In January of this year I wrote an article with news that was huge for United States beer lovers. News that I compared to, “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.” And I was not kidding, it was big news for the U.S. But, the beer that I have today is just as big for Jacksonville beer drinkers: fellow Belgian beer lovers rejoice! Westvleteren 12 will be available for purchase on Dec. 12 at Total Wine in St. John’s Town Center. Yes, you read that right, the Holy Grail of the beer world is coming to little ol’ Jacksonivlle. There will be no tickets to purchase, no reserving of the beer, and you cannot order it over the telephone. You have to go to the store on Dec. 12 to purchase the brew.
you may remember, while I was visiting the Belgium in 2010, 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 my beer writing activities.
With a glimmer in her eye, Marie asked if I had ever tried a Westie. I replied that I had not. 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. When I origianlly wrote about the beer, this is what I said, “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. But, that had not always been the case. 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. If you are lucky enough to obtain permission to purchase the brew, you are allowed only one case of 24 bottles of Westvleteren 12. 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 would be available and those were to be packaged into a six-pack with two glasses. In November U.S. importers Shelton Bothers and Mannekin-Brusel announced that they would have limited quantities of the beer available in the gift packs beginning in April. That date stretched to June and, for Jacksonville, December.
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. Critics and beer afficianados alike agree that this brew is sublime.
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 you definitely want to get your hands on 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.
Total Wine will offer the six-packs packaged with two logo chalices for $84.99.
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.
Keep up to date on all the beer happenings and news going on in town at the ALL NEW www.JaxBeerGuy.com.
- Trappists laid bare (beersay.wordpress.com)
- Brewery Cantillon – Introduction (cosytravels.wordpress.com)