This one was a request/suggestion for review from Tantrum777. Asked and delivered.
I reviewed this one a LONG time ago, first uploading a review on August 17, 2005, and I've only had it a few times since then. My overall opinion of the beer hasn't changed very much in the intervening years, but I definitely have more experience with wild yeasts and sour beers, and get different things from it than I did five years ago.
Zymurgical Explorations rating: 8.0/10
My original BA review from August 2005:
"Purchased from Woody's Smokes and Brews, Franklin, TN.
I had a taste of this at the Bring-a-Friend Beer Tasting in Birmingham a few weeks back, but not enough for a full review. Bought a single bottle and poured it into my oversized wine glass. Appearance is really quite nice, with a sort of orange-yellow body covered with one of the thickest off-white foamy heads I've ever seen. I didn't even pour that aggressively, and this thing just took off. Almost too much head since I'm having to dribble the remainder of the brew into the glass a little bit at a time.
Aroma is very sweet, with hints of soft honey and possibly even a hint of cinnamon. Fascinating the way these Belgian Ales seem to produce the strangest scents that have nothing to do with barley, malt, and hops, but when it smells this nice I'm not complaining.
I may have let this warm a bit too long, for the beer has a strongly astringent flavor first and foremost, which only later softens into a nice soft sweetness that coats the mouth and the tongue. Alcohol is quite strong here, present in large quantities in the flavor even if not in the nose. Bitterness follows every swallow, but it's a nice sort of non-hoppy bitterness. Enjoyable but not exactly to my taste.
This has a thick and luxurious mouthfeel and a low carbonation that work together nicely. The bitter flavors make me not really want to swish this around a lot when drinking it, but the mouthfeel doesn't stand in the way of drinking it that way.
This beer tastes good, and it's fairly low alcohol for a Trappist, but I find myself actually wanting to finish this bottle and move on to something else. I'll certainly try it again next time I can get ahold of it, and this time I'll open it up when it's a few degrees cooler, but at this temperature I really don't enjoy it as much as I'd like to. North Coast Pranqster is much better, and much cheaper."
That was written when I'd only had a handful of Belgians. I'd never try to compare Orval to Pranqster today, of course.