Tasting: August 29, 2014
Style: Belgian Quad
Beer #: 594
About ten years ago, I read an article about the St. Sixtus Abbey and their beer – Westvleteren XII. The article described the onslaught of attention this Belgian monastery earned when Westvleteren XII was named the best beer in the world (I don’t recall who deemed it as such). The abbey was bombarded with requests and monks had to issue a reminder that the beer was simply a means to fund their endeavors and they had no intention of taking it to a grand scale. I think it went something like, “we make beer to live – we do not live for the beer”. It remained illusive and critically acclaimed. The Beer Advocate community had Westvleteren XII entrenched as their best beer in the world for a number of years.
Fast forward to 2012 – the abbey needed some fast cash for building work and for the first and only time, they sold a very limited quantity of Westvleteren XII in the United States. They sold gift packs that included glassware and six bottles for about $85. Maybe it’s just a matter of coincidence but shortly after the United States release, Westvleteren XII tumbled to number eight on the Beer Advocate list. Maybe rarity did make the heart grow fonder.
Acquiring this beer is still requires some effort. First, you have to call the abbey to make an appointment to pick up the beer and apparently, they don’t answer the phone with any regularity. You can only make one appointment every six months. Once you secure your appointment, you drive to St. Sixtus and you have one case loaded into your car. Your plates are photographed and checked to make sure that you are abiding by the rule that limits you to one case every six months.
Rare as it is, I surprised to be holding two bottles of Westvleteren XII. These bottles come from fellow pop – John. His sister traveled to Europe in the fall and jumped through all the hoops and shipped back the loot. That’s a great sister.
The bottles released in the United States has gold leaf roman numerals on the label – but the only indication of the brand comes from the bottle cap and the embossed glass. It is said that this beer compares to St. Bernadus’ Abt 12 (readily available in the US). It may not be a coincidence as St. Bernadus was a contract brewer for St. Sixtus and had originally brewed Westvletern XII. Read my take on St. Bernadus Abt 12 (92 points) .
The pour is amazingly bubbly, it actually fizzes up and out the bottle. Some floaty bits that I assume are bits of yeast. That effervescence takes quite some time to quiet. Flavors underneath are very complex. I get raisin, white wine a little funky sourness and rich caramel. Lots of boozy heat and at 10.2% not surprising. I totally respect the reputation. I may be a bit lost on the style – but I can easily peg it at 93 points.