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Dozens stand in rain for chance to buy Westies for first time

westie_1Today is the last day in our lifetimes that there will ever be a triple date day. That means that the next time there is a date where all three numbers are the same will not be until January 1st 2101 – 01/01/01. Today is also the likely the last day you will be able to purchase the Holy Grail of beers, Westvleteren 12, legally in the US. If the crowds at Total Wine this morning are any indication, that is.

It was wet, rainy, and slightly chilly at 6:00 a.m. when I arrived at the Total Wine in Jacksonville, Fla. But, I was not the first intrepid beer aficionado to arrive. In the pre-dawn hours of what I like to call Westie Day, there were already about 12 in line before me.

Why would anyone stand out in the cold rain in December to buy beer? Because Westvleteren 12 is no ordinary beer; it is, as I mentioned above, the Holy Grail of beer. Add to that fact that it is also one of the rarest beers in the world as well as considered one of the best beers in the world, and you have a recipe for what is one of the biggest events in recent beer history.

westie_2The event is so big that it even made it on NPR this morning. According to the story on NPR and And, Mark Bode, the brewery’s Westvleteren, this unprecedented event is not likely to repeat.

“I think it will be the last,” said Bode. And since visitors are not allowed in the Abbey, he is the authority on the monks’ views.

“They say, ‘We are monks, we don’t want to be too commercial. We needed some money to help us buy the new abbey and that’s it,’ ” Bode expounds.

westie_4The brew, which is selling for $84.99 a six-pack including two special chalices, was made for export this one time due to a dire need to repair the roof of the Abbey in Belgium. Since monks take a vow of poverty, they do not have cash reserves for the needed repairs and released the brew to finance the repairs.

The regular method of obtaining the brew is, well, arduous at best. Even the most ardent of beer-lovers could get discouraged by the process that requires apostles of the brew to call a special telephone number that may, or may not be answered. If, after multitudes of calls (some report that it can take months to get through to the Abbey) you are lucky enough to get someone on the line, you are told when you can come and line up for beer. But, that does not mean you will get the brew, only that you have the right to stand in line on that specific day. You may find, when you get to the front of the line, that they have sold that day’s allotment of Westies.

The brew is so rare because the monks only produce enough to support the Abbey. That equates to less than 4,000 barrels a year. The monks are westie_3adamant that they are not producing beer to make a profit, only to support their day-to-day needs. They also ask all who purchase the beer at the Abbey to sign an affidavit that states the beer will not be resold at a bar or beer shop. This rule is often technically followed by beer sellers in Belgium who will include a “free” bottle of the brew with a beer purchase or shipment of a certain dollar amount.

For the folks standing in the cold rain this morning, the fact that the beer is even available was reason enough to face the elements. Brenden Bledsoe said of the opportunity, “I’m stoked to be one of the few to be able to enjoy one of the world’s finest beers with friends and family during the holidays.”

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2012 in Beer, Belgian

 

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Westies to be Available in U.S. in September

Late last year it was announced that one of the most sought-after beers in the world would be legally available for the first time in the United States. The news was that the brew would be put into limited release in April. Well, April has come and gone, but the beer – Westvleteren 12 – did not materialize. To beer drinkers who were salivating at the opportunity to get a hold of this legendary brew, that was a big disappointment.

The good news – according to a news release from Shelton Brothers, the U.S. distributer of the beer, on Friday, June 16, eight cases of the brew will be available for tasting at their beer festival next week on June 23rd and 24th at Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts. The icing on the cake is that attendees at the Festival will be given the opportunity to purchase a Westvleteren 12 gift pack.

The rest of the beer-loving population of the U.S. will have to wait until September when the distributers expect the rest of the Westvleteren release to be available for purchase.

Users of the website BeerAdvocate.com rate this brew at a perfect 100 out of 100. To many, it is the epitome of the beer experience, it is a rare beer, it is an exceedingly well-made beer, and its complexity satisfies in a way that other beers simply do not. One reviewer described the beer, “This was a fantastic beer that definitely lived up to its hype. Definitely by far the best Quad I’ve ever had. The beer was very complex, while everything balanced perfectly into a great beer.”

Westvleteren 12, as the reviewer above notes, is a Belgian Quad brewed at the Brouwerij Westvleteren (Sint-Sixtusabdij van Westvleteren) by Trappist monks and is a certified Trappist brew by The Vatican. According to the Shelton Brothers press release, “The Abbey of St Sixtus, located in the far west of Belgium, is home to 24 monks, and the Trappist Westvleteren brewery that they have operated since 1838. The brewery is one of only six Trappist breweries in Belgium, and is the second-smallest of them. (Only the Achel Trappist brewery is a bit smaller.) It produces about 50,000 cases of beer per year, which is sold only at the gates of the Abbey, one case per customer only. It makes only three beers – Westvleteren Blonde, Westvleteren 8°, and Westvleteren 12°. About half of the brewery’s production is of Westvleteren 12°, the most popular of the beers and, as every beer aficionado knows, the highest-rated beer in the world.”

This brew is so rare because of how difficult it is to obtain. The Abby’s website states that in order to purchase Westvleteren brews you must first check when the reservation lines will be open, obtain a reservation to pick the beer up at the Abby, and then arrive to line up and wait. A place in line, however, does not assure that you will get 12, only that you have a place in line to get what is available that day. To make it even more difficult, purchasers are limited to only one reservation every six weeks. Further, purchasers are prohibited from reselling the brew to any third party – though it often is. Two bottles of the beer routinely sells on Ebay for $450 or more.

But, just because the brew will be available for purchase in the United States legally in September, do not expect to get your hands on it. The release will be extremely limited and a check with local Jacksonville distributers revealed that they do not expect to get any for the north Florida market. Some outlets on the Internet will let you pre-order the gift pack, which will include six bottles of the beer and two logo chalices. However, be wary of these sites and only do business with dealers you know and trust.

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2012 in Beer, Beer News

 

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Westvleteren 12 to be Available in US for First Time

The Westvleteren beers. In the glass is the 12°

Image via Wikipedia

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!

Cheers!

Marc Wisdom

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2012 in Beer, Beer News, Belgian, Imports

 

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