Monday, December 16, 2002

Belgian Trappist Monk and Abbey Style Beers

Mmmm. Nothing beats Hennepin on a Sunday afternoon, chilling in Noe Valley, enjoying the end of the weekend. Even if it is raining with gale-force winds that have already downed several poor trees on my city block.

Hennepin comes in a 750mL champagne bottle. It is drunk out of goblet. Or, if you don’t have a goblet (I don’t), a wine glass will do. This is highbrow beer. Sparkling beer. Beer with so many different flavors it is very difficult to characterize. It’s golden and wheaty like a Hefeweisen, slightly spicy like a Belgian white, slightly sweet like a Lambic. Brewed in Cooperstown, New York, at the Ommegang Brewery, but based on a great Belgian brewing style. It’s the best beer I can buy within two blocks of where I live, and it ranks #3 on my list of all-time favorites.

There are only two beers that I rank above Hennepin. They are both imported from Belgium, and very hard to find (unless you know where to look).

#2 is Duval. It comes in the same 750mL champaign bottle, and so far in Northern Cal I have only found it in the P-W Mart on Brokaw Road in San Jose, near Emile’s place.

#1 is Corsendonk Monk’s Pale Ale, found locally up on 24th Street in 12oz bottles at $3.50/ea. But it’s more fun to get a friend to fly in from LA with a 1 quart 1 pint 3 fl oz champagne bottle of it.

There are two beers that rank slightly lower than Hennepin on my list of all-time greats. They are the darker Belgian abbey-styles; the sweeter and fruitier ones, but not quite as sweet as a Lambic Fromboise. My friends who like the sweeter style rank them higher than Hennepin and Duval. Regardless, they’re all fabulous …

#4 is Chimay.

#5 is Ommegang, the title brew of the Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown, New York.

Stick to these, and you will never drink Bud from a can again. (Although I almost did last night …….)