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Westvleteren 8

August 2nd, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 3 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Brouwerij Westvleteren, Country: Belgium, Grade: A plus, Grade: B plus, Style: Belgian Pale Ale, Style: Dubbel

8% ABV bottled

Last Friday would prove to be one of the greatest extended drinking days of my life, and when all was said and done, I had polished off eight top 100 beers, five of them in the top 25, and three in the top 10.*  The centerpiece of the day being a much-anticipated blind tasting between the two best quadruples in the world:  Belgian trappist beers Westvleteren 12 and Rochefort 10.  Now these beers are often said to be nearly identical.  Rochefort 10 considered a worthy and accessible proxy for the rarer Westvleteren 12.  In fact, many people think the 11th rated Rochefort 10 to be every bit as good as the “best beer in the world” Westvleteren 12, save for the fact that it can pretty much be bought in every Whole Foods in America while the Westy is only able for purchase on a few days a year and straight from the source, the Abbey of Saint Sixtus.  I’d had one bottle of each beer previously, given each an enthusiastic A+, and though these tastings had been separated by several months, in my mind I believed that Rochefort 10 was the better beer.  In my notes I had thought it boozier and with a more pleasant candi taste that the muted Westvleteren 12.

Well…let the blind tasting speak for itself:  Westvleteren 12 absolutely humbled Rochefort 10.  The Rochefort–how can I put this?–smelled vomitous.  I thought I had a dirty glass at first, but no, it was certainly the beer.  And The Captain agreed with me.  Did we have a bad bottle?  No, I just suspect the Westy was so damn good it had rendered the Rochefort 10 worse in our mind.  Admittedly, though, the Rochefort’s taste was fine, even good.  Boozy, a little uneven, a dry maltiness and minimal candi taste.  The superior Westy though was sweet and incredibly smooth, liquid silk, with tastes of dark fruit, Belgian candi, and toffee.  And, this time, the semi-mocking quote marks came off and it was truly THE BEST BEER IN THE WORLD.  On this day at least.  I had never had a better single beer.  Which is what makes great beer interesting.  A different batch, a little more aging, a little less aging, and even the same beer can be eons different.  Perhaps the next time these two venerable quads face each other the results will differ, but on this one day in July, 2009, Manhattan, New York City, Westvleteren 12 was the ungodly victor.

Later, I got my first crack at little brother Westvleteren 8, a dubbel.  I can now proudly say I have had 21 of the top 25 BA-ranked beers in the world, only lacking four hard-to-obtain tap-only offerings.**  And, just like Westy 12, Westy 8 would quickly replace Westmalle as the best dubbel I’ve now ever had.  A creamy yeast and malt combination with some raisins, plums, and just a touch a smooth booziness.  Thinner mouthfeel and a tad more carbonation than Westy 12, which is to be expected.  Perfectly constructed.  Simply sublime.

A+

Westvleteren Blonde

5.8% ABV bottled

Finally, I got to complete the trappist troika with Westy Blonde, the low-ABV “table beer” for the Saint Sixtus’s monks.  This beer is obviously not meant to knock your socks off, and it doesn’t, especially since I don’t believe monks wear socks, but it is still quite solid.  Tart, fizzy, almost a little sour like a subtle Brett beer.  Just nice craftsmanship.  This is a very good session beer and a nice little bottle of “liquid bread.”  Don’t trade the farm to acquire some, but an interesting beer curio for sure, and I am happy to have had it.

B+

*R-L:  Three Floyds Dark Lord, Rochefort 10, Lost Abbey Angel’s Share bourbon and brandy barrel-aged, Westy Blond, Westy 8, and Westy 12.

My day would also include, among others:  Stone Imperial Russian Stout (on tap!), Goose Island Night Stalker (on tap!), AleSmith YuleSmith, and Brooklyn Locals 1 and 2.  Wow!

**For the record:  Pliny the Younger, Dark Lord Vanilla Bean, Dark Lord Oaked, and Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout.  I wonder if I’ll ever locate these bad boys or attend the rare events where they are tapped.

Westvleteren 12

July 7th, 2009 by Aaron Goldfarb | 9 Comments | Filed in Brewer: Brouwerij Westvleteren, Country: Belgium, Grade: A plus, Style: Quadrupel

10.2% ABV bottled

Guys like me don’t have “best moments of our lives.”  At least not the kind of ones stereotyped by Hallmark commercials and romantic comedies.

We’re fuckups hedonistically drifting through life, bypassing and neglecting all the so-called status quo achievements that are supposed to make up an existence.

We don’t get engaged, or god forbid, married because we can’t keep a nice girl on the hook that long.  Naw, we’d rather hubristically keep rolling the dice, trying to get better and better and more and more women, which ultimately just leads to us squandering everything and being drunk and lonely.

We won’t ever buy a nice first house in the suburbs because we’re still renting an urban shoebox at age 30.  How could we possibly afford anything better?  Anything we’d actually own?  We don’t save money.  Good lord no.  We futz it away.  Spend it on stuff that is only tangible from the time it takes to enter our mouth, filter through our system, and come out the other end.  Good food and drink.  And smokes, maybe narcotics.  Wine, women, and song.  And stupid bets.  Always stupid bets.

Raises schmaises.  You got to be kidding me.  How ’bout just having health care for once in your life?  Isn’t it ironic that the people that live the most risky, transgressive, daredevilish lives are also the ones least likely to have health care?  The guy that puts on Haggar wrinkle-free dress slacks and a golf shirt every day to go to his beancounter job, who never over-indulges in anything, never does anything not by the book, yeah, of course he has health care, and a great plan too, but what’s the worst thing that’s gonna happen to him?  Stub his toe at night?  Get a cold from his sneezy secretary?

And let’s not talk about offspring.  Isn’t it funny how for a married, or at least in love, man, impregnating someone (er, his partner), is the absolute greatest moment of his life, never to be topped.  While for a financially unstable single man, that would be far and away the worst moment of his life?

Great moments in life deserve a great beer.  (Did I just make up a new slogan for Coors?!)  And the greatest beer of all is most often considered to be the immortal Westvleteren 12.  (I’ll allow you to do the Google research yourself.) And it is the phenomenally reviewed, very rarest of finds Westvleteren 12, a beer you may only be lucky enough to have a single bottle of in your entire life, that most people tend to save to augment one of the aforementioned great moments of their life.

Kid pops out of your wife’s twat?  Hey, let’s pop the Westy 12.  Just signed the mortage on your first house?  Why open the Westy 12 friendo.  I’m getting a promotion (in name only)?!  Nice.  It’s Westy time!

But I don’t get those great moments.  Perhaps I never will.  How sad.  So what does that leave me with?  What are gonna be the great moments of my life?  When do I get to drink my Westy 12?

Discovering masturbation was an awesome and seminal (rim shot!) moment of my life but I wasn’t exactly into craft beer back around Bar Mitzvah age.  Making a little love to a hot chick is always swell, but most girls want you to talk to them post-coitally, not go, “Uh…could you excuse me while I pay a visit to my beer cellar?  I want to drink a glorious beer to celebrate just having intercourse with the…let’s say 9 out of 10 that you are.”  My favorite sports team wins a title?  I celebrate another birthday having not been killed by gang violence?  A new season of “Mad Men” premieres?  Another STD free year?!  YES!  It’s Westy time!

Eh, I don’t know.  The devil may care, but I ultimately just picked an unassuming Wednesday afternoon and decided to split my sole eleven ounces of Westvleteren 12 with a good beer friend*.  The anticipation was palpable and the beer of course delivered, but first I lost about a solid ounce upon opening as this one was a gusher (something I’m told is typical).  Every dark fruit in the book, raisins, plums, banana esters, caramel, gingerbread, a touch of yeast, and some smooth dry booziness.  Very drinkable, goes down with ease and pleasure.  A true privilege to drink.

There’s not much else to say about it that hasn’t been said before.  Is it the best beer of all-time?  That’s the question that everyone who has never had it always wants to know.  And, the answer is…maybe.  You tell me you think it’s the greatest beer of all-time and I won’t debate that.  It’s one of the best I’ve ever had in fact.  But, surprisingly, in the trappist quad category, I think I like Rochefort 10 a tad better due to its slightly more flavorful sweetness.  Whatever the case, Westvleteren 12 is magnificent, and you need not worry about saving it for a “great” life moment.  Then again, don’t be so cavalier to just chug one straight from the bottle (with a koozie!) while mowing your lawn.  Although that would actually make you pretty awesome in my book.

A+

*Yarmulke-tip to The Captain for hooking me up with this bottle.