“We are not brewers. We are monks. We brew beer to be able to afford being monks.”
I don’t consider myself to be an expert on beers. I can’t tell you if a beer has a faint aroma of molasses or ass. I know what I like. If I’m in Thailand, I’m drinking Singha. In Vietnam, I’m drinking Bier Ha Noi. In Italy, I’m drinking Peroni. In America, I’m drinking Guiness.
My taste vary depending on the region I’m in and the food I’m eating. I believe that the locals brewed their beers of choice based on the foods they were use to eating. Hence, why a Sapporo goes better with sushi and yakiniku than a Budweiser does.
When it comes time to have a beer for the sake of enjoying a cold, delicious beer, my choice always seems to be Belgian. Since I had my first Delirium, I’ve been in love with Belgians. Any time I go to a Belgian beer house or festival, I make it a point to try two or three new beers I haven’t tasted before.
Several months ago, I was taking a studio portrait for a new commander on my ship. Prior to arriving in Japan, he had been stationed at a NATO base in Belgium. Naturally we began discussing Belgian chocolate and beer. He told me that he was waiting on two cases of this hard to get beer from an abbey in Belgium. Apparently, this abbey only brews enough beer to keep the abbey running.
In order to purchase the beer, you must be there in person at the exact date and time they reserve you for. The monks at the abbey will tell you how many bottles of the beer you can purchase and how many times a year you’re allowed to purchase. Fast forward to last week when I see the commander and ask him if he ever received his cases. He did, he told me, and he was going to bring me a bottle to enjoy.
According to a webpage devoted to the beer, “Westvleteren 12 is a Belgian Trappist Ale that has consistently been voted the single best tasting beer in the world. All major beer rating sites agree that this is the pinnacle of beers, including: Beer Advocate, Rate Beer and Beer Pal. That’s a little over 2,300 beer experts saying that this is the best beer, anywhere.”
Located in the western corner of Belgium, the St Sixtus Abbey (or Westvleteren Abdij) is home to the Trappist Westvleteren Brewery. The Brewery was founded in 1838 and is owned and operated by the monks of the St Sixus Abbey.
Enough background, you probably want to know how it taste.
First, like a good wine, you have to know how to drink it right. After refrigerating it, leave the bottle out at room temperature for 30 minutes before opening the cap. Immediately upon opening, pour the ale into a Westvleteren glass (or similar. Most Belgian beers have their own glasses.), trying not to let too much head fill the glass. Now you can taste. Taste, not chug or down.
Immediately, I tasted the caramel whose aroma I smelled when I tipped the glass to my nose. After that, the light spices and brown sugar filled my palate. Though the ale has a 10.2% alcohol content, it goes down very smooth, almost butter-like. After a sip, I admired the liquid in my glass (I used a Leffe glass); deep brown, hit of amber at the bottom, thin head and bubbly.
Does it live up to its online hype? I say, “Yes.” I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s the best beer I’ve had, but it’s definitely in the top five. I definitely believe that its rarity fuels some of the belief that this is the world’s number one beer. I’m definitely a fan though and would recommend this beer on any beer lover’s list.