Do You Know... 13
Orval is one of those unusual beers, both in terms of its packaging and its taste. It is a very rich, complex, tasty beer and well worth a try.
This is a Trappist beer, brewed by the fathers of the Abbaye d’Orval in the Belgian town of Villers-devant-Orval. There exists a legend which says that a certain countess named Mathilda, a widow, accidentally dropped her wedding ring into a fountain in the area. She prayed to god for the ring to be returned to her. And so it was, by a trout that emerged from the water with her precious piece of jewellery in its mouth. In her elation she proclaimed, “Truly this place is a Val d’Or [Valley of Gold].”
The legend goes that she established a monastery there in gratitude. This story cannot be verified, but one thing that is evident from historical records is that there has always been a brewery at the site (there are ancient records of a “hop-field” close by). Due to the unsuitability of vine-growing in the area, beer brewing was customary. Indeed, it was termed “liquid bread”.
War broke out in France in the 1500’s with Burgundy, and later with Spain. Orval was badly hit by this conflict. As an act of magnanimity, Emperor Charles Quint granted the monastery a forge, providing money for damages. In 1605 Bernard de Montgaillard appointed himself Abbot of Orval. He was devoted to his monks, who in time grew attached to him. He was to restore the monastery to its former glory.
However the prosperity was short-lived. In 1638, during the Thirty Years War, the abbey was viciously pillaged by troops of the Marechal de Chatillon. It was not until the close of that century that the establishment was back on its feet again.
It was Charles de Bentzeratd who first converted the monastery in a “Trappist” abbey. He was Abbot from 1668 to 1707. A fervent reformer, he converted his people to the Cistercian Order of Strict Observance, which has historical roots in the Abbey of la Grande Trappe, Normandy.