While I was in Brussels I had been looking for Westvleteran 12. I did find it at Beerplanet but they do not actually sell it as per the wishes of the abbey. Instead they give it away for free as a gift if you spend €100 in the shop. Not being able to do that (no way to get it home) I had to do without. The helpful and knowledgeable staff did point me towards some aged reserve beers that they thought an excellent substitute. The first one was Oerbier Special Reserva 2008 from De dolle.
This is one of the best beers I have ever had.
It pours a dark red with a large white head
It smells a little like a lambic, sour, tart and fruity.
The lambic sourness comes through in the flavour as well followed by a strong woody quality. The malt character is very strong but fruit dominates the palette with sour cherries and plum as well as gooseberries? The finish was fabulous. Also this may be 13% but it feels like half that. A wonderful wonderful beer.
The other two were both Pannepot reserva. The Old fishermas ale 2007 is 10%. The first thing that comes to mind is how malty it is. It is also quite peppery and tastes like fruitcake. Plenty of dried fruit. You can taste the oak too. A slight hint of coffee. This is a very sweet beer but balanced with some bittering hops so as not to overwhelm. An excellent beer though not quite as interesting as the oerbier.
The 2006 version was much the same with the exception of the oaky vanilla notes being more obvious. If both are available at the same price then you might as well go for the 2006 but otherwise the 2007 tastes the same for the most part.