The Beer Nut: Waiting for the elusive Westvleteren 12
After several delays, one of the most sought-after beers in the world will finally be legally available in the United States by the middle of December.
Westvleteren 12, the elusive beer from the Abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren in Flanders, Belgium, will be stocked for a limited time on liquor store shelves.
The release was originally supposed to be last April and then September, but each release was delayed, with no reason announced. There was a limited amount released over the summer as part of The Festival in Worcester, but this will be the first full-release, and possibly the last, of this Belgian Trappist ale.
The beer has never been available legally in the United States before, although many people have acquired it through trades with people who went to Belgium and bought the beer at the monastery.
According to the St. Sixtus website, the beer is brewed to support the monastery. The beer's importer, Shelton Brothers of Belchertown, Mass., said the U.S. release will fund renovations at the abbey.
The Abbey of St. Sixtus houses 24 monks, and they have been brewing beer since 1838. They brew about 50,000 cases of beer a year. The only other beers they brew is the Westvleteren Blonde and the Westvleteren 8.
The release comes in the form of a gift box. The box, which will cost in excess of $50, will feature six bottles of Westvleteren 12 and two glasses.
There are a total of seven producers of beer in the world that are allowed to use the designation of "Trappist." The other six, Achel, Chimay, Orval, Rochefort and Westmalle from Belgium, and Koningshoeven from the Netherlands, are all available in Massachusetts.
The Westvleteren 12 is a quad — a strong Belgian-style of ale. It is sweet and malty, but amazingly easy to drink. It comes in at about 10.2 percent alcohol by volume. It is simply a joy to drink.
It is one of the most highly regarded beers in the world, at least according to beer ratings. On Beer Advocate, a popular website that features user reviews, Westvleteren 12 is the second-highest rated beer on the site. It has a score of 4.64 out of 5, finishing only behind Pliny the Younger, a double IPA brewed by the Russian River Brewing Company in California.
On Rate Beer, another popular beer website featuring user reviews, Westvleteren 12 is ranked the number one beer of all time, scoring a 4.46 out of 5.
The next highest rated Belgian quad on both websites is Trappistes Rochefort 10, which is also a Trappist ale. It has a score of 4.46 on Beer Advocate and a 4.31 on Rate Beer.
But is the Westvleteren 12 worth the effort? There will only be a limited number of the gift packs available. One store is holding a lottery for the right to buy the packs.
I've had the opportunity to drink the Westvleteren 12 on three different occasions and each time I found it to be an amazing beer. But, I'm a fan of many Belgian quads that are cheaper and easier to buy. My personal favorite is the St. Bernardus Abt 12, which is easy to get. It is also highly regarded. On both Beer Advocate and Rate Beer, it is rated the third best Belgian quad in the world.
What may make seeking out Westvleteren 12 worth it is the very real possibility this may be the only time you can get it. You may want to seek it out just to try it just so you can say you tried one of the best beers in the world.
Norman Miller is a MetroWest (Mass.) Daily News staff writer. Email email@example.com or call 508-626-3823. Check out the Beer Nut blog at blogs.wickedlocal.com/beernut. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/realbeernut or on Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/beernutnorman.