Beer Review: Westvleteren 12 by Brouwerij Westvleteren

Normally the trappist brews are Tom’s domain, but I’ve been waiting a long time to try this one and it’s been long worth the wait. I recently came into three bottles of this from its limited distribution on the east coast earlier this summer and have been waiting to kick a terrible case of mono I’ve had for the past month before I opened the first of them.

A little background: Westvleteren 12 (and all the other Brouwerij Westvelteren beers) are very, very highly sought after. They have the smallest output of any of the trappist breweries and Westvleteren 12 consistently places in the top beer lists year after year. Up until this year it has never been distributed legally in the United States, coming to our shores through overseas beer trades, in the luggage of overseas vacationers, and through other various methods. This year, however, to pay for some capital improvements at the monastery, six-packs will be sold with two glasses for $85.00 or so. This may seem like a lot, but the opportunity to purchase six normally next-to-impossible to buy beers off the shelf is one I’m definitely going to jump on (if I even get the chance).

Regardless, I have the beer and I’ve consumed it, so does it live up to the hype?

As you can see above, Westvleteren 12 pours a ridiculous head. It was ten to fifteen minutes before it died down enough for me to start drinking. Now that is head retention if I’ve ever seen it. Just an FYI, the wait was no problem, as this is a beer that improves markedly as it warms up. The beer itself is very, very dark brown, without much clarity. I’m not sure if it is bottle conditioned, but I would assume so based on the murkiness.

The smell of it is intense: a ton of dark fruit (raisins, figs, plums), an almost vinous port-like smell, fruity Belgian yeast esters, and a not insignificant, yet not unpleasant, bit of fusel alcohol. The taste, if possible is even more complex and impressive than the nose. This tastes just about how the perfect Belgian quad would taste. Sweet without being cloying, the slightest bit of roasted malts on the finish. I get a lot of the same notes that I smelled in it initially, along with candi sugar and brown sugar. The alcohol is definitely not hidden, but it doesn’t burn or hurt the experience at all. The body is a tad heavier than moderate, with an extremely creamy mouthfeel from the carbonation.

Overall, this was an absolute treat. I had some high expectations for this beer coming into it and it easily meets or surpasses all of them. Before trying this, Rochefort 10 was by far my favorite quad, but if Rocherfort 10 is other-worldly, Westvleteren 12 is extragalactic. It is certainly in a league of its own. I’ll say this: if you are someone who appreciates good beers, you owe it to yourself to try one of these during your lifetime, regardless of the cost.

The only thing that breaks my heart about trying this beer is knowing that I only have two bottles left. It’s going to take some real special occasions to get them out of my cellar.

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