You may be aware that the Super Bowl was this past Sunday. You may be further aware that it was a crazy, awesome game that came down to the final play, an interception that hit the defensive back right in the chest, a result for which every single force under the sun has shouldered some share of the blame, excepting for the man who threw the ball. As I understand it, Seattle's Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson is just so handsome and humble that it's simply inconceivable he might bear an ounce of responsibility for throwing the ball directly into the midsection of a man on the other team from 15 feet away. (Thank you for tuning into the first and final edition of "Deadspin Lets Will Gordon Briefly Address A Sports Thing That Happened Nearly A Week Ago.")
I bring this up as a segue into the relevant part of the Super Bowl: the beer-drinking part. I'm a Patriots fan—yes, they're liars and cheaters and got some measure of lucky on that last play; I deny none of this, I just happen to be from where I'm from—and I was determined to stay sober enough to remember the entire Super Bowl for once in my life. I accomplished this by drinking my beloved 4-percent-alcohol-by-volume Notch Session Pils during the game, but I did take a couple of risks earlier in the day.
At brunch, I got suckered into paying $12 for 12 ounces of OEC Brewing's 6.3-percent ABV Artista Zynergia Artamas. OEC stands for Ordinem Ecentrici Coctores (which they roughly translate as Order of the Eccentric Brewers); it's a Connecticut-based outfit that specializes in weird beers and international collaborations. The Artamas is, near as I can figure, a saison blended with a Swiss sour, and it was too weird by half (according to my caveman palate, at least); the funky sour stuff overwhelmed the saison yeast character, and it came across as an expensive gimmick.
That's a shame, because my $12-bill tree hasn't been bearing much fruit in this weather, and also because I like funky foreign beers. So today, sports fans, we're going to address one of the all-time classics: Orval, which is produced at one of the world's 10 remaining Trappist breweries, Notre Dame d'Orval in southeastern Belgium.
The origin myth involves Princess Matilda losing her wedding ring in a stream while wandering through the valley. A magic trout returned the ring to her, so she decided this was the golden valley: or val. So she gave the land to the church, whose monks quickly set about to beer-making. The ring-bearing trout is on the label. The beer is fantastic.
It pours a deep orange-highlighted amber, with a big, thick head and aggressive carbonation. Orval opens with aromas of lemon, bread, coriander, clove, bubblegum, light cherry, banana, hay, and probably all sorts of other things my happily overwhelmed nose just couldn't process (if you smell anything off-putting, just blame it on Pete Carroll). There's also a slight dose of the tell-tale barnyard funk from the brettanomyces yeast that is added after bottling. The flavor starts with a slightly bitter pine character that fades with time as a faint tropical-fruit note emerges and the aforementioned aromas turn into flavors, making the experience a bit backward from the typical pine finish American ale consumers are accustomed to.
Orval is truly unique; it's my favorite Trappist beer, and I bet it's going to be yours, too. Unless you hate it, because that's how it goes with the funky stuff. It's 6.3-percent ABV, and a touch pricey at around $6 for an 11.2-ounce bottle, but it makes for a great introduction to the wonders (or horrors! your call) of brett yeast. It's worth a shot for any beer appreciator.
This is Drunkspin Daily, the Concourse's adequate source for booze news, reviews, and bullshit. We'll be highlighting a beer a day in this space; please leave suggestions below.
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain. Image by Jim Cooke.
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