Chimay: A Bitter Rejection

February 3, 2011

Chimay is an obnoxious cheese.  It is pungent and robust with a pasty thick texture that coats the tongue.  There is nothing subtle or nuanced about Chimay.  Our tasters are generally forgiving, but Chimay found no fans at our table.

Chimay is a semi-soft, beer-washed cheese made in Belgium at the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Scourmont.  It is considered a classic example of a monastic washed rind cheese.  The monastery produces both beer and cheese under the Chimay name.  Once produced, the cheese is regularly washed with Chimay beer.  The cheese is made from pasteurized cow’s milk and produced in a wide, flat disk format.

chimay-cheese-by-cheesechatter-february-2011Chimay looks simple and rustic.  It has a crusty thick rind that is bright orange and tacky to the touch.  The interior paste is a deep lemon curd yellow.  The paste is springy and has small flat holes.

The cheese rind smells a bit like a brewery: its aroma is yeasty and smells of damp hops.  The rind also has a distinct ammonia scent.  The interior paste smells of baked crackers and toasted grain.

Chimay’s flavor is robust and lingers long after eating.  It has a brief sweet start, but this flavor is quickly overwhelmed by a smoky sourness.  The sour flavor is grapefruit-like and bitter; it is quite intense and lingers long in the mouth.  Chimay has a rich and thick texture that coats the tongue like peanut butter.

Chimay earned no fans during our tasting.  My kids rejected the cheese  as too bitter and sour.  One likened Chimay to a swallow of chlorine.  The grapefruit-like bitterness is intense and I achieved balance only by eating a super sweet pear.

The flavors of Chimay are more likely to appeal to adults than kids, yet even for adults, the bitter flavors of this cheese require off-plate management.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Chimay at The Cheese Board (Berkeley, CA).