When asked, “Yo, Nagel Bagel, what beer should I drink with Thanksgiving dinner?” my answer is always, “Orval.” People generally accept that, then continue their Black Friday planning. But recently, a co-worker followed with “Why?” and I had to think about it.
Some happy Trappist monks in the Gaume region have been making the pale ale since the 17th century; the brewery was modernized in 1931. If you’re lucky enough to get it fresh in Belgium, it can still have a distinctly noble hop character. But after a lengthy import, the wild Brett yeast in the bottle takes over, adding notes of wild funk, spice and a touch of dehydrated apples that easily balance out the carb-load of a roasted turkey with all the fixin’s.
One of the reasons I love Orval so much is how showy it pours. In certain glassware, the head can rise out of the glass a few inches while keeping its form. The active carbonation acts like a natural Alka-Seltzer, but with the benefit of being completely complex and delicious. In a typical Orval pour, I look for soft minerality on the nose, a light touch of clover honey and a bit of herbaceousness.
And the beer is light enough on the palate to not make you feel overly full, thankfully.
Greg Nagel has been writing about beer since 2011, is an avid homebrewer of wine, cider, and beer, is a certified Cicerone Beer Server, a podcaster with the Four Brewers Show, and runs a yearly beer festival called Firkfest.