Few beers in the world instil as much awe, mystery and possibly some downright stupidity in beer fans around the world. Westvleteren 12 is often said to be the best beer in the world due to its many awards and number one rating among beer reviewers. Add to that the fact that the only (official) way to get some is by pre registering your vehicle details at the brewery and ordering a case. If you happen to be driving by and want to pick some up, you will be disappointed. You are also asked not to resell the beer. There are places where you can get it but officially it is only available by dealing direct with the brewery this has fuelled the perception of this beer to a point where perhaps only Dark Lord Day beats it.
Is the beer worth all the hype? Well I had to find out and when a friend from Irish Craft Brewer came to my house with a bottle I was delighted. He had read that I missed out on getting some in Belgium.
The beer pours a murky brownish red with a lot of floating chunks of yeast.
The aroma is all dried fruit. Prunes, figs, raisins and alcohol.
The taste is very complex with brown sugar, lots of different dried fruits along with caramel. It is a little acidic and not all that carbonated and the best way to describe it is that it is a party in the mouth.
This beer is a truly wonderful experience but is it worth the hype? Personally I don't think it is. After drinking it I find that if I want a good Trappist beer I will buy one that is much easier to get such as the next one.
So for me, I say that if you can get your hands on one without paying inflated prices then do so but don't go in search or sell any limbs to get one as it is not that good.
To try beside the Westy I got a St Bernardus 12. The reason for this is that historically St Bernardus used to brew beer under license using the name St Sixtus which is the name of the Abbey where Westvleteren is brewed. This is not the case any more but it is said the beer is quite similar. At least this is what I gather but a history buff, especially beer history may correct me on this.
So how does it compare? Well the aroma is brown sugar and dried fruit but not as obvious as the Westvleteren.
It tastes similar to the Westvleteren but is not as complex and is a lot more carbonated with a little bubblegum. This beer is not as good as the Westvleteren 12 but for me, because it is more accessible I would rather buy this than go in search of Westvleteren 12.
My American friend also brought along a bottle of this beer from Avery called The Beast. The 16.31% ABV scared him quite frankly so we split the bottle. I have had Tokyo* before which is stronger so for me this was not the strongest beer I have had.
This American take on a Grand Cru was interesting. The aroma was dried fruit, alcohol, woody vanilla.
The taste was a smack in the face of oaky vanilla goodness, lots of burning alcohol and dried fruit.
The bottle we had was batch 6 2008.
There is plenty of malt in here too but the alcohol content is just too high and was achieved by adding sugar from various different sources. A little spice is evident as well.
A real sipper and I enjoyed it but drinking a bottle of this by yourself is a bad idea so share it with a friend. A little goes a long way with this sort of beer.