The oldest of the seven Trappist monasteries that brew beer, Orval was founded 1070 and became Cistercian in 1132.
Situated in French speaking Belgium (Wallonia) the Abbey sits in a narrow valley just inside the Belgian border near the village of Florenville.
Caught in the afternoon with the sun glinting off the yellow stone buildings it is difficult to imagine a place where the suggestion of a golden valley is not more apt.
This area has seen the frontier pass over it a number of times and in particular during the Franco-Spanish Wars of the 16th and 17th Centuries.
The abbey has been destroyed and rebuilt a number of times since its foundation and was demolished during the French revolution.
In 1926 the land was offered to the Cistercian Order in order to rebuild their monastery. Under Marie-Albert van der Cruyssen the work progressed and in 1935 the monastery regained its title of Abbey. The church was finally finished and consecrated in 1948.
In order to help finance the construction of the new abbey the monks began brewing their own beer in 1931.
Nowadays the profits for the most part go to charity as is befitting for a religious order.
The monks also make a pressed uncooked cheese from the full cream milk available in the Gaume region (This part of Wallonia). A rather pleasant if mild and unoffensive cheese it goes very well with fresh bread and a glass of Orval beer.
The logo of Orval is a fish holding a golden ring in it's mouth. The legend goes that the widow of the Count of Chiny, Mathilde de Toscane (1046 - 1115) was sitting beside the local spring when she accidentally dropped her wedding ring into the waters. Praying that it would be recovered she was filled with awe when a trout appeared with it in its mouth. She was so grateful to have the ring returned that she donated the funds for the building of an abbey.
This truly is a golden valley: Or-val
The spring is still there today and provides the Abbey with its water.
You can visit the abbey, to see the ruins and there is a small shop that sells the monastery beer, cheese, craftware and religious items.
Apart from selling the beer by the case it is also possible to buy gift packs including the chalice styled glass.
Afterwards up towards the crossroads you can sit at a monk's bench in the l'Ange gardien and try a glass of the brew. The cheese is also on offer as well as a variety of basic meals.
The hostelry at the crossroads also provides meals and a wider selection of beers.
Brasserie d'Orval s.a.