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Judges Rating: 
22 / 24
3 / 6
30 / 40
5 / 10
Overall Impression: 
15 / 20

Sadly, what is deservedly heralded as one of the world’s iconic beers, our samples of Orval apparently suffered in transit, and were in no way representative of the Trappistenbier the panel all know. Perhaps equally as troubling was a search in stores that resulted in only so-so results from the bottles dated June of 2011 while other bottles proved to be classic Orval. Brewed in the stunningly beautiful Abbaye d’Orval since 1931, Orval is a classic Trappist ale, though somewhat of an iconoclast. Dry hopped and evincing a distinctive brettanomyces-derived tartness, fresh Orval’s aroma is immediately recognizable. Normally an appetizing, slightly hazy orange-ish color, topped by a dense ecru head, this beer poured a muddled, viscous brown with no head – again speaking to tragic mistreatment in transit. More intensely hop bitter than most Trappistenbiers, fresh Orval evinces an almost British hop character, with earthy, slightly grassy notes riding over the underlying malt sweetness. Pete opined that “age has killed the hops” leaving the beer disappointingly unbalanced. Lee, too, was put off by the overall muddled character of this beer, noting it “has obviously been treated poorly.” The judges unanimously asserted that this sample had been woefully mishandled, and they were therefore, unable to render a fair review. This blind tasting notwithstanding, Orval is a world class beer usually deserving of a place in every beer connoisseur’s working stock.