Brouwerij Westvleteren is one of the seven breweries that are officially considered Trappist because the beer is brewed by monks and each under the control of a Trappist monastery. The sole purpose of brewing the beer is to support the monastery. The Westvleteren brewery is located in the West Flanders province of Belgium in the town of Westvleteren. It was found in 1838 inside the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus.
In recent years, this beer of Brouwerij Westvleteren, particularly Westvleteren Abt 12, has become wildly popular topping the lists of best beer in the world at RateBeer and BeerAdvocate. As could be expected, this created a huge buzz and greater demand for the beer. The monks of Saint Sixtus responded to the new popularity of their beer only by further limiting the amount of beer that could be purchased and taken away from the brewery. They didn’t raise prices and they didn’t produce more beer. In a 2005 interview with The Independent, ”We make the beer to live but we do not live for beer.”
Westvleteren Abt 12 is the most popular of the three beers made by Brouqerij Westvleteren but during my 2009 visit to Belgium I was not able to procure a a bottle. I’ve read that the easiest way to try any of the Westvleteren beers is to visit the monastery, which I also did not have time to do during my trip. I did, however, luck out and found a bottle of Westvleteren Extra 8 at Bier Tempel in Brussels.
Although Westvleteren Abt 12 is the most popular, Extra 8 is also ranked highly and even Tim Webb, author of Good Beer Guide Belgium, thinks that Extra 8 is slightly better than Abt 12. I cannot make the comparison myself but I found this to be an excellent beer and worthy of adding to your personal list of beers that you must try.
Date Reviewed. August 6, 2010
Where I Found It. Bier Tempel, Brussels, Belgium.
Serving Type. 330ml bottle into a tulip glass.
Appearance. Westvleteren Extra 8 pours with a clear brown color. In the glass it has an opaque, dark chocolate, and mahogany brown color. The head of this beer was like that of a cola or root beer and as such it also did not have very good retention. It did, however, as you might notice in the photos, leave a thin layer of foam on the top of the beer nearly throughout the session.
Aroma. This beer has a complex aroma that is like an earthy, roasty apple pie with notes of cooked granny smith apples, dark brown sugar, molasses, and cloves with hints of dark Belgian chocolate and espresso. It does not smell particularly boozy but what little alcohol aroma there is comes off smelling like vanilla and bourbon.
Taste. I was expecting something much more sweet and sour but I was happily surprised to taste a well balanced beer. This beer has a touch of bitterness to balance the sweet toasty dark malts, which produces a slight molasses flavor. The flavor is a bit bready or yeasty but might be due to the storage conditions of the bottle. The chocolate and espresso aroma combined with the sweetness of the malt and bitterness of the hops produce an experience like drinking very dark chocolate. As the session continues and the beer starts to warm up I find flavors of raisins or other dried fruit mixed with herbs and spices like tarragon, kola nut, and a touch of cloves.
Mouthfeel. It is well carbonated and medium to full bodied. For some reason I was expecting this beer to have a more viscous feel to it and I was pleasantly surprised to find it much more drinkable than that.
Overall. Westvleteren Extra 8 is interesting, complex, and bittersweet but not cloying. Despite the complexity, it is surprisingly crisp and easy to drink. It was a wonderful experience drinking and reviewing this beer and the session ended much too quickly. In retrospect I should have procured two bottles instead of just one.
Rating. My ratings below are on a five point scale with five being the best score. The ratings below is based on the BJCP judging system.
- Appearance (6%): 4.5
- Aroma (24%): 4.5
- Flavor (40%): 5.0
- Mouthfeel (10%): 4.5
- Overal (20%): 5.0
- Total: 4.8
- Brewery: Brouwerij Westvleteren
- Style: Dubbel or Belgian dark strong ale
- Alcohol by volume: 8%
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