The Chimay Grande Réserve is the Holy Grail of ale, with a gorgeous nose of blossoms and ripe fruit. On the palate it virtually explodes with rich, creamy, mouthfilling flavors. The finish lingers like the echoing strains of Gregorian chant in a Gothic cathedral. Overstatement? Perhaps. But like most beer lovers, I tend to get worked up over Chimay.   


The Brasserie Dupont, in the French-speaking Belgian province of Hainaut, dates back to 1850. It was purchased and received its present name in 1920 when Alfred Dupont bought the Brewery and its attached farm. The place is now run by Dupont's great-grandson Marc Rosier and his sister Claude, a microbiologist. Rosier lives on the farm, called Moinette, which is thought to be located on what was once an abbey estate. (Moine is French for monk.)

Rosier produces local farm products and cheeses, as well as his artisanal beers, and there's also a bakery connected with the brewery. The Rosiers don't really need to leave home. The real specialty at Dupont is a saison-style ale, widely considered one of the best representatives of this type. But their lesser-known Moinette is a tribute to the great Belgian abbey ales. It's got a soft herbal nose and richly developed flavors of tropical fruit and spice.


Affligem is made by Benedictine monks from the oldest abbey in the Belgian region of Flanders. According to legend, the abbey was founded in the 11th century by four repentant thieves, who took monastic vows after seeing a vision from God. As early as 1129, the place was brewing beer for religious pilgrims, who must've been mighty thankful that they'd stopped at Affligem. In the early 20th century, a monk named Tobias applied modern brewing techniques to the traditional Affligem recipe and began brewing the beer we know today.