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Looking at eBay, $85 is a pretty good deal
December 12, 2012 9:23 AM   Subscribe

Westvleteren is considered among many to be the holy grail of beers. Produced by 22 monks in a secluded Belgian monastery, it is one of the hardest beers to obtain in the world. It's now going on sale in the US for a very limited release (apparently to raise funds to replace the monastery's roof). Despite the $85 per six pack price tag, fans are lining up all over the country to obtain this legendary beer.
posted by slogger (104 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
I knew of a bar in Chicago that sold Westvleteren XII (years ago.) It's easily the best beer I've ever had.
posted by naju at 9:29 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dear OP slogger,

Thanks for letting me know!

Also -- thanks for letting everybody else know.

Cheers,
Capt. Renault.
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:30 AM on December 12, 2012


99% Invisible, the podcast, did an excellent episode about The Best Beer in the World
posted by I'm Doing the Dishes at 9:31 AM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


If I read this correctly, you can get it at the monastery for 39 euros for a 24-pack!
Or, about $13 for a six-pack. So, thats quite a markup.
posted by vacapinta at 9:32 AM on December 12, 2012


I was just about to post the 99% Invisible link, too. More context on the 99% Invisible blog.
posted by oulipian at 9:32 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Capt, from what I hear, unless you're in line already, there's not much of a chance you'll be able to lay your hands on some.
posted by slogger at 9:33 AM on December 12, 2012


I knew of a bar in Chicago that sold Westvleteren XII (years ago.) It's easily the best beer I've ever had.

You can't use the same number to make a reservation and you can't use the same vehicle when you pick up your 24-pack. So, your bar must have been really sneaky. Also:

Conditions
Westvleteren Trappist is sold only to individual customers. Every customer agrees not to re-sell the beer to any third party.
posted by vacapinta at 9:35 AM on December 12, 2012


Heh, Westvleteren 12. It's a wonderful beer. I've had it a few times, only in Belgium. Its reputation is way, way out of whack. The "best beer in the world" meme got picked up and gave it this cult status.

Here's the funny thing to me about high-priced good beer. $85 for a six-pack? Knock off, say, $10 for the two glasses that come with it, so call it $12.50 a bottle. If you stop thinking in terms of the prices you pay for macrobrews or even microbrews in the grocery store... that's just not that bad. $12.50 for a really, really good beer... I've seen great beers priced that high in high-end beer bars plenty of times.

Think about it in terms of wine. $12.50 for 330mL, so that'd be $28.41 for a wine-bottle-sized portion. For the "best beer in the world". What's the big whoop?
posted by gurple at 9:36 AM on December 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


Its reputation is way, way out of whack. The "best beer in the world" meme got picked up and gave it this cult status.

See "Van Winkle, Pappy".
posted by Egg Shen at 9:38 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Needs the "onNPRtoday" tag.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:39 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I knew of a bar in Chicago that sold Westvleteren XII (years ago.) It's easily the best beer I've ever had.

Hopleaf? Their beer menu actually has a "What about Westvleteren?" side bar that explains they're no longer allowed to resell it, and recommends you try the St. Bernardus 12 instead.
posted by theodolite at 9:40 AM on December 12, 2012


That's amazing that they're selling it in US. I can't remember if you can even buy it in Belgium, outside going to the brewery. In-order to purchase it from the actual brewery, you have to call up the 'Beer Brother', make an appointment and give them the license plate of the car you'll be picking it up with. You also have to agree not to re-sell any beer anyone else.

It's also only 30 Euros a case in Belgium...
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 9:40 AM on December 12, 2012


thats quite a markup.

Revenge for all those comics and books and movies and music and yes, American beers we've had to buy on this side of the pond that have been marked up horribly for decades
posted by MartinWisse at 9:42 AM on December 12, 2012


Or you could brew it yourself.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:42 AM on December 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


Okay, here's my pitch. It's Smokey and the Bandit meets Planes, Trains, and Automobiles for the modern age. A rich Connecticut investor and noted beer snob is throwing a party for himself and his rich friends. Unfortunately, his spoiled son and his bros have drunk all the Westvleteren he's set aside for the event. The investor laments this fact on his Twitter, saying that he'd be in debt to anyone who could bring him a case of this beer.

Jake is a wannabe app designer who works part time at a Brooklyn liquor store. He sees the tweet and runs off with his store's supply of the beer. He has to beg, borrow, and steal transportation in order to get the beer to CT in time for the party. If he does so, he's confident he can get investment in his new app.

However! Jake is not alone. Sasha, a small pop-up theatre/art museum director, wants to do the same in order to save her business. As the on again, off again girlfriend of Jake's boss, she was confident she could get the beer until discovering Jake's theft.

The two are forced to work together, though, as word gets out regarding their mission. A militant Occupy member, dedicated to making sure the rich can't get everything they want, is in pursuit. As are a roving gang of fixie-riding beer snobs who think only they should get to sample the beer as they liked it before it was cool. And don't forget the investor's jerk son eager to win back his father's favor by getting the beer himself!

It's a comic adventure action comedy for the 20-something set. Starring Aubrey Plaza and Joshua Gordon-Levitt. Featuring cameos by Garrett Oliver, Burt Reynolds, the ghosts of both Michael Jacksons, and Jim Koch as the Talking Turkey of the Merritt Parkway.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:42 AM on December 12, 2012 [27 favorites]


Also: goes well with donkey cheese.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:44 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


People will pay a lot of money for good drugs. The funny thing with alcohol, though, it that it's still just alcohol. It will pretty much get you drunk just the same. Still, people will pay enormous sums of money for good wine, scotch, etc. And now beer.

Any soda drinkers here? How much would you pay for the best soda in the world? Two dollars for a can? Maybe three? How about milk? Lemonade?

I assume that most people will pay so much for wine and such because there is such a status associated with it. If others weren't willing to pay so much for it, then no one would.
posted by flarbuse at 9:47 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


$85 dollars is entirely too much for something that still, when all is said and done, tastes like beer.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:50 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


People will pay a lot of money for good drugs. The funny thing with alcohol, though, it that it's still just alcohol. It will pretty much get you drunk just the same. Still, people will pay enormous sums of money for good wine, scotch, etc. And now beer.

Any soda drinkers here? How much would you pay for the best soda in the world? Two dollars for a can? Maybe three? How about milk? Lemonade?

I assume that most people will pay so much for wine and such because there is such a status associated with it. If others weren't willing to pay so much for it, then no one would.
posted by flarbuse at 9:47 AM on December 12 [+] [!]


Seriously? Do you not get the distinction?

It's "just alcohol" in a $2 bottle of Night Train or a $20 beaujolais. Which would ANYONE prefer to drink?

Using your own analogy - it's the same THC in some crappy remnants, or in an excellent, well-grown weed plant. Which one would you prefer to smoke/eat/whatever?

What did I miss, flarbuse?
posted by Thistledown at 9:52 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I received a case as a birthday present from my son. My father-in-law, who is not a beer drinker, grabbed one out of my fridge while he was helping me move. He liked it quite a bit, so a bought a case for him and one for my brother-in-law for helping me move. I also bought a case for myself that is now resting peacefully in my cellar. So, yeah, I'm good.
posted by No Robots at 9:53 AM on December 12, 2012


How much would you pay for the best soda in the world? Two dollars for a can? Maybe three?

You may not be aware of the phenomenon of fancy, expensive sodas that you order in restaurants for 9 dollars or whatnot.
posted by IjonTichy at 9:54 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


All food does is provide essential nutrients to keep you alive. Who would pay more than $15-20 at a restaurant? Just people flaunting their status, surely.
posted by naju at 9:54 AM on December 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Called one of the retailers in my area that is selling it and they're good on stock which should last the day. This will make me the best sister of the year when I give this to my beer loving brother. I will mysteriously hint "Your gift will help repair the home of some very low-income people."
posted by loquat at 9:54 AM on December 12, 2012


Warning: multiple layers of snootery within. On preview, just like much of this thread, it'd seem.

I've had two bottles of Westvleteren, both of them at the Kulminator, which is indeed quite a place to drink (previously). The first bottle I had was from "+/- 1979", older than I am, as it was listed on the menu. And it was really good. Was it the best beer I've ever had? I'm not sure I'd go that far. My buddy said it was the best beer he's ever had, and he doesn't really subscribe to the craftbeergeek hype. The other, another trip to the Kulminator, was a 2010, and was also quite good. I was pleased I'd ticked it it off my list, but I was also content to drink many other things the bar had. I'll happily make the trip out to the Abbey when I get the chance, but this is, I must say, a lot of hype for a very good beer.

For those wondering "Old beer? Surely, that's a terrible plan!", I point you to aging guides such as this and this and this.
posted by knile at 9:55 AM on December 12, 2012


I walked past the display here about two months ago. Grabbed one, put it back. Went home. Regretted it the next morning, went back to the LC to pick it up and found out that it was gone and that I had probably held the last one in the city. Forever.

I'd be willing to trade for some of my Trappistes Rochefort 12 for it! Anyone hope me?
posted by WinnipegDragon at 9:55 AM on December 12, 2012


Or, about $13 for a six-pack. So, thats quite a markup.

The flight to Belgium is a bit more expensive, though.
posted by elizardbits at 9:56 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I also bought a case for myself that is now resting peacefully in my cellar. So, yeah, I'm good.

Who else checked No Robots' profile to see if they were in the neighborhood?
posted by elizardbits at 9:57 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


the ghosts of both Michael Jacksons

This is the straw that broke the back of the camel that was keeping me from guffawing convulsively at my desk and getting strange looks from others in my office.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:58 AM on December 12, 2012


Who else checked No Robots' profile to see if they were in the neighborhood?
posted by elizardbits at 11:57 AM on December 12 [+] [!]

1,300km straight up the Yellowhead Trail from me to him/her. We could even meet in the middle at Saskatoon.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 10:01 AM on December 12, 2012


Beer is unique in the beverage world in that it sees little benefit from aging in the typical strengths at which it's consumed. So it's a "new" or "young" beverage by default. A lot of the cost of wine and distilled spirits is in aging - the producer must set aside stock and tend to it for a number of years (decades!), and this adds to its cost.

In terms of skill - brewing is every inch as challenging as vinting or distilling, and for a beverage at the height of its craft, $85 for two liters (assuming the bottles in the six pack are standard US 12oz) is a relative bargain. Any liquor store in town will have a 750ml bottle of wine that costs that much, and won't be up to the same standard.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:03 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


In any case the idea of there being such a thing as the world's best beer is silly of course; it may be the best Trappist style beer, but if you like stouts or IPAS or even good old pilsners better, it really isn't better than those.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:06 AM on December 12, 2012


Even "the best Trappist style beer" is a bit of a silly concept.
posted by gurple at 10:09 AM on December 12, 2012


It's "just alcohol" in a $2 bottle of Night Train or a $20 beaujolais. Which would ANYONE prefer to drink?

Definitely not the beaujolais! If anybody tried to charge me twenty bucks for that plonk, I'd certainly stick to the Night Train.
posted by Skeptic at 10:10 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


If others weren't willing to pay so much for it, then no one would.

See also: everything.
posted by 3FLryan at 10:13 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Dammit dammit dammit! 1 1/2 hours after the only Birmingham retailer put it out and it's gone. I was banking on this for Christmas presents. Now I have to actually put thought into my gifts. Motherdammit.
posted by robstercraw at 10:13 AM on December 12, 2012


Definitely not the beaujolais! If anybody tried to charge me twenty bucks for that plonk, I'd certainly stick to the Night Train.
posted by Skeptic at 7:10 PM on December 12 [+] [!]

Eponysterical!

Also, Slap*Happy, read the links I provided about how individuals age beer, not so much the breweries.
posted by knile at 10:13 AM on December 12, 2012


From the NPR piece...

In the brewery's cafe, beer connoisseur Andrew Stroehlein, who has blogged his way through an estimated 500 Belgian varieties, says he went through, well, hell and high water to get some Westvleteren.

On a personal note, Andrew is my little brother. He's put aside some Westvleteren for us to share when I visit him and his family in March.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:14 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Think about it in terms of wine. $12.50 for 330mL, so that'd be $28.41 for a wine-bottle-sized portion. For the "best beer in the world". What's the big whoop?

I've long believed that a first rate beer can be just as satisfying (however you want to define that) as a first rate wine or scotch. It's probably that the world's best wines or scotches are better than the world's best beers (and I'm not having any Chateau LaTour '82 anytime soon, either), but there is absolutely nothing lesser about a first rate beer. There is complexity, depth, intro and aftertastes, all of which are easily comparable to any other high end alcohol.

Whether Westvleteren XII is the world's best beer or not, I have no idea, but I would have no hesitation of paying this price to find out.
posted by Capt. Renault at 10:14 AM on December 12, 2012


Any soda drinkers here? How much would you pay for the best soda in the world? Two dollars for a can? Maybe three? How about milk? Lemonade?

How about vinegar?
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:21 AM on December 12, 2012


The Westvleteren crazy is a symbol though of a side of beer appreciation that might be a bit worrying, which is the development of that kind of snobbery through conspicious consumption the upper middle classes are so good at, where being able to score some Westvleteren either through expensive ebay auctions or by being able to go on holiday in Belgium becomes a status symbol.

Beer has always been the workers' drink, the stuff Britain built its industrial revolution on and when on the one hand you have a crackdown on alky booze like cheap "superstrength" lagers and on the other you have beer snobs willing and able to plonk down the best part of a tenner for a small bottle, but not interested in decent mass produced beers, something does seem to be going wrong with beer culture as a whole.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:22 AM on December 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


The funny thing with alcohol, though, it that it's still just alcohol. It will pretty much get you drunk just the same.

Strange to say, but there are people in this world for whom the sole purpose of drinking is not, in fact, to get drunk.
posted by yoink at 10:24 AM on December 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


...beer snobs willing and able to plonk down the best part of a tenner for a small bottle, but not interested in decent mass produced beers...

Explain more to me about these "decent mass-produced beers"! This sounds intriguing!

I kid, but I think there are more than enough beer drinkers to support both mass-market swill (and, OK, fine, the "decent" ones, too) and creative, high-end products. There can be more than one "beer culture". I don't think the "workers" lose anything because good beers become available to people who want them.
posted by gurple at 10:28 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Incredible synchronicity! My mom just came back from Germany with two bottles of Westvleteren (That she got for ten euros apiece). I have one sitting in the kitchen right now.

Now, I haven't had every beer in the world, but it's definitely the best beer I've ever tasted. One of the most complex flavors of any kind I've ever tasted. It's got the tastes of a whole meal in every sip.
posted by cmoj at 10:29 AM on December 12, 2012


Why not brew your own?

I've never had a chance to taste the real stuff, but I've brewed this clone recipe and it's aging under the stairs in the basement. Nine months in and it tastes freakin' fantastic! I expect it will turn out to be the best I've brewed to date.
posted by scottatdrake at 10:33 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Somebody mentioned Rochefort above. Anybody who says that Westvleteren 12 is better than, say, Rochefort 10, is expressing an opinion. Nothing wrong with expressing an opinion. If they're asserting it as fact, they're wrong.
posted by gurple at 10:33 AM on December 12, 2012


Belgian beer sure is nice. That and the chocolate makes up for the weather, just about.

If we're comparing Trappistes ("check out that tonsure!"), Chimay deserves a mention here - more findable and not as famous but in my opinion really, really good.
posted by ianso at 10:40 AM on December 12, 2012


Hey now, let's keep the St. Bernardus 12 to ourselves shall we.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:41 AM on December 12, 2012


Superb strategic planning and market entry. Inimitable in so many ways, right down poverty, chastity and spirituality. I hope they're able to cover the new roof in bright new copper.
posted by infini at 10:45 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anybody who says that Westvleteren 12 is better than, say, Rochefort 10, is expressing an opinion.

That's true, of course. But I would like to be able to form an opinion by tasting the damn thing. Reviews from other people, however accurate, however well-intentioned, are no substitute.
posted by Capt. Renault at 10:48 AM on December 12, 2012


I think there are more than enough beer drinkers to support both mass-market swill (and, OK, fine, the "decent" ones, too) and creative, high-end products. There can be more than one "beer culture". I don't think the "workers" lose anything because good beers become available to people who want them.
Yeah, in the US, anyway, mass-market swill isn't going anywhere. But, there are plenty of decent mass produced beers (thank god for Sam Adams Boston Lager, which even the crappiest watering holes usually have) as well as plenty of fancypants artisinal organic EXTREME QUINTUPLE HOP IPA nano-brewed whatnot.

Belgian beers (and Trappist beers, which are not necessarily all Belgian) are worlds unto themselves. I haven't tried nearly as many as I'd like, but there is tremendous flavor and complexity to be found in many of them. (Mmm, Chimay Blue.)
posted by usonian at 10:54 AM on December 12, 2012


I visited the Orval Brewery this September durring their only two visiting days of the year and I was quite surprised by the lack of monk-y looking dudes practicing their craft.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:02 AM on December 12, 2012


Who the hell is Joshua Gordon-Levitt?
posted by axiom at 11:08 AM on December 12, 2012


Don't think I saw this above -- Retail Locations For the Westvleteren XII Brick (though you're probably too late at this point...)
posted by inigo2 at 11:15 AM on December 12, 2012


I'm stuck at work, with all alcohol-related content blocked by the filters. I can't even call around. I have to rely on Mother Renault to try and track something down, which is, bless her, a sorry state I've been reduced to.

All to chase down a remote, likely already-extinguished possibility, which just this morning, I had no idea even was a possibility, and it's driving me ABSOLUTELY FUCKING BONKERS.

The Buddha's noble truth that all suffering is caused by desire is ringing especially true right now, 'cause man oh man, do I desire this, and man oh man, am I suffering for it.

Alas.

posted by Capt. Renault at 11:15 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was in line by 7 a.m. (it's my job), and I was joined by about 100 others before the store opening at 9. Much as I don't normally wait around for beer (unless it's an Eagles game), it was a fun morning - lots of beer geeks joking this was their "black Friday." When the doors opened, though, there was no rush - just a lot of smiles.

I've tasted Westy 12 at least a dozen times over the years, including at the monastery. Before the monks clamped down on sales, it was fairly easy to find in Brussels, and it would pop up in Philly on occasion. (Despite reports, this is NOT the first time the beer has been legally imported to the U.S.)

Is it the best beer in the world? Well, it's certainly one of the best, though I think its scarcity drives a lot of the hype. Still, I once split a bottle with Michael Jackson, the famed beer critic who you'd figure had no problem getting his share, and I can tell you he loved the stuff.
posted by sixpack at 11:19 AM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Who the hell is Joshua Gordon-Levitt?

For a sixpack of Westvleteren, he's anyone you want him to be, man.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:29 AM on December 12, 2012



That's true, of course. But I would like to be able to form an opinion by tasting the damn thing. Reviews from other people, however accurate, however well-intentioned, are no substitute.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:48 PM on December 12 [+] [!]


I have family visiting from Holland Landing at Xmas this year. I think I could convince them to smuggle you back a bottle or two of Rochefort 10 if you are interested. It's not rated as highly as the Westy, but it's still top-5 or top-10 in most any list you read.

Having said that, this whole post is a lot of salt in the wound...
posted by WinnipegDragon at 11:55 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's selling out in minutes up here in Toronto.
posted by thecjm at 12:14 PM on December 12, 2012


It's an exceptional beer, and those that like beer should certainly try it. I don't have any qualms recommending that.

I'd do it again. Would I drink it every day? Of course not.

It's easy to imagine enjoying it even more after a long hike up to a remote monastery, but we can't all do that.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:24 PM on December 12, 2012



Also, don't shotgun them standing on the front lawn. I expect more than a buzz for my 85$ price tag.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:27 PM on December 12, 2012


Try some after Christmas dinner with candied fruit, nuts and strong cheese.
posted by No Robots at 12:32 PM on December 12, 2012


Much appreciated, WinnipegDragon. I've had the Rochefort 10, and it is indeed a lovely beast.

It is the Westvleteren 12 that is my great white whale.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:34 PM on December 12, 2012


I can't say I understand much about Belgian dubbels and tripels, but I've recommended a number of times Belgian lambics and trappists to people who say they don't like beer, and they've said it's the best beer they've tasted, or that they still don't like beer but like this. Make what you will of that.
posted by ikalliom at 12:34 PM on December 12, 2012


If anyone gets their hands on a pack, let me know if you'd be interesting in trading for a quantity to be determined of 2008 Goose Island Bourbon County Stout that I've been holding on to.
posted by hwyengr at 12:37 PM on December 12, 2012


humboldt32: "I visited the Orval Brewery this September durring their only two visiting days of the year and I was quite surprised by the lack of monk-y looking dudes practicing their craft."

Ah, but things are different at Westvleteren (from the book Brew Like a Monk).

Coincidentally I have about eight or nine gallons of a "clone" of this beer fermenting now in my basement (street value in the thousands of dollars no doubt). I even made my own "candi syrup."
posted by exogenous at 12:38 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


The first time I ever had this beer, it was in a blind tasting at a friend's place -- he'd brought back some from Belgium, and didn't tell me what we were having. I won't say I thought it was the best beer I've ever had, but it was damn good; afterwards, the thing that actually impressed me the most was finding out that it was 10% ABV or whatever, because it hadn't really tasted like that at all to me. I often find strong Belgian-style beers to be cloyingly sweet, but here the alcohol was really well balanced with the rest of the tastes in a way that I just wasn't used to. I've had other beers since that managed that little trick, too, but at the time it was a revelation.

Bizarrely, I think the next time I had it was at a bar in London, Ontario, when we were there for a conference. The part of the city we were in was kind of grim and unappealing, and the conference dull and pointless, so discovering a beer bar (I think it was this place) that sold Westvleteren felt like showing up to a school cafeteria and finding Ferran Adria whipping up lunch. It was an unanticipated pleasure that made me happy then and makes me happy still. I'm kind of glad the stuff's hard to find.
posted by chalkbored at 12:45 PM on December 12, 2012


Much appreciated, WinnipegDragon. I've had the Rochefort 10, and it is indeed a lovely beast.

It is the Westvleteren 12 that is my great white whale.
posted by Capt. Renault at 2:34 PM on December 12 [+] [!]


Me too... I have no idea why I put it back on the shelf. Somehow that $85 price tag made me second guess it.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:46 PM on December 12, 2012


Hopleaf?

I had it at the Map Room many years ago, but sadly it was late enough in the evening that I don't remember anything about it.
posted by hwyengr at 12:59 PM on December 12, 2012


I've had a couple of these at each level and they are pretty good but not even the best of the readily available Belgians in my opinion. They are really just overinflated in their ranking due to their scarcity. I strongly recommend you try all the other Trappist and Abbey beers first. Most of the Trappists are just as good (I prefer any St. Bernadus to Westvletern myself and they are just around $10 for 750ml.) However, if you have access to a good source I really really recommend you try the Belgian winter and christmas ales because they can almost make up for the misery of winter. Combine it with a fireplace and good friends you are set until spring.
posted by srboisvert at 1:03 PM on December 12, 2012


Why not brew your own?

Because you don't have the right yeast? I'm not saying that beer will be bad, in fact, I bet it'll be pretty tasty, but since you don't have the Westvleteren yeast, it won't be Westvleteren.

I've had a yellow and a green cap, both were world class beer. They're among the best beers I've ever had. Honestly though, the cult is as much about scarcity as it is about quality, and there's a lot of quailty. Having had one is a status symbol, it's a beer that takes some combination of work and luck to have tried. J.W. Lee's Harvest ale is just as good (in fact depending on the day it's my favorite beer), but for whatever reason doesn't have the same mythos about it.

If you can get your hands on a six-pack. Enjoy one or two, and hide the rest for a couple years. They age beautifully. If you want to try a fair approximation, the people that brew St. Bernardus, contract brewed for the abbey for awhile, so it's very similar. If you want to buy stuff from Trappist monks, this jelly is pretty fantastic.
posted by Gygesringtone at 1:13 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


STORY TIME.

So I am reading this thread, and go "Holy crispy crap, I sincerely want to try this beer!"

I don't want to shell out the $$$ for the whole pack so I hop into my twitter feed and sure enough, there's a friend who is asking if anyone was going to be close to the Chicago location selling the packs. Hmmm. Turns out the only location in the Chicago area who has any stock left is two train stops away from me. So I ask my friend if I run out there and do the legwork if he's interested and he says YES. In exchange, I will get a beer for my troubles.

So I head off, and as I'm about to enter the store a fellow is coming out, carrying the box. "Oh, GOOD, they're not sold out!" I crow.

He's very apologetic. "This is the last box, I'm so sorry."

Ah, boo. Missed it by minutes.

So I get back to my office and am catching up on my tweets and another friend tweets at me, "Hey, ~dude you have met a couple times~ just passed you with the last box!" So it turns out I know the apologetic fellow who owns the last box in all of Chicagoland. And it turns out several friends managed to snag this beer today, sooooo...

I get my bottle!

IT HAD BETTER TASTE LIKE KITTEN GIGGLES AND UNICORN SIGHS DAMMIT.
posted by Windigo at 1:13 PM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Gygesringtone: "since you don't have the Westvleteren yeast, it won't be Westvleteren"

Westvleteren uses the same yeast as Westmalle (Brew Like a Monk, p. 14) and that yeast is commercially available from two different companies.
posted by exogenous at 1:34 PM on December 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


Westvleteren uses the same yeast as Westmalle (Brew Like a Monk, p. 14) and that yeast is commercially available from two different companies.

Huh, I was under the impression that they had an in-house strain. I stand corrected.
posted by Gygesringtone at 1:48 PM on December 12, 2012


I've had Westvleteren 12 twice, most recently about a month ago via a friend who bought a brick in France for around €60.

STORY TIME x2.

First Westy experience: my neighbor is a fairly well-known (local to Portland, OR) beer blogger and he attempted to do a blind tasting of Westy 12 and St. Bernardus 12 to see if we could tell the difference and which we preferred. We all tried our 2 samples and they were nothing alike and everyone preferred the same beer. Unfortunately, he had ALSO opened a bottle of Westy 8, got them all mixed up and THAT was what we were served alongside St. Bernardus 12, which won hands down. Westy 12 was what we unknowingly sipped waiting for the main event...

Second Westy experience: just a few weeks ago another friend opened a bottle and I brought the St. Bernardus 12. We didn't do a blind tasting but did taste them side-by-side. My feeling was that the 2 beers are very similar but not identical. I enjoyed both very much, but probably couldn't distinguish one from the other in a blind tasting.

I passed on the chance to buy half of a brick, but wouldn't begrudge anyone who did.

If you can't/won't spring for Westy 12, get a bottle of St. Bernardus 12 for around $4 or $5 to get a close approximation.
posted by turbodog at 1:52 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Westvleteren uses the same yeast as Westmalle (Brew Like a Monk, p. 14) and that yeast is commercially available from two different companies.

Even if that wasn't the case, couldn't you cultivate it from the bottle (assuming it isn't pasteurized)?
posted by turbodog at 1:54 PM on December 12, 2012


I like Chimay. I don't believe this will taste any different to Chimay, or La Trappe, or any of the other dozen Trappist beers available at my local bottle-o.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 2:13 PM on December 12, 2012


Even if that wasn't the case, couldn't you cultivate it from the bottle (assuming it isn't pasteurized)?

It's doable in theory, in fact I've been part of an attempt. In my case, the yeast in the bottles was too old, so we didn't have in luck. But, yeah getting it going from the yeast that's made the journey halfway 'round the world in questionable conditions (assuming your average bottle in the US not this commercially shipped stuff) seems like it might be hit or miss.

The other thing is that if you've got access to the yeast from the bottle... well then you've got probably got access to the rest of the beer in the bottle, and the idea was to brew your own instead of shelling out $85 for a six pack.
posted by Gygesringtone at 2:14 PM on December 12, 2012


I don't believe this will taste any different to Chimay

Well, Chimay doesn't even make this style of beer (quadrupels).

My experience with this beer, having paid Ebay Prices just to evaluate the hype, is that it tastes about 10% better than St. Bernardus 12. Worth trying once, but in the long run the small increase in quality isn't worth the ridiculous scarcity.
posted by IjonTichy at 2:28 PM on December 12, 2012


Any idea why they have such complicated rules for their beer phone and beer phone operator and whatnot?
posted by infini at 2:30 PM on December 12, 2012


This recipe (PDF) is supposed to be pretty spot-on, though the people who made it are also trying to sell their candi syrup. It calls for WYeast 3787 though by all accounts White Labs 530 is the same strain of yeast. Here's an epic thread on homebrewtalk on trying to clone this beer.

Also, here's results of blind tasting of Westvleteren 12 and similar beers.
posted by exogenous at 2:31 PM on December 12, 2012


Any idea why they have such complicated rules for their beer phone and beer phone operator and whatnot?

Yes. It is a monastery, not a business. The real deal. To quote:
Welcome to the homepage of The Abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren, Flanders, Belgium.

Our abbey consists of some thirty Cistercian or Trappist monks. They try to lead a quiet and modest life, searching for God.

We are sure that a life of seclusion, prayer, manual labour and ascetism arouses questions. Therefore we want to tell something about our community and our way of life.

We hope that you will have one more question after visiting our web site: the ultimate question, the question of God ...
And here are The Rules (not The Rule ;).
posted by likeso at 2:45 PM on December 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


the ridiculous scarcity.

To be fair, we have to remember that this isn't a regular brewery. They just want to make and sell enough beer to support the abbey and then stop. If they could do that selling to three bars in nearby towns, I bet they would.
posted by Gygesringtone at 2:47 PM on December 12, 2012


Upon further googling it looks like there is disagreement/discussion about whether or not there is a stylistic difference between a Belgian Strong Dark Ale and a Quadrupel, a name that apparently was not in use until 1991. So, yes, a Chimay Blue is arguably the same style as a Westvleteren.
posted by IjonTichy at 2:57 PM on December 12, 2012


Fidel Cashflow: "I can't remember if you can even buy it in Belgium, outside going to the brewery."
Officially, the answer to that is no. However, they have always had a few bottles of Westvleteren on a shelf when I've visited De Biertempel in central Brussels.
Stagger Lee: "a long hike up to a remote monastery"
Um, yeah ... the monastery is in western Belgium ("in Flanders fields") so the surrounding scenery is flat and bucolic. The cafe next to the monastery (which is a normal cafe, apart from the fact they sell Westvleteren beer) is a hangout for Belgian families on week-end bike trips through the countryside.

Here's what the beer pickup line looked like on a Saturday in January 2012.
posted by brokkr at 3:29 PM on December 12, 2012


hey you... we should plan a Mefite roadtrip to the monastery and check it out for ourselves, no?
posted by infini at 3:56 PM on December 12, 2012


we should plan a Mefite roadtrip to the monastery and check it out for ourselves, no?

Ooh. Now, that is a completely excellent idea. I know of at least five other mefites who would not have any objection to this plan. Not one. None at all. Nope.

(fingers already flicking and clicking through agendas, diaries, calendars)

We must consult.
posted by likeso at 5:49 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll be tasting this tomorrow via a kind co-worker who's bringing in a few bottles to share - Excited, though I fear even if it's incredible it'll never live up to the hype and build-up.
posted by jalexei at 6:42 PM on December 12, 2012


Funny, I'm a real beer nerd, or at least I thought I was, but I'd never heard of this particular trappist brew until now. I was wondering why, and then I remembered that American craft breweries are the best in the world, and I haven't had a European beer since I was in broke in Berlin drinking 80 euro cent cans of 5,0.

I'll take a case Dogfishhead Worldwide Stout over whatever this is any day, especially since I have to drive to another state to get them.
posted by dis_integration at 6:54 PM on December 12, 2012


at least five other mefites

We'll need a bus and it really should be on a Tuesday since its Belgium...
posted by infini at 7:12 PM on December 12, 2012


Huh-uh. As many cars as we can take/borrow/hire/steal/create out of crates.
You get two cases per licence plate.
posted by likeso at 7:25 PM on December 12, 2012


Course, this is if more than one of us gets through the queue.

But, um, well, if not I uh. Er. I have a supplier.
posted by likeso at 7:30 PM on December 12, 2012


What about a meetup at that cafe near Flanders Field?
posted by infini at 7:50 PM on December 12, 2012


But, um, well, if not I uh. Er. I have a supplier.

LOL. that is all. insomnia?
posted by infini at 7:52 PM on December 12, 2012


That would work. Let's start pencilling in possible dates for when you get back and then shoot off some memails to the gang early next week.

Yeah. *hack* *cough* *wheeze*. ;p
posted by likeso at 8:11 PM on December 12, 2012


I'll memail you later today, got that call set up today.
posted by infini at 8:17 PM on December 12, 2012


It was a shitty day to work beer retail, I can tell you that.
posted by HumuloneRanger at 8:41 PM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Back before the madness started, it was fairly easy to get hold of Westy at the local beer bar (In de Wildeman in Amsterdam), and I came to the conclusion that yes, it's the best beer I've ever tasted. It's huge, it's a great big warm hug of a beer.

However, the craft beer scene in Europe (and the US) has, imo, gone past it, and gone past Belgian brewing in general. Overall, Belgian beer is still 'best', but nothing new is happening there - the beer scenes in Holland, Scandinavia and the UK are much more exciting these days.

For example, back in the summer, I was lucky enough to try Konjaks Stormaktsporter (check the link for reviews), and it was utterly extraordinary. Maybe my tastes have changed in the last 15 years, but I'd put it ahead of the Westy 12.

The madness means that a bottle of Westy 12 costs around 14 euros in the local shop. St Bernardus 12, which is practically the same, costs a quarter of that.

Having said all that, if certain other Mefites are interested in organising a road trip for cheaper supplies, count me in!
posted by daveje at 2:15 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I do believe there's a bottle of 12 in our fridge. Mefites interested in the road trip may also wish to consider a tasting session beforehand.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 2:52 AM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


This post made me crack open another Rochefort last night. Down to 5 bottles left of my case and no sign of any more coming to Winnipeg soon.

*sigh*
posted by WinnipegDragon at 8:11 AM on December 13, 2012


Well I waited three hours this morning (one of the three stores here sold it today instead of yesterday) and I was the first person in line not to get beer.

They interviewed me for the local news.

I'm going to fly to Belgium, burn down their monastery, and make sure this never happens again.
posted by danny the boy at 3:27 PM on December 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I had to wait until after work to try and score some (work keeps getting in the way of my having fun, it seems), hoping that a not-on-the-list provincial alcohol monopoly LCBO store got one by mistake and put it on the floor, but of course, that was a fool's errand. And I am that fool.

Toronto sold out in four minutes, and the same for Ottawa. First come, first serve, one per customer -- I'm a little ticked that they didn't do this by lottery as they do for some of their high end whiskys and wines, but that may just be sour grapes.

If there is a bright side to all of this, perhaps now the LCBO realizes that there is a real demand for this sort of stuff, and makes a better effort to carry craft and high-end beers -- maybe even a Vintages-style beer outlet. Because right now, even the best outlet carries a fraction of what your average Wegman's supermarket does across the border. It's a sad, sad sight. Always the Same Old Shit, unexciting imports in cans you've had a million times before, Canadian microbrews which may or may not be up to scratch, and hardly anything else, except maybe at Christmas, and good luck then. Regular trappists, even regular American craft beers -- never.

This many people lining up for their ridiculously-low chance of scoring high-end beer? There's a demand, clearly. The LCBO is bringing in this stuff to supply certain bars -- they just don't put it on the shelf.

I'll keep looking, but... Yeah. It's all so emblematic of the frustrations surrounding liquor sales in this province.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:41 AM on December 14, 2012


Yup. Sold out. Now at least I know I can stop chasing those mystery trucks which may or may not have it.

OK, LCBO -- now can you get back to maybe thinking about investigating looking into one day possibly bringing over some regular Orval from next-door Quebec again? No? OK, just thought I'd ask.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:51 AM on December 14, 2012



I'm going to fly to Belgium, burn down their monastery, and make sure this never happens again.


Hang on, wait till after our meetup roadtrip...
posted by infini at 8:33 AM on December 14, 2012


The madness means that a bottle of Westy 12 costs around 14 euros in the local shop.

More like sixteen euros last friday, when I bought two, despite my objections above in the thread. But it will make a nice Christmas drink for me and my dad, who used to be a sherry and wine drinker until the doctors told him to stop and who since then has fallen in love with Belgian beers (which he calls "dark beers") and who will hopefully appreciate what so many think is the best example of the style he likes.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:19 AM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


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