REVIEW: Westvleteren 12
What’s the best beer in the world?
If you asked a really smart person, they’d probably say there’s no right answer because “best” is too ambiguous. If you asked me back in college, I would’ve screamed “CHILLABLE RED” and chucked the empty box of Franzia at your face. (I was a spirited young drunk.) But if you actually want an answer, then the ratings and reviews will tell you it’s Westvleteren 12.
Westvleteren 12 comes from Westvleteren Brewery, a monastery located in Nowheresville, Belgium. That’s right, the best beer ever made is by a bunch of old men who’ve never even gotten laid. They make three different styles, but the 12 is considered their masterpiece. It’s a quad that clocks in at 10.2%, and those damn monks didn’t get the memo that money is awesome, because they only sell just enough to keep their monastery up and running. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the only way to actually purchase their beer is to hitch a flight to Belgium, buy a car, tell the monks the license plate number of said car, wait a couple months until there’s an open spot for you to swing by, then drive out to their monastery on one of the pre-approved days to purchase a very limited number of bottles. (You can read all their crazy rules here.) It’s no surprise that the rare black market bottles sell for hundreds of dollars.
Why am I telling you this, you might ask? Why dangle all this well-written backstory in front of you when it’s obviously an impossible beer to get ahold of? Because, my friends, sometimes extraordinary things happen to ordinary people.
All credit and praise goes to Tim M., international traveler and beer scout extraordinaire. He brought me back a bottle from his recent trip to Belgium, and while his method of acquisition was not quite as saintly as the monks may have intended (read: he bought it off a shady reselling heathen), it was sure to be a religious experience for me. I had dreamt of this beer for years, and now all my prayers to Beer Jesus had finally paid off.
I planned my whole day around the event. I could barely sleep the night before. I bought a ridiculously expensive Trappist drinking glass because I don’t really understand why the glass shape matters but I wasn’t going to risk anything. I bought a slab of dark chocolate with sea salted almonds in case I needed a tasting component. I changed outfits twice. Then, at 6:38pm on a Sunday, at the recommended temperature of precisely 53.6 Fahrenheit, I drank me a Westvleteren 12.
I don’t really want to get into technicalities here. There are better qualified people who’ve written lengthy dissections of every note, malt, and flavor within this beer. So I’m going to keep this review purely reactionary.
The color is a rich deep brown, and the smell is almost like grape juice. I’m pretty sure that I blacked out after the first sip. It is the most balanced, smooth, flavorful beer that I’ve ever had. I’m not a religious woman, but these monks might’ve just convinced me of a higher power. I don’t know how else to explain what they’ve achieved. It’s the taste version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Every single aspect comes together perfectly and melds into this unstoppable, unbeatable, unbelievable masterpiece. It’s not so much that I’ve never tasted a beer like it — it’s a quad through and through — but that I’ve never tasted any beer so well-crafted. That it happens to be a quad is icing on the cake: the rich, raisin-y flavors have so much depth with barely any hint of alcohol. This beer makes me want to use words like “mature”, “complex”, and “inimitable”, but I also just want to say HOLY SHIT FUCK YEAH about three dozen times while desperately licking the last remaining drops out of my fancy goblet.
So what’s the best beer in the world? The answer to that question will always be subjective, and I think that’s a good thing. But for me, it’s Westvleteren 12. Holy shit, fuck yeah.
The Monks’ Ridiculous Rules Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Coolness of the Fancy Goblet Rating: 6 out of 10
Overall Rating: 10 out of 10