Beer of the Week

Five things about … Westvleteren 12

1) I have never been able to spell ‘‘Westvleteren’’ without having to look it up. Not even once. I’ve even resorted to calling it ‘‘Westy’’ instead so as not to have to keep retyping it. But I also have problems remembering where the apostrophe goes in Resch’s or Foster’s and that it doesn’t go anywhere in ‘‘Coopers’’ or ‘‘Tooheys’’. Brewery names are weird.

2) As a renowned cheapskate this is easily the most I’ve paid for a bottle of beer. For the record if cost me $65, which is about $40 over my ‘‘I’m not paying more than this much for a beer’’ threshold’’. So what happened? Well, I had a small windfall (which kind of sounds like I turned over a Community Chest card in a game of Monopoly) and figured I’d buy one to see what the big deal is. I also figured I couldn’t be a big fat beer geek until I could say ‘‘Westvleteren? Yeah, I’ve had one of those’’ (in case you’re wondering, I cut and pasted ‘‘Westvleteren’’ that time. And then too).

3) I know the story about how hard it is to get this beer. That you have to ring up and try your arm by making an appointment at the brewery. Then you have to drive up and pick you very small amount of beer up. Or not – sometimes you still don’t get much.

You ask me, I think that story’s a bit of a beat-up. It’s a bit of spin – more likely peddled by beer geeks than the monks – to make the beer seem more special. For a beer that is supposed to be hard to find, there seems to turn up pretty regularly here in Australia. At least in recent years. I’ve heard the Abbey is in need of some renovations and so the monks ramped up production to make the money for that (which would be totally in keeping with the Trappist association conditions).

4) Now, is it worth $65 a pop? That’s hard to say – clearly the price is driven is no small part by scarcity and all the ‘‘best beer in the world’’ hype. And beer, like anything else, doesn’t work on a multiplier effect – a $65 beer won’t be 13 times better than a $5 beer. So while you can let price determine whether or not you buy a beer, you shouldn’t really let it come into things when you taste the beer.

5) This is a 10.2 per cent beer, which should have blown my head off. But it didn’t. I even played the ‘‘hey, guess what the alcohol is’’ game with my wife by giving her a sip. She’s very sensitive to big beers and she – not lying at all here – said ‘‘zero alcohol’’. Yeah, she was joking a bit but she meant it didn’t taste like there was much there.

And, aside from a bit of alcohol burn at the back end, it truly doesn’t taste like a 10.2 per cent. Making that much alcohol virtually invisible is an unbelievable feat. As for the flavour, ‘‘toffee apples’’ was what sprung immediately to mind. I thought I was an idiot for thinking that, but then I Googled it and found others thought the same – toffee apples and dark fruit. Mmm, tasty.

2 replies »

  1. I can’t add much to the ‘story’, but I did ring the brewery in about 2008 when I was living in London. I had a small window of opportunity to take a road trip with a mate (who had a car) to Belgium before I headed back to Australia. Unfortunately the beer allocations for the days I could go were taken, so I didn’t end up going, but the monk (?) was very helpful and did his best to find a day that suited. From memory you had to give him your car rego number so they can check it before they hand over the goods, and you were only allowed two cartons per car…and promise you won’t sell it on. I believe they also have a ‘brasserie’ on site where you can drink it off the tap.

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