Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Westvleteren 12

I'll not decline this sort of gift. A crate of craft beer is honestly more appreciated than many other choices, except homebakes, spices we love and a donation to our-or-the giver's favorite charities. In fact, the man and I are beyond thrilled to get our hands on a bottle of the Westvleteren 12 because our dearest friends tracked down a shipment to haul it into town.

We've had our eye on it for a while, but never got around to putting in wholehearted efforts to procure it, not even when the bff and other good friends were very recently in west Belgium. We've simply stuck to the fairly easily available Trappist Rochefort, often preferring No.8, and at times when we need a stronger draught, the No.10 is ideal. I've stopped complaining that 'beer is gassy I no like'. As my understanding of beer exploded with ales and craft brews, that line disappeared. The beautiful beautiful beers aren't at all gassy, and they ought to be drunk not too chilled. So bye bye the mainstream gassy horrible-tasting beers. Ales are welcome now.

The Westvleteren 12 is brewed by some 30 Cistercian monks at St. Sixtus Abbey. Ahh......the haunting beauty of Trappist beers. Some call it nectar. It's all about the water, yo. As with all things brewed (tea, single malts, coffee even, beer definitely...), it's all about the water. The Westvleteren 12 isn't just overhyped because its production is tightly controlled, and there's been so little of it each year since 1945. It is indeed the best of all Trappist beers out here. Okay, there aren't that many lah. But it's a great beer that's a true craft beer in every sense of the definition. In Teri Schultz's recent article on NPR, beer blogger Andrew Stroehlein summarized it nicely,

"You call the number over a series of days, weeks, months and nobody answers," he says, recounting how he tried to contact the abbey's beer shop. "Then finally somebody does answer. They tell you when you can come; they tell you what beer you can buy; they tell you how much you're gonna pay. And if you don't like it, then God be with you." 

Pity we don't have the right beer glass to hold the Westvleteren 12. But we figured anything wide-neck would do, as long as the beer could breathe. Sipped it. Savored it. Lingered over it. Gave it my full attention. It was pure nectar. I refused to drink anything else after this beer. The complexity is gorgeous. Caramel, honey, malt, toffee, cream, plum, earthy and rich. Loved that aftertaste.

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