In one supermarket in Jette the good folk of Brussels are limited to only six bottles of the celebrated Trappist brew per purchase. At drinks store Prik&Tik you even have to spend 40 euros before you can add Orval to your shopping. A spokesman for the company explains: “We’re trying to reserve a number of bottles for every customer. We’re doing this to ensure nobody buys up the entire stock in one go!”
The federal economy ministry sees nothing wrong in the restriction: “The business has the commercial freedom to decide its own sales policy. It’s OK as long as the customer isn’t misled.”
It seems Orval is the victim of its own success. Demand has grown in recent years, while production stays at the same level. Beer expert Sofie Vanrafelghem attempts to explain why it’s so hard to track down Orval nowadays: “Orval is a Trappist beer” she says. ”Profit may not be the main motive of production. The monks just try to generate sufficient funds to ensure the upkeep of their abbey and its community. If they make a profit, it’s donated to charity.”
“The main focus of the monks’ lives is prayer? As a result, they don’t have much time left to devote to beer production. That explains the shortage.”
Orval is no ordinary Trappist beer either. It is the only Trappist that is brewed under the supervision of a woman master brewer: Anne-Françoise Pypaert, who is the only female Trappist master brewer in the entire world!
Production is limited and the monks are not minded to brew more beer soon.
“Orval is a unique beer” says Sofie. “It’s hard to find an alternative, but those of us who love a complex beer with a sour taste can always give Straffe Hendrik Wild a try”.
Sofie says it’s not the same, of course, but it is brewed using wild yeast.