I decided now was the time to do the vertical given the recommended 5 year shelf life of this beer. The picture above contains all three, with the 2010 on the left, 2013 in the middle, and 2014 on the right. Before I delve into the commentary, here are the details about the beer:
Orval Trappist Ale| Brasserie d'Orval S.A.| Villers-devand-Orval, Belgium| Belgian Pale Ale| 6.2% ABV
See below where I will make some comments about each.
Bottled November of 2010. The head and color were noticeably different on this one. While the others were an orange-amber color, this one was more brown. The others had very frothy, almost soapy heads, while this one was smooth and creamy, and reminded me of a milk stout or Guinness head. The smell on this one was less than desirable, which made me wonder whether it had been stored properly over the past 4.5 years or perhaps the beer had just gone bad. I couldn't just dump it though, so I took a taste and held it my mouth for a while. The middle part of the taste was a bit funky, but it finished surprisingly well. As I took a few more sips the flavor really grew on me, and I was shocked at how creamy, malty, bready and chewy this beer became. It almost tasted like caramel, and was sweet and delicious.
So after completing this vertical, what do I think is the best time to drink an Orval? In my opinion, between 1-2 years is the perfect time, though age does some good things for this beer. I would be very curious to see how a 2.5-3.5 year old beer would turn out, because some significant changes occurred between the 2010-2013 versions. This was my first vertical tasting, which I have been building up my cellar to do. Age can make a beer turn into something completely different from it's "fresh" version. However, when choosing what to cellar, one needs to carefully vet the beer to make sure it will hold up. Additionally, I always recommend that before cellaring any beer, make sure you try it fresh first. Shelf space can be limited, and before you buy out the store for a rare beer that is well-aged, make sure you like it first!
Beer advocate: 100/100