Ah, yes, the mythical and highly sought-after beer that is often touted to be the best beer in the world — Westvleteren 12. Brewed by monks in Saint Sixtus Abbey in Vleteren, Belgium, this quadrupel is truly a holy grail for all beer geeks and freaks. It is produced since the beginning of World War II — same recipe, same relatively low quantity, same exceptional quality. The recipe is, of course, a secret and the monks find the popularity of their world-famous quadrupel to be more troubling than exciting. The beer bottles also reflect the modesty — there’s no label, just a cap with all the necessary information.
When RateBeer.com declared Westvleteren the best brewery on the planet and their #12 earned the same title, the beer world went crazy. There were lines at the monastery of people wanting to by the beer en masse and the monks had to implement stricter rules — one crate per person, ordered by phone in advance. Or two six-packs per person, bought in a nearby visitors center, if there’s any beer left. And no re-selling. The monks have been firm about that, stating that they only brew beer to keep the monastery — they do not wish to start a business or involve people in semi-legal practices. Despite their stance and best efforts, Westvleteren 12 is sold and resold online and in beer shops and bars all over the world. It’s a market of its own and it probably won’t die down because the beer keeps being mentioned among the best brews in the world. And no beer lover worth their salt would deny the possibility to purchase and sample this gem, no matter how shady the dealing really is. We, too, were part of the grey market, but any shame was washed away by the beer itself.
We brought back our bottle of Westvleteren 12 from Belgium in 2015 and kept it in the cellar for a special occasion. Then, one November evening in 2016, we decided, that’s it, let’s open this beauty. We must confess, our expectations were crazy high, but could you blame us? Come one, here it is, the exceptional beer that everyone is raving about, right in this glass. And once we drink it, it will be forever gone and we might have to wait a year or two for another chance to taste it. And is it the best beer in the world? Well, we haven’t tasted all the beer on the planet, but one thing is evident — it is an exceptional brew, smooth, rich, complex. But let’s break it down in our usual style
ABV: 10.2% (probably a bit higher by now)
Appearance: Semi-opaque dark brown body with reddish tints and a tall fluffy brownish head.
Aroma: Very intense. Cocoa, bread, straw, dust, some subtle sweetness.
Taste: There’s so much going on here! There’s chocolate, caramel, dried fruit and very mild bitterness at the end.
Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation, dry and deceivingly easy-to-drink.
Notes: It’s a very complex, multi-layered brew. It’s intense and yet surprisingly easy-to-drink. No sharpness, no unnecessary alcohol, just mellow well-balanced beer that should be savored and appreciated.
Disclaimer: We had this beer on 20-11-2016