Name: Westvleteren Abt 12°
Brewery: Brouweij deer Abdij van St. Sixtus
Country of Origin: Belgium
City & State: Westvleteren, Belgium
Style: Quadrupel (Quad)
Alcohol Content (ABV): 10.2%
First Brewed: ca. 1941
Dark malt, blue cheese, wood, plum, and raisin nose. Roasted malts with an outspoken sweetness when young, turning to Sauternes or sherry, chocolate, and overripe fruit with age.
Here it is… the best beer in the world. Not only is this supposed to be the best beer in the world, it is also one of the hardest beers in the world to obtain. Outside of scheduling an appointment with the brewery in Belgium, this beer is nearly impossible to get. We lucked out and got ours on eBay. We grabbed two bottles for $50. Cheaper than a plane ticket, that’s for sure! I do want to see the brewery, regardless of how good the beer is.
We are writing this review on 12/12/12 for a reason. Today, in most cities and states, this beer was released for sale in limited edition (VERY limited edition) gift sets. The set came with six bottles and two glasses for $84.99. The bottles have commemorative labels on them, making it the first time they have ever put labels on this beer. You see, the monks that make this beer are not allowed to take a profit from it. But the brewery needs some TLC and to help raise money they decided to release the beer for the first and what may be the last time. We didn’t buy a gift pack, but a LOT of my beer drinking buddies online did.
Some folks say that this recipe is similar to the St. Bernardus Abt 12. That beer is easy to get, and I am actually not a huge fan of that one. It has a tolerable flavor toward room temperature, but has a weak aroma and basically no flavor. That, and the amount of hype behind Westvleteren… my expectations are REALLY high. I am excited to try it, and to write about it. I am even more excited that we were able to get a bottle without much trouble and without spending an arm and a leg. So today, as many wait in line to spend $84.99 on this beer… we toast you and your first experience with the best beer in the world. Bottoms up, people!
In the Glass: The beer is VERY carbonated. More so than I expected. It had a soda pop sort of head when pouring it into the glass. The head settled quickly leading to a deep dark brown, nearly black color in the glass. There is a very nice lace on this beer, as well. A thin head sits on top of the glass begging me to take a sip.
Nose: It smells like a quad. It is somewhat sweet, and has a subtle fruit aroma. I am getting almost fig on the nose. It is not ice cold, but is chilled. I wanted to make sure we gave it time to warm up as we reviewed it. I love the bottle, too. No labels… just says TRAPPIST on the neck. The bottles that were released today (in Arizona at Total Wine & More) came in a commemorative box and had labels on them. But this bottle, straight from the monks, doesn’t have a label. The cap says what it is… but that’s it! Oh, and I smelled the beer once again. Still sweet, and might be getting sweeter as it sits. OK… here we go. I am about to drink the “best” beer in the world.
Flavor: Yeah, that’s a quad. It has a nice mouthfeel (which I will get to) and slides across the tongue coating your palate with that same sweetness that I was getting on the nose. Maybe it’s just me, but this beer isn’t that impressive. I am not sure why people would rate this the “best” beer in the world. I like Belgian beers, but this is nothing special. If you would do a blind taste test next to the St. Bernardus Abt 12, I wouldn’t be able to tell a difference. It’s good, but this is not the best beer in the world. I have beers in my fridge that are better than this!
Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is really nice. It is thick and does a great job of coating your tongue with flavors that lead to a nice aftertaste. On a second sip, I swirled it around in my mouth for a minute. It really opens up the flavors when doing that. It also heats the beer up just a tad, providing more sweetness than before.
Aftertaste: The aftertaste is nice. The sweetness hangs around and some malty flavors start to come forward… but they are here and gone again just as fast. If you have had a Belgian quad before, it is a very similar flavor. We had some quads in Belgium a few months ago… and they do taste better over there. But still. The aftertaste here is nice, and seeing as how I like sweets, that makes sense.
I must say, I am glad that I didn’t drop $84.99 for the gift set today. Plus, you can buy bottles for $21 online… cheaper than we paid for these! Those bottles online come from Belgium. The monks ask that you don’t buy and resell the product. I get that. But that is a risk they ran by offering this to the general public. There are a LOT of people that bought this beer to resell it. I bought it, had it, and am not that excited to have another anytime soon. We have one more bottle for when we are ready. They don’t expire until 2015, so maybe we will drink the other bottle then.
If you got it, good work! If you like Belgian quads, then you will like this beer. But this beer is not as impressive as I wanted it to be. I will say, monks know how to make good beer. But the hype behind this, as with other beers (Pliny the Elder and Dark Lord to name a couple more) is what makes this beer exciting. If you have one, cheers. Oh, and drink it slow. No reason to go bottoms up on a beer that is over 10% ABV!
Westvleteren Abt 12° – The bottle says: “NA”
Today is a special occasion. Well, sort of. It’s 12/12/12. It is the last date we will see like this, our generation (well, likely) – one with the recurring month, day, and year. Stone Brewing released their last Vertical Epic Ale today, the 12.12.12. They have been doing it since 02/02/02, with the 02.02.02 Vertical Epic, of course. Today is also another special day. Westvleteren 12, voted the #1 beer in the world by some sources, was previously only available for purchase in Belgium at the Westvleteren Brewery. It’s been released once before for purchase in the U.S. and was released again today, for a cost of $85 for a six-pack along with two glasses. We happen to be tasting the Westvleteren 12 today. I’ll leave it up to you to wonder how and where we got it.
The beer poured out really thick and foamy in the glass. I’m talking REALLY thick. There is no seeing through this beer. It’s like a brick wall in a glass. Well, not really. But you definitely can’t see anything in it or through it. And it had a lot of foam when first poured, but that has already pretty well dissipated. While the beer is thick, it’s not too dark. I mean, it’s dark, but not like a porter or stout. It’s more the color of a brown ale, or – surprise – a Belgian. It’s a reddish brown sort of color. The smell kind of reminds me of cinnamon and spices. Lots of spices. It’s a pretty typical Belgian beer smell. And don’t get me wrong, I love Belgian beer. Here’s the thing… Ricky and I are honestly not excepting a lot out of this beer. We feel like it is probably over-hyped. I mean, we’re told that the St. Bernardus 12 (which we have already reviewed) is made with the same recipe. And the St. Bernardus, while good, didn’t knock my socks off. But who knows? Maybe those monks have really got something good after all. Time to find out!
Well, with the first sip, there are those spices. And they do not go away. The first sip, swallow, all of that, is filled with spice, along with some bubbles. It makes my mouth tingle. (Maybe that should be their slogan – makes mouths tingle.) This beer really is pretty good. It’s honestly better than I was expecting. It’s very full, loads of flavor, obviously loads of spices, and just the right amount of carbonation. I really like it. But – I’ve also had Belgians before and like them. It’s good, but is not overly better than other Belgian beers I’ve tried. I’m really having a rough time with the rating here… should it be a 4 or a 5? I don’t hand out 5’s easily. Those are reserved for my very favorite beers. And while good and definitely something I’d try again, I don’t think this one quite hits the elite top of the list for me. But don’t hesitate to try it if you get the chance, as it’s very rare.