“My First Belgian”? It would have been about 14 years ago, probably at the age of about 21, but the answer is: I’m not sure. As I was living in Sydney at the time the list of possibilities is narrowed down to: whatever the Belgian Beer Café stocked. It was possibly a Chimay – but which one I don’t recall, I do recall that Chimay Blue became my “go to” Belgian and to this day I have a soft spot for it in my beer drinking heart.
What I can definitely remember is my first *pow* blow-me-away Belgian beer experience, it was Chimay Grande Reserve – really just Chimay Blue in different packaging, which I didn’t know at the time. Beer with a cork in it. A combination of rich fruity dark beer and fantastic presentation that burnt itself into my memory. If I recall correctly I bought a bottle of this to share with a friend in celebration of that period of upheaval in life when one goes from “poor student” to “rich employee” (all is relative, in contrast to being a student struggling to pay the rent, let alone eat, being employed is like financial nirvana).
It would have been Chimay that made me decide: one day I have to go to Belgium and explore the beer. A thing that I still haven’t really done, despite having lived in the UK for 8 years. I’ve been to Belgium once, for non-beer reasons, and did enjoy some great beer there. What struck me most was just how cheap Chimay Grande Reserve is. I think I paid about 4 euro one of these 750ml bottles of lusciousness in a supermarket at a train station. I don’t recall what that Grande Reserve cost me back in Sydney, but I’ve found a blog post that suggests it was AU$29 in 2006… but worth every dollar of that as far as I was concerned at the time.
One day I will go to Belgium just for the beer – and Scourmont Abbey, the home of Chimay, is still right at the top of my go-to destinations.