Consistently rated among the world's greatest beers are two of the three varieties produced by Westvleteren: their #12 Quadrupel Ale, and their #8 Dubbel Ale. Westvleteren 12 currently occupies the very top spot at both BeerAdvocate and RateBeer, whose ratings are gathered from average joes like yours truly, while respected published beer critics the world over - like the late British author Michael Jackson – also consider these two brews to be among the world's finest. Perhaps the monastic lifestyle does something to the Westvleteren brewmasters. Perhaps it inspires them to create great works in the glory of God and all creation. Or maybe it’s the patience and inner peace that comes from men who are governed by no sales budget, no focus group, no one but their brothers and God himself, allowing them to approach the true 'zen' of beermaking. Whatever the key is, the brothers at Westvleteren have found it, for theirs is often referred to as the best beer ever made.
|The magnificient seven...|
The brewery of the abbey of Westvleteren operates on a simple principle: “We are no brewers. We are monks. We brew so we can afford to be monks.” For that reason, production numbers are extremely low at Westvleteren, despite the growing clamour from those who just can’t enough of their beer. But that isn’t the entire problem; Achel’s brewery output is even lower than Westvleteren’s, yet their beers are occasionally available overseas in specialty beer stores. What sets Westvleteren apart is the fact that there is only one way to get their beer. Forget driving out to the abbey and hoping to pick up a few bottles. It’s not going to happen. Nope, first you have to call a beer ‘hot-line’ to see if there is any beer available. If there is, you place your order over the phone; your number, name and licence plate are recorded. Then, at the appointed time, you drive to the brewery, provide your information and receive your beer allotment, which may be as little as one or two cases per month.
Or, you find someone whose gone through all that and is willing to trade with you for a couple of bottles. Airfare to Belgium being what it is, I opted for the latter, and managed to acquire a bottle of both the 8 and the 12. So, I wondered to myself as I brought these two treasures inside: was I truly in the possession of the world’s greatest beer? Only one way to find out...
In the next posts, we'll have a look at both the 8 and the 12 to see what all the rhubarb is all about!