A while ago, I was talking with a coworker about beer when he asked me if I had ever tried Belgian beer before. After stating I had never had the inclination to try it, he remarked "you should. All the real beer drinkers are drinking it." Having no idea what qualifies one as a "real" beer drinker (I personally consume untold gallons of the stuff), I dismissed his comments as the symptom of yet another pretentious marketing trend. I have since tried Leffe, Hoegaarten and Stella Artois, and if this is what "real beer" consists of I'll pass. Stella was the only one worth drinking and is mediocre at best - certainly not worth the price they charge for it. The others, quite simply, are keif.
Which brings me to the subject of tonight's review. Chimay Red is a Belgian beer that has been the subject of yet another pretentious marketing trend. Made by Trappist Monks since 1862, the beer has actually been touted as "the world's best". Lofty words for a product made in a country that seems to know little more than France about the brewer's art. Evidence of this is the wine bottle the product is packaged in, complete with a champagne cage and cork to seal it with. Seriously, who sells beer in wine bottles besides the French? And why would a beer need a champagne-calibre stopper? We would soon find out.
I removed the wire cage from the cork and gave it a gentle push with my thumbs. The cork took off like a rocket, smashed into the wall and bounced back, nearly strinking me in the face. At least I had the foresight to point it away from the television. "Beer isn't supposed to do that," stated Brian as we got our second clue that Chimay is a little different from our average brew. Brian had selected a couple glasses and we poured the beer into them. The colour was a murky brown, probably due to the fact that Belgians are apparently too lazy to filter their beer. The only unfiltered beer style that is excusable is weissen, and this was far from weissen as you can get. The head was adequate, but Brian's glass foamed up way to much and had to be sinked and refilled. As he went about getting his refill, I noticed champagne-style bubbles in the murky darkness in the glass. I started to wonder if they actually use champagne yeast to make this stuff. One can never tell, but thus far I had not seen anything close to brewing genius from Belgium - especially when they seem to have confused their beer and wine.
Undaunted by this mysterious turn of events, we raised our glasses and drank. The strong flavour of this ale was not unexpected, as I had counted on a strong flavour based on its colour. However, the initial palate was immediately overcome by what tasted like strong coriander. Who in the hell puts coriander in beer? Brian was not at all impressed with the herbal finish, and stated he was not sure if it actually was coriander, but it certainly did not belong in a beer bottle. I concurred with this reasoning and concluded that based on my experience, the Belgians are utterly clueless when it comes to brewing. Chimay may be an interesting novelty, but I could not see myself drinking more than two bottles of this stuff without feeling violently ill. The only way Chimay Red could possibly be "the best beer in the world" is if the only other contenders was a skunky Grolsch and a piss-warm Schlitz. The flavour is simply too spicy to even be considered beer in my books.