In a fit of madness I order 15 bottles of Orval from Beer Merchants but really I can’t wait to embed them in my cellar, introduce them to Thomas Hardy and let them see old friends such as Fuller’s Vintage and Lees Harvest. Like a lot of folk who deal with beer, I’m always being asked what my favourite beer is and I always say it’s not a decision I like to take. I love Adnams Best Bitter, Dogfish Head India Brown Ale, Fuller’s Golden Pride and so on, but at the back of my mind I’m always tempted to say that Orval is my favourite beer in the world. Why? I think it’s a beer that I can come back to time and time again and find something new. I like the skittle shape of the bottle, the simplicity of the design, the fact that it’s not been buggered around with, gained an older or younger sibling (though I’ve had the Petit Orval, two words: hopped water). It’s got a great nose: oily, leathery, pepper and orange, but most of all though I love the taste, the creamy and hoppy mouthfeel, the snappy carbonation, the sour and citrusy notes vying for attention and the bitter spicy finish. I love it. It works as a stand-alone beer and at the dinner table (I’ve written about that here). It also ages well. What’s not to like? I went to the monastery once (peering over a wall into the grounds the sight of meditating folk put me in mind of a scene from Resnais’ movie Last Year At Marienbad), the brewery was closed so we went straight to the cafe and contemplated the beer. So I’ve got 15 bottles of Orval on the way, can I leave them alone for a while?