About a month ago I took a ‘beer culture’ trip out to Holland with some work folk. We did Amsterdam, Den Bosch, and Maastricht over the course of 6 days. I had gone to Amsterdam a year ago and spent a whole day looking for the famous Westvletern 12, most notably known as the best beer in the world according to many online publications and beer aficionados.
Westvletern 12 is brewed at a Belgian brewery that was founded in 1838 inside the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvletern in the Belgian municipality of Vletern. Three beers (a Blonde, an Extra and the 12, which is a Quad) are brewed there by monks and only enough is produced to sustain the well-being of the abbey so availability of these beers is extremely limited. The beer is mainly unavailable in the US and the only way it can be obtained is to go to the abbey yourself in Belgium and buy it there. But even if so you’re limited to only one case per 60 days!
The style falls into the Quad category, which is brewed with Belgian yeast and boasts strong malt character and high levels alcohol. The “Westy 12” chimes in at 10.2% ABV.
Long story short there was this shop in Amsterdam that sold individual bottles of the 12 for about 18 euros ($25). I had to buy one since I’d never tried it. I brought it back here to Massachusetts with me and wanted to share my thoughts with you.
Here we go. I’ve waited a month for this…
Appearance: Murkey brown in color with faint signs of reddish hues when held up to the light. A thin, white head on top along with ample amounts of suspended sediment ensures that this beer will be full of flavor.
Aroma: Dark fruits. Cherry, raison, caramel. Oakey, red wine scents are there. I get some plum in there too. Dates maybe? Nothing too overpowering either so the Belgian yeast phenols are preserved. Very inviting.
Taste: Wow. Again, the dark fruits and raison really come through up front and the complexity of the malt gives a delicious caramelly bond to everything that’s at work here. I get a little green apple in there, some wood. Toffee too. And a bit of booze leaves a bit of warmth on the palate but only enough to make you go back for another sip. Sweet. Valhallian in malt flavor. Delicious
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied. Creamy as hell with some sharpness coaxing its way in there during the aftertaste from the carbonation. Finishes sweet but mellow.
Overall Thoughts?: It’s hard to say what the best beer in the world is. And I’m not a huge fan of the Quad style because of the high alcohol volume which normally accompanies Quads usually distracts me from what’s truly going on in the beer. But the Westvleteren 12 really is an incredible offering. The flavor is just unmatchable and the complexity of the malt and fruity notes deserves the hype. Would I rank it the best beer I’ve ever had? Maybe. Quad? Absolutely. Definitely a beer that anyone who appreciates world class beer should try. And one that you can age for several years!
Unofficial Rating?: A+