The History of Chimay
Since 1862 Chimay beers are brewed by the Cistercian Trappist monks of Chimay. The monks produce 120,000 hectoliters annually so that they can afford to be monks and help those less fortunate. The monks belong to the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance.
Most of the world knows Cistercian Trappist monks as Trappist monks. The Order of Cistercians originally came from the Abbey of La Grande Trappe, France, which is why they are often referred to as Trappist monks. The beer that you can buy at the store is brewed on site at the abbey and bottled down the road.
There are eight Trappist abbeys, six in Belgium, one in the Netherlands, and one in Germany. Due to the worldwide popularity of Trappist beers, many breweries were abusing the Trappist name by claiming that they were a Trappist beer. The monks even had to resort to a lawsuit to stop one brewery from claiming that they were a Trappist beer. In 1997, the eight abbeys formed the International Trappist Association (ITA) to prevent non-Trappist commercial companies from purloining the name to promote their beers.
Chimay White (Blanche) is like “beer champagne”. The beer is light, very carbonated, and slightly bitter. The balance in the beer demonstrates the monks drive for perfection. It is one of those beers that you want to share with all your friends, but not at $9 a bottle. (maybe your really good close friends)
If I wanted to introduce this beer to friends, I needed to find a way to make it myself. I searched a long time for a good recipe; unfortunately the recipe wasn’t covered in any of the clone books. I did find this recipe a few years ago, and I’ve found it to be a very close clone of the Chimay White.
10 lbs of Belgian Pilsner malt 1 lb of Belgian Wheat malt 0.25 lbs of Rice Hulls 1.5 lbs of sugar Lemon juice (tablespoon) 2 oz East Kent Goldings (5.8% AA) 1 oz Hallertrau Hersbrucker (1.3% AA) White Labs WLP500 or Wyeast 1214
OG 1.071 FG 1.010
You can substitute very light dry malt extract (DME) if you are an extract brewer. I’d use 8 lbs of extra light DME. You might have troubles matching the color or Chimay with anything darker than DME. If you use extract, omit the grain and rice hulls from the recipe.
Prepare the sugar before starting the boil. The main difference between Belgian candi and table sugar is that Belgian candi is inverted. Belgian candi is also made from beets instead of cane, but I do not believe anyone can really taste much difference. Heat the sugar with a small amount of water (enough to make a syrup) and a teaspoon of lemon juice. The lemon juice will help invert the sugar into simpler sugars. After about 15 minutes the sugar will turn a very light yellow color.
Mash the grains for at least 90 minutes in a converted cooler at 150F (I batch sparge). Add 1.5oz of the East Kent Goldings and 0.5 oz of the Hallertrau at the start of your boil. Also at the start of your boil, add the sugar syrup that you created earlier. Boil the wort for 90 minutes. 5 minutes before the end of the boil, add the last of your hops, 0.5 oz of East Kent Goldings and 0.5 oz of Hallertrau Hersbrucker.
You can culture your own yeast from a bottle of Chimay, but I think it is easier to just use the White Labs WPL500 yeast. You could also use Wyeast 1214. These yeasts were cloned from the Chimay yeast, and you’ll get great consistent results using either of these yeasts.
Give the yeast a good chance to ferment the wort as much as possible. You want this beer to be very dry. That is why Chimay White can taste like dry champagne. Start it at the higher end of the temperature range (70F). Once it’s started, move it to a location where it ferments at the lower end of the temperature range (65-60F).
For carbonation, you could use 1 cup of corn sugar. If you are kegging, you’ll want 2.0 to 4.0 volumes of CO2. I would plan for an even 3.0 volumes. This beer will have a large head if you pour it too fast.
This beer is light, but will sneak up on you. It is higher in alcohol, but because of the sugar you won’t notice the alcohol too much. My neighbors have learned the hard way, and now everyone refers to the beer as “tripel trouble”. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
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