By: Keegan Cantrell
1000 years ago, amidst the tree peppered Belgian hills, legend has it that a princess and her royal accompaniment we’re skipping through the countryside singing, dancing and collecting remarkably well behaved animals as they traveled. (Probably.)
Most likely tired from all the choreographed singing and dancing, she knelt next to a riverbank and ran her hand through the water.
While collecting her thoughts, the wedding ring from her recently deceased husband slipped from her finger and disappeared into her reflection.
She reeled, “not my wedding ring! It’s all I have left of my husband!”
Knowing the ring was likely gone forever, she threw her hands up and began to pray.
Remarkably, a trout emerged from the depths and began to swim towards her. Perplexed, she watched as the trout opened its mouth to present her with her wedding ring.
Taking the ring from the trout’s mouth and placing it back on her finger, the trout began to swim away.
She called to her fish-ly savior “thank you sir trout!”
“Don’t sweat it.” replied the trout.
As the fish swam away she looked around her and proclaimed “Truly, this is a golden valley!”
The princess was so pleased with her divine intervention when she returned home she donated the land to the church. A monastery was established and named “Orval.” (French: Or = gold; val = valley)
Thus the Orval legend was born.
You can see the fish clutching a ring, proudly displayed on their logo to this day.
The Orval Abbey was established sometime near 1070. In 1252, the abbey was destroyed in a tremendous fire, and subsequently rebuilt.
After enjoying fame throughout the middle ages for their excellent beer and carefully constructed iron decorations the abbey was again tragically destroyed during the French revolution.
Then in 1929 plans to bring the abbey back from the dead once again were set in motion. Renowned architect Henry Vaes was contracted to design the brewery, bottles, and distinct Orval Chalice and in 1931 Orval reopened it’s doors again ready to brew ancient beer for modern masses.
The Abbey stands to this day and produces just one beer. One perfect beer in fact.
The Orval has garnered many awards and accolades over the years and for good reason. It is a truly epic beer.
What makes the Orval a such a distinct beer is the use of two key beer elements; dry hopping, and “brett” (brettanomyces lambicus specifically) a naturally complex brewing yeast.
Brett is a wild yeast well known for it’s striking, yet satisfying flavors. In combination with vigorous dry hopping of the beer during the final brewing processes (dry hopping is the use of bagged raw hops left to soak into the beer during brewing, which often helps impart a strong satisfying bitter character to the beer.) the Orval comes out an incredibly sturdy, uncharacteristically hoppy, flavorful beer.
As the beer ages, it evolves and develops additional character. Often referred to as “Oude” Orval, the beer is aged up to 5 years, mirroring the life of the bottled yeast.
Much of the active hop character disappears leaving the unmistakably earthy character of the Brett yeast as the dominant part of the beers profile, producing a beer that promises to challenge even the most seasoned palette with a cornucopia of flavors not often found in the more traditional saccharomyces strained beers.
Like all great Trappist ales, the beer has been refined to near perfection and continues to capture the hearts of beer aficionados everywhere.
In March of last year U.S. importer of fine European beers and respected partner Merchant duVin, set up the first ever national “Orval Day” to celebrate this champion of beers.
People turned out across all 50 states at their favorite bottle shops, restaurants, and bars to enjoy and try the Orval, many for the first time.
Due to the success of last year’s first national run, this year on the 25th of March, Orval day will be making it’s return, and again for a good cause.
In observance of all the good Trappist breweries do for charity Merchant duVin will be donating a share of Orval Day sales to MAP International, a global health organization that provides life-saving medicines to people living in poverty.
So what are you waiting for??? Check out the event calendar and make sure to mark yours!
Come out and enjoy a legendary beer, for charity! It’s a no-brainer.