It's no secret that some of the best beers in the world come from Trappist monasteries in Belgium. For many drinkers, myself included, the brews of the monks of Abbaye de Scourmont in the city of Chimay were the introductions to Belgian beer in general.
The monks of Chimay, however, do not drink the familiar red (Premiere), white (Cinq Cents) or blue (Grand Réserve) labels; they drink Chimay Dorée, a patersbier — literally, "fathers' beer." Until a few years ago, Chimay served this beer only on the grounds of the monastery and at a nearby inn associated with the abbey; now, it's on the shelf of your local beer store.
This low-alcohol Trappist take on a classic Belgian witbier starts with a stripped-down version of Chimay Premiere and adds dried orange peel and coriander to the mix. Despite using the spices associated with witbier, Chimay Dorée is considerably drier. It has a faint musty quality to its aroma, hinting at the complex and surprisingly rich flavors of Dorée. For a beer that falls under 5 percent alcohol by volume, it's quite an accomplishment.
With so many exotic new beers hitting the market every week, it's easy to overlook old standbys like Chimay. But even if the label looks familiar, Chimay Dorée is quite different from its well-loved counterparts, and it's well worth a try. After all, it's what the brewers themselves drink.
Justin Grant, Times correspondent