I was recently given a bottle of Westvleteren 12; a big hype, for the most part originating in America, surrounds this beer and has established it as the ”world’s best beer”. A phenomena associated with its rarity and high price (should you find it on the retail shelf)? Or is it really the Number 1 of beers? If you remember, last year I tasted St Bernardus 8 and wrote about the close link between St Bernardus and the monks at St Sixtus, Westvleteren.
After the Second World War, following the decision of the St. Sixtus monks not to commercialise beers produced at their monastery they came to a production agreement with St. Bernardus; the brew master from Westvleteren became a partner in the St Bernardus brewery and brought along the recipes, the know-how and the St.Sixtus yeast strain.
The beers were marketed as St Sixtus until 1992 when the Trappist beer seal was introduced, a condition of which was that the beers had to be brewed within a Trappist monastery. From this time the beers were branded as St. Bernardus Pater 6, Prior 8 and Abt 12 instead of St. Sixtus but were still brewed to the original Westvleteren brewmaster recipe with the the same yeast strain.
So, before I try ” the world’s best beer” I’ve decided to taste its sibling, St. Bernardus Abt 12, which, apart from being rated as one of the world’s best is also readily available.
Looks good in the glass, darkbrown with a dense head. The aroma promises everything; ripe fruit, fresh baked dark bread, alcohol and spiciness. All of this and more follow through in the taste. The alcohol (10% vol.) is very apparent and together with the fruitiness gives a rich sherry like feel.
A touch of bitterness and clove spiciness from the start round it all up. You could sip this all evening and believe you’re in heaven. Westvleteren 12 certainly has a hard task to outdo St Bernardus 12.