande Réserve (or Blue which is more potent than the Tripel and also the top seller). The Tripel is the driest beer of the three, and according to Raggio the hoppy bitterness can turn some people off (although everyone at Eli Cannon's seemed to be quite enjoying it).
Raggio, when asked what makes Chimay so special, had plenty to say on the subject. First of all Chimay is made by people who have devoted their whole lives to beer production, with over 100 years of brewing experience behind the actual company. Secondly the proceeds of the beer go to charity. A beer can only be Trappist when it is brewed in monasteries by monks, and when the proceeds go to charity. After these criteria are met, the beer is labeled with a special seal that let the consumer know the beer is legit. In this way Chimay will never be a huge company and they thereby embody the essence of micro-brewing. To summarize his work at Chimay so far, Raggio said it simply, "It's a quality product, the brand speaks for itself."
This sentiment is grounded in reality too, as Raggio's time is spent driving all over the greater New England area promoting, and introducing people to the high-quality beer. But the work is made a bit easier by the fact that Chimay is a product that is genuinely great, has been good for decades, and will continue remaining excellent as long as the monks keep brewing it.