We did our part. We helped the monks. The Westvleteren 12 — known as the best beer in the world — was available in Tampa Bay for just a few hours on December 12, but we got our case.
In Florida, cases of Westy 12 were only available at Total Wine. One guy camped outside of the Tampa store the night before the release. Across the country, only 15,000 six-packs were available, according to NPR. The story is that this beer was commercially available just this once to help the Trappist monks at St. Sixtus Abbey in Belgium raise enough money for a new roof. Beer geeks seek out this holy grail of beers for years in hopes of trying it. Beyond that, check eBay or book yourself a flight to Belgium and hope for the best.
We were lucky to get our hands on it. Beer Advocate gives the Westvleteren 12 a rating of 100, and many beer enthusiasts chime in with their own lengthy and positive reviews.
We waited for the right time to pop open this highly anticipated beer. The holidays were busy and so filled with other booze and food that we waited until a quiet night this week.
It was amusing to me that such sleek, minimalist bottles came in a rather cheesy-looking box with a brick pattern and gothic arches. One bottle poured enough to fill the two glasses provided per case. There was initially a noticeable head on the pour, though it dissipated quickly to a thin, lingering line. The beer was a rich brown color and it offered an appealing aroma.
The most surprising thing about this beer is how light it was when I expected something kinda heavy. It was also not as malty or sweet as I’d heard it might be, and it was actually very refreshing. Almost crisp, but still smooth. It’s a very well-balanced beer (at 10.2% ABV) that both Danny and I enjoyed very much. He’s usually very pro-hops and IPAs, and I pretty much avoid those in favor of a brown, malty brew or a saison.
Is the Westy the best beer in the world? It’s hard to say. I’ve still got so many to try, and I’m terrible at picking favorites. But it was damn good, and we’re glad we tried it. The glasses are fantastic souvenirs, and we’ll probably age a couple of our bottles to try again later.
And yes, this box of six small beer bottles rang up to about $85. But that’s not an impossible price to try the so-called world’s best beer, especially when I don’t know if I’ll ever make it to Belgium. It’s all relative.