Of all the beers from Trappist breweries, Orval is definitely my favourite. Firstly, how can you go past that lovely art deco-style bottle? Then there’s the beer itself, pale and with far less of an alcohol kick that the other monk-made beers I’ve tried.
The beer we get here is one of only two beers they make – the other isn’t available to the outside world and I’m not becoming a monk so I can try it.
According to the Oxford Companion to Beer the abbey gets its name from a rather far-fetched story involving a countess, a ring and a fish. See, widowed countess Mathilde of Tuscany was hanging around the site of the future abbey and dropped her wedding ring into a spring.
She prayed to God for the return of the ring, hoping to persuade the Great Bearded One by promising to build a great abbey there if she got it back.
And so a trout swam to the surface with a ring in its mouth – proving, perhaps, that if you pay God enough he will do your bidding. The countess then exclaimed that this place was a “val d’or”, or golden valley and established a church called Orval there sometime before 1070.
While the monks probably brewed there for yonks, the brewery proper really kicked into gear in the 1930s, making it’s name with that one great beer.
What’s the go here?: For those who have just stumbled across this post, I’m going through the fascinating Oxford Companion to Beer (OCB) and posting an entry for every letter. Why? Because I have a copy at home but hadn’t really gone through it page by page and I figured this would be an exercise that would force me to do that.