A Visit to Orval, Famous for its Trappist Beer


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Tony enjoying Orval Beer

From Dinant, we travelled south, taking the pretty country roads of the Semois Valley to Orval. Orval is of course famous for its Trappist beer and this visit was going to be one of the highlights of Tony’s Belgium visit. He’ll happily admit to a certain fondness for Trappist beers and the Orval Trappist beer is one that he particularly likes.

Orval Brewery

The Orval Brewery is located within the grounds of the Orval Abbey. The monastery has a long and interesting history and is itself a tourist attraction. The brewery was established in 1931 to finance the huge reconstruction works of the monastery. Lay workers were employed for the brewery, including Pappenheimer, the master brewer who is credited with inventing the much-loved Orval beer recipe. Income derived from beer sales and royalties went into funding the maintenance of the monastery buildings as well as charitable works.

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Orval Beer Museum

Trappist Breweries

There are currently ten Trappist breweries in the world and six of these are in Belgium, Orval being one of the six. For products to be classified as “authentic Trappist”, they have to meet the criteria set by the International Trappist Association. It does not require the beer for instance to be made by the Trappists monks. In fact no monks have been involved in Orval’s brewing operation since its beginning. The Abbott and a few monks sit on the board of the brewery today, but the beer making is left to lay people. You may be interested to know that the present brew master is a lady, Mrs. Anne-Françoise Pypaert, a brewing engineer.

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Me in the Orval Beer Museum

Orval produces two types of Trappist beers Orval and Petite Orval. Orval is the mainstream brand with an alcohol content of 6.2% abv and the lighter Petite Orval has 3.5% abv. Petite Orval is brewed for the monks (Patersbier) and it is generally not for sale. Like many of the Belgian beers, Orval has its own distinctive beer glasses and as required under Belgian beer law, this Trappist brew is always served in these bespoke glasses. The one that we like and have at home is the Orval chalice.

The Orval Brewery presently produces 70,000 hectoliters of beer per annum of which only 15% are exported. This is the limit of their capacity and it is no wonder that this sought-after amber ale is rather expensive in Sydney.

Orval Brewery is only opened once a year

Unfortunately for Tony, the Brewery is only open for public viewing once a year on its open day – usually in September. But the Orval Beer Museum was surprisingly good and the whole Orval beer producing process is explained in interesting video presentations as you’ll see in the images above.

Tasting Orval Beer

After the Abbey visit, our next stop was a local inn where Orval beer is served and we all got to enjoy this much-loved Trappist beer with some Orval cheese. The Abbey Shop does not sell any beer but you can buy the cheeses there, if you’re prepared to buy in 500 gms and 1 kilogram blocks. Whereas the monks don’t get involved in producing the beer, they are involved in the cheese making.

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