Today my friend Bobby and I had a little experiment with Orval Beers. If you’ve been keeping track, this is beer #188 … IF you think it is unique. Here are two bottles of Orval … the one on the left was purchased in the US (Whole Foods, Springfield, VA) and the one on the left was purchased at the actual Orval Brewery.
Here is a close-up picture of their labels. This is the US Label … I guess they needed to remind us in a big way that it is a Trappist Ale. Notice in the second picture the ABV is listed as 6.9%.
Here are two pictures of the Belgian labels … notice the ABV: 6.2%
If I just went by the labels, I would say these are two different beers and I can count this one as a different beer. However, since I’ve had the tour at the brewery, I can tell you that these beers are exactly the same. The reason the label is different for ABV is that the American standard for alcohol content is different from Europe. The tolerances are tighter in the US (I think 0.3% variance) as opposed to those in Belgium (up to 1% variance).
This beer is triple fermented with the final yeast added at bottling. This is called bottle-conditioning and the beer can vary widely in ABV — no Orval beer is exactly the same as any other … that’s why this beer is so good. Soooo, since this beer can range from about 5.2% up to 7.2% ABV based on several variables, the US label shows 6.9% to cover the possibility of a high-octane referementation. You will see in the following two pictures that these two beers (one brewed in 2008 and one in 2009) look exactly the same, and I can tell you that they tasted like Orval (again, they never taste exactly the same … that’s the beauty of this beer).
With all of this said, you probably think I didn’t have my 188th unique beer. Well …. I did. Because I knew they were the same, I pulled out a Hacker-Pschorr Weisse (you’ll notice this is my 4th Hacker-Pschorr) to hit my target! LOL!