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STOP THE PRESSES! Seriously, stop them right now. I just read an article from the Masslive.com, the Internet presence of The Republican, that something wonderful is about to happen. It’s akin to finding that Elvis is still alive and munching peanut butter and ‘nana sandwiches. It’s as if you found a lotto ticket on the ground only to discover it is the jackpot winner. It’s like waking up between Olivia Wilde and Scarlett Johansson. This is big, BIG news!
The Holy Grail of all beers will be available in very limited quantities in the United States for the first time ever. Yes, I am referring to Westvleteren 12. This beer is the nectar of the Gods, the beer of all beers, the end-all, be-all of the beer world affectionately known as “Westie.”
As loyal readers of this blog may recall, while I was visiting the fair country of Belgium I stopped into a quaint 400-year-old tavern called Au Bon Vieux Temps owned by a lovely – and lively – woman named Marie. As I perused the menu and ordered beers, I became friends with Marie and we began talking about this blog and my other beer writing activities. With a glimmer in her eye, Marie asked if I had ever tried a Westie. When she asked if I would like to, I wondered exactly who in the bar I would have to bump off before I got my hands on one of those extremely rare brews. I, of course, blurted that I would LOVE to try a Westie. A moment later she disappeared into the cellar behind and beneath the bar. She returned with not one, but three of the plain bottles. She handed them to the bartender who opened it, presented me with the bottle cap (which I still have) and poured the brew into a chalice. This is what I had to say about the beer back then, “I sniffed the thick head that formed at the top of the glass and smelled dark fruits – figs, plums, spices, caramel, and alcohol. The first sip was an explosion of sweet maltiness, spices, and a hint of oak.”
Westvleteren is brewed at the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren in Belgium. Monks from the Catsberg monastery in France founded the St. Sixtus monastery in 1831 and began brewing beer in 1838. At that time beer was brewed for the consumption of the monks, guests, and visitors only. But in 1931, the abbey began selling beer to the general public. The beer is sold only to support the monastery and other charitable causes.
While there are currently several secular workers at the brewery, the beer is primarily brewed by the monks only making it the only Trappist brewery where the monks do all of the brewing. Only enough beer is brewed to support the monastery and no more regardless of demand. Only one case of 24 bottles of the 12 is allowed to be purchased per person, per month. The receipt given to purchasers clearly states, “Not for Resale.” In the words of the Father Abbot, “We are no brewers. We are monks. We brew beer to be able to afford being monks.”
In October of 2011 it was announced that the beer would be more widely available for a very limited amount of time in order to temporarily increase funds for urgent and immediate renovations at the monastery. Only 93,000 cases of the beer will be available and they will be packaged into a six-pack with two glasses. In November US importers Shelton Bothers and Mannekin-Brusel announced that they would have limited quantities of the beer available in the gift packs beginning in April.
Many consider the Westie 12 to be the best beer in the world. Indeed in June 2005 during a bi-annual competition, Westvleteren 12 was voted “The Best Beer in the World,” by the members of RateBeer.com. Of all the beers I tasted in Belgium and throughout my life, I would have to agree that it is my favorite beer in the world. But, as is the case in most things, opinions tend to be subjective. Some reviewers attribute the moniker to the rarity of the beer and certainly that is part of the allure. But, for taste, balance and character, I still stand by my assertion of it being my all-time favorite and worthy of being called the best beer in the world.
This is a beer to watch for because you may never get an opportunity to obtain it again. Certainly you will not be able to get it in a gift pack here in the states and probably not unless you go to Belgium and stand outside the abbey in hopes of scoring a case. Some resellers are already taking pre-orders in hopes that they will obtain some of the gift packs when they are released. Take these with a grain of salt and beware of who you are sending your money to. Prices have not been set yet and are likely to be steep when they are. So, be careful to only purchase from a reputable source.
If you are lucky enough to snag a six-pack, be sure to share it with good friends who will truly enjoy this exceedingly wonderful and rare brew.
Until next time,
Long Live the Brewers!