Tasting the Top Rated Beer in the World

by Billy Broas

Westvleteren 12On October 24th, at approximately 8:30pm Mountain Time, I tasted the holy grail – Westvleteren 12.

“Westy 12″ as it’s known by most, is continually near the top of beer rankings, occupying the top seat the majority of the time. But how much of that is due to its scarcity?

Westy 12 is brewed by the Belgian monks of St. Sixtus Abbey. It’s only available at the Abbey, so not many people get to try it. Cases go for hundreds of dollars on eBay and a one-time release in the U.S. last year fetched $85 for a six-pack.

How did I get a chance to try it? My good buddy Chris went to Belgium last year and brought some back. He was kind enough to share it with a few of us. You’ll remember him and Jeremy from the IPA Blind Tasting we did a little while back.

I invite you to read Chris’s excellent post on Pintwell for the details of our blind tasting including all of the beers that we tried and how they scored.

If you want the short version: Westy 12 wasn’t picked as the top beer by any of the five people involved. The winner was La Trappe Dubbel (my personal favorite as well). Admittedly not exactly the same style as Westy 12, but in the same family.

Westy came in around third place. I must say that it was very difficult for me to pick a winner out of the top 3. They were all excellent. Looking at my notes, what stood out to me about Westy was its superb aroma. It has a very strong berry & grape nose. I described it as similar to “juicy juice.” Jeremy said “Laffy Taffy.” We meant this in a good way. It was a tough call between Westy and the La Trappe, but I felt the La Trappe had more depth of flavor. The St. Bernardus was excellent too, but personally I felt it had too much alcohol.

So is Westy 12 an incredible beer? Yes. Should you kill yourself trying to get it? No. Try it if you have the chance, but there are other beers that are just as delicious.

Have you tried Westy 12? What did you think?

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

PA_Jeff October 29, 2013 at 9:44 am

I was lucky enough to get a 6 pack from a family member who was in Belgium right after the American release and asked if there was anything that I wanted. Why, yes. Yes there is.

Anyway, I’m not real qualified to comment on it, but I was wondering about the appropriateness of aging it. I got it for Christmas, and we tried one when I got it – I was thinking of making it a Christmas tradition. Will it age well, ya think?

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Billy Broas October 29, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Lucky you! It’s absolutely a great beer to age. It you treat it well it should be able to hold up for decades. I would try to hang on to one or two for as long as you can. You can always get fresh ones, but it’s very difficult to get older bottles.

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PA_Jeff October 29, 2013 at 5:53 pm

“You can always get fresh ones…”

LOL…. Suuuure I can…. :-)

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Billy Broas October 29, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Haha. I never said “easily”….

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MetsFanVI October 29, 2013 at 12:27 pm

I’ve had Westy 12 one time. I paid $55 for a single bottle and split it with a friend. We did a side-by-side with Abt 12 as we felt they were similar beers. It was not blinded though. Overall, I’d be hard to tell these 2 beers apart in a blind tasting. Both are superb beers. But I wouldn’t go crazy to get more Westy when I know I can easily find Abt 12 and be just as happy.

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Billy Broas October 29, 2013 at 5:20 pm

I agree its similar to Abt 12. It is reassuring to know that if I want something like West, I can fairly easily find an Abt 12.

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Luis Tovar October 29, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Not even joking, it is a great beer to use in a shandy or beermosa: http://hookedonhops.com/2013/01/02/the-adulteration-of-westvleteren-xii/

We also compared it with ABT 12 and found them both great beers but couldn’t pick a better one of the two. They’re different from each other, but neither is different in a negative way.

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Billy Broas October 29, 2013 at 5:21 pm

You made a West 12 shandy?!? That is so rebel. You’re my hero.

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Shawn October 30, 2013 at 5:49 am

I’ve had it a couple of times (they sold it briefly here a while back when the monks needed to renovate!), and have one bottle left. Like you, I thought it was a great beer, but definitely not worth scaling a mountain or spending a small fortune on.

Although, to be fair, any beer with that amount of hype is probably going to be a small disappointment when you finally try it!

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Billy Broas October 31, 2013 at 8:51 am

I totally agree that no beer can live up to that amount of hype. Pliny the Younger is another example. Fantastic beer but expectations are way too high.

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Jim October 30, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Just had one at Westvleteren and thought it was great, but while here I’ve had many other great beers and was happy to give it a try. Why put so much into it…..just enjoy it!!

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Billy Broas October 31, 2013 at 8:52 am

Glad you enjoyed it. I hope to try it again someday, preferably in Belgium ; )

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Paul Juster October 31, 2013 at 9:08 pm

I bought a 6-pack on eBay for $40 several years ago. Great buy now, probably not so much earlier!
I’ve had a couple, gave one away for a trade. I still have 3 bottles left, two from 1997, one from 1999.
I really enjoyed it. Would love someday to go to Belgium and taste it from the source!

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Steve Chambers November 19, 2013 at 12:12 am

I’ve been to the abbey maybe 4x-5x for the Westie 12 and find it to be an excellent beer. Best in the world? I’m not so sure but it is pretty damn good. Worth making the trip should you find yourself in Western Flanders.

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Simon January 7, 2014 at 1:17 am

I agree so much with many comments about the hype on this beer.
I am from France, so of course I can easily find this beer, which to me (and to many beer-friends around me) has nothing exceptional besides several different beers, and especially at that price, even if we here pay about 7euros the bottle (which is still quite high thought).
We think here that, ok this beer is good, but especially that as monks, they are good at developing commercial strategies too ! And finally we think that all that noise around this beer mainly comes from the other side of the atlantic ocean, as those beers become hard to find, contributing to their popularity. That is the same here for beers coming from the west coast of the USA. Russian River is a myth here, I have never tested one of their beers yet ! So I would prefer spending my money in a Captain Lawrence imperial IPA for example !!
By the way, sorry for my english, and Billy, many thanks for your great site that I check very regularly.

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