April 16, 2011

Beer post: Chimay

Chimay Tripel
Chimay Tripel
Chimay cheese sampler
Beer and cheese
Spéciale Poteaupré
The house beer, Spéciale Poteaupré
Le Poteaupré
Le Poteaupré
Le Poteaupré cheese
Aulne Abbey ruins (in Thuin)

A little over a year into living here and I'm 3 for 6 on my visit to the Trappists. So far, Chimay took my breath away, or rather the Auberge de Poteaupré – which is the inn/cafe that one can visit when they head to Chimay. The Trappist Monastery of Scourmont was established in 1850 when a group of monks from Westvleteren were given some land by the Prince of Chimay on the Mont Secours. The monks live from the labor of their hands. Chimay is remarkably trendy (I'm sure more Americans consume Chimay than Belgians). They are probably the most aggressive with marketing their product outside of Belgium. Chimay Blue was one of the first beers I ever tried.

Of course Chimay produces beers and cheeses (Grand Classique, À la Bière, Grand Cru, Vieux Chimay, and Le Poteaupré), but they also produce breads, and have initiated several energy conservation techniques. The menu is a culinary delight with main entrees creatively incorporating Chimay cheeses and beer. There are French, Dutch and English descriptions, and the menu highlights their marketing savviness. They have beer and cheese sampler suggestions, a fixed menu which highlights the use of the beer in multiple dishes (so you can select the red cap, white cap, or blue cap menus), and most other menu items feature the beer in sauces, or entrees; the cheeses are featured in sauces, main dishes, croquettes, and desserts. The prices were reasonable, the cafe can accommodate many people, there is a huge terrace (this is Belgium after all) with a playground for children, and lots of parking. The beer is fresher than anywhere you'll taste it – and there is a gift shop where you can take menus home with you (to write about Chimay later) or purchase items.

The abbey has employed several energy saving initiatives, including the construction of a water treatment facility, supporting wind energy efforts in nearby Baileux, utilizes 100% green electricity (from hydroelectric stations) for its production facilities, and has employed further energy conservation techniques by insulating piping and switching lighting (e.g. LED technology).

There are two walks around the inn/cafe, so if you have a few too many beers you can walk it off. The Chimay Spéciale Poteaupré and the Chimay Triple are available on draft (the others are in bottles). The Poteaupré is lighter (abv 4.5%) with hints of coriander. It has the backbone of the triple, but is lighter in alcohol – I found it to be a really tasty beer (if you will, it called out my love for hoppier IPA's). At the Chimay abbey, you can visit the church, garden, and cemetery – but the brewery is closed to visitors.

It's best to rent or drive to Chimay as busses and train travel in the area can limit what you'll see. Trains and busses are great for exploring the major cities in Belgium, but a car enables you to really see Belgium (and I'll assure you, you'll fall in love). Check the website for hours and other details.
Chimay cafe and inn: Auberge de Poteaupré Rue de Poteaupré 5, 6464 Bourlers
The Abbey of Notre-Dame de Scourmont: Route de Rond Point, 294-B-6464 Forges

If you are traveling to Chimay from the Brussels area (or happen to be driving through western Wallonia), a worthy detour is in Thuin where you can view the ruins of the Abbaye d'Aulne, and walk along the Sambre river which winds through the Wallonian countryside. The area was notably full of hikers and the brasseries were crowded. The abbey was founded in 657 AD and functioned as a Cistercian monastery. It was burned in 1794 by the French Revolutionary Army. Really, it's beautiful and costs all of 3 € per person to explore the ruins of an old Gothic abbey. There is also a newer Neo-classical church up front and - since it's Belgium there is a brewery, the Brasserie du Val de Sambre
Abbaye d'Aulne: Rue Vandervelde 275, Thuin

My 3 for 6: Westvleteren, Rochefort, and Chimay (Orval, Achel, and Westmalle remain – the seventh Trappist is La Trappe and it's in the NL)  


  1. Nilam - Your blog is starting to form itself into a Belgian guide book with a menu of day & weekend trips for us to pick from next time we visit. Priceless!

    So I hadn't seen Le Poteaupré before (the cheese). How did it taste? Looks like it could be a little funky, esp. with the washed rind & given that it was made w/beer.

  2. Nico, it was funky, stinky, barnyardy, but pungently creamy. I made a potato cake with strips of this but in the inside (sandwhiched between layers of grated potatoes, that was a recipe disaster, but delicious. Also made a tartiflette! It, and the Grand Classique, were wrapped in plastic, stored in an airtight container, and still managed to stink up the entire fridge. Karl and I spent weeks accusing each other of letting a few pass each time the fridge was opened.

  3. Oh yeah! That would be a great tartiflette cheese... yummm I almost wish winter was coming back soon - but it's the first sunny day in Portland in a lonnnnggg time, so I don't! :)

    I'll have some when I'm over - I'll be in Belgium for about 3 days on my way home from a work trip, at the end of May. We could try to meet up for a beer, if you're interested!

  4. Those cheeses looked so good. I miss decent cheese so much. I eat the best quality cheese I can find here but nothing compares to Europe.