I'm trying this beer as a small thank you to the Beer Wench for taking the time to interview me in her Beer Blogger interview series. She mentioned this as one of her favorites, so I thought I would give it a try. I'm also trying this because Mikkeller made his It's Alive in tribute to it, thought it would be nice to compare.
As I reiterate most often, I didn't grow up a Belgian guy, and it doesn't get much more Belgian than Trappist Ales. So I write this with the utmost respect for those whose palates specialize in our Flemmish cousins and with the due consideration that I might not know what I'm talking about.
It pours golden with a ton of head and great lacing. Smells like orange, corriander, and fresh spices and malts exude from the glass. There's a lot going on in the taste here. It's a complex evolution from front to back with a bit of hop presence on both ends. There's a sort of rugged quality to the taste as it runs through your mouth, like a burned leather – but in a good way, if that's even possible to imagine. That leather is lain on top of a subtle malt fruitiness that does not get too bright and blends well with the rougher exterior. Finally, spiced flavors like white pepper and cloves come through the body before a final hop curtain is lightly draped upon the show that is my mouth.
Not the flavors that I've come to love, but a complex mixture of tastes along with a great body and immense drinkability. In comparison to It's Alive, I'd say I prefer the earthy and hoppy qualities of Mikkeller's version a bit better, but the blend, body and balance on the Orval is unreal. Probably wouldn't be the first thing I'd order, but would I drink it again? Absolutely.