Brewery: Abbey of St. Sixtus, Westvleteren (Belgium)
Every beer reviewing site, online discussion, beer book and beer-loving acquaintance has raved about these two brews, but almost every source has given the edge to the 12 over the 8. Maybe its the fact that the 12 is higher in alcohol, and is of the quadrupel style, which is one of the most popular beer styles out there. Or maybe it's just personal preferences, or the fact that 12 is a bigger number than 8. Whatever the reason, the 12 seems to hold all the cards, so I decided to save it for last, and open things off with the 8.
Clearly, the 12 has its work cut out for it, because the 8 was absolutely sensational.
Poured into a Chimay goblet to show some Trappist solidarity, shared with my wife as part of our anniversary celebrations. A tawny, cherry-juice coloured brew, which admittedly is not that much to look at. Big frothy head though, with some lovely visible bubbles along the side. Thin ring survives.
And then you smell it...
I don't want to exaggerate, but the nose on this beer...is kind of a big deal. In fact, it's delicious to the point where I would probably pay someone to sniff their recently-used glass. The list of wonderful things I can detect is pretty impressive: lightly browned sugar, port, brandy, raisin, grape, a bit of earth and spices, Belgian yeast all combine to make something truly special.
To no surprise, the taste is every bit as wonderful as the nose suggested it would be. Port and dark fruit, a lovely sugary sweetness, but with a firm malt background and enough hops to provide a light finishing bitterness. Coffee or chocolate make appearances somewhere near the finish. The finest dubbel I have as yet come across.
After a quick carbonation burnoff, the brew takes on a terrific mouthfeel, with lovely easy carbonation and a moderate body which coats the tongue well. A lasting bitter finish.
In a word: sublime. I'm not going to make any bold statements about this beer's status as the "best ever" (I haven't opened the 12 yet!), but rest assured this brew is certainly worthy of the hype and is certainly amongst the very best brews the world can offer. Worth navigating the tricky ordering process (or better yet, a fortuitous trade!) Truly fantastic stuff, and I really wish I had more of this. By the end of the beer, when I realized it might be years before I try one of these brews again, I felt just like Zoidberg when he found out there were no more sardines in the universe: consumed with a primal, insatiable rage...