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Snow

Beer me up, Scotty!
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A mate passed this article on to me this morning. I love their version of a "light" beer - 5.8%alc! :p

Cheers - Snow

Monks who make world's best beer pray for quiet life
By Stephen Castle in Westvleteren, Flanders

For more than 160 years the Trappist monks at Saint Sixtus monastery in Flanders have been producing a rich, dark-brown, beer renowned for its exceptional flavour and strength. But an unexpected misfortune has befallen this reclusive community of 26 Cistercians: their beer has been named the best in the world.

So great is demand that stocks are exhausted and sales have been stopped. As hits on the monastery website reach 2,000 a day, Saint Sixtus has been deluged with requests for media interviews from the US to Bulgaria.

At the gates of the monastery, near the French border and 50 miles from Calais, a notice directs visitors across the road to the claustrum, an exhibition on monastic life. Normally, the only outsiders allowed to visit the silent order are those who seek spiritual contemplation.

But Mark Bode, co-ordinator of the claustrum, has agreed to speak to The Independent and leads the way to a spartan office where he explains the principle behind the brewery. "It is to produce as much beer as we need to finance the community," Mr Bode says. "We make the beer to live but we do not live for beer." Hence their anxiety about the accolade by www.rateBeer.com, an independent US-based site for beer enthusiasts, which named Westvleteren Abt 12 the best. One of the two other monastery brews. Westvleteren Extra 8, is rated as the ninth best.

Most brewers would be delighted; the monks of Saint Sixtus are not. Mr Bode says: "They are worried about the publicity, about the hype around the beer. This is double-edged. It is a problem." He lives in the nearby town of Poperinge but knows how the monks think because he spent a year in their community. "Outsiders don't understand," he says. "They say, 'You are successful, make more beer; you will make more money'. But the monks believe the most important thing is monastic life, not the brewery."

So production will remain at 4,500 hectolitres a year, between 70 and 75 days of brewing. Belgium has more than 100 breweries and exports many "abbey" beers, only some of which have links to religious orders. But there are only six Trappist beers, Westmalle, Westvleteren, Achel, Chimay, Rochefort and Orval, all of which are brewed by monks.

Of these Westvleteren is the rarest because it has not been distributed commercially since 1941 and can be bought only at Saint Sixtus where, even in times of plenty, customers are rationed to five cases of 24 bottles. At the loading bay for car sales (closed), and the caf at the claustrum, customers promise not to sell the beer. They do, at double the price. In the caf, the one place Westvleteren is still available, visitors may buy only six 33cl bottles.

Inside the monastery's walled compound is a small, modern, bottling plant manned by three monks, producing 12,000 bottles an hour. Outside, three monks are loading crates on pallets. No one is speaking (permitted only in an absolute necessity) though a monk smiles as he hands us each a half-filled bottle of beer and another toots a horn as he sweeps by on a forklift truck

The monks sleep in dormitories and pray for up to six hours a day in seven sessions starting at 3.30am. They may consume a light beer, Westvleteren Blond, which, with an alcohol content of 5.8 per cent, is the weakest drink produced here.

The two others are brown ales: Westvleteren 8 (with 8 per cent alcohol), and the much-prized Abt 12 (Abt is Dutch for Abbot ) with its rich bouquet, strong flavour, slightly bitter aftertaste and alcohol content of 10.2 per cent. The unlabelled bottles can be distinguished by metal tops.

Brewing began in 1838 because the workers who built the monastery were entitled to two glasses of beer a day. With an alcohol content not much lower than that of some wines, the rarity of Abt 12 has won it a cult following. But the real secret may lie in the lack of commercialisation which makes Westvleteren almost impossible to buy.

The Independent
 

KoNG

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OK......
who's had a dabble....?
 

barfridge

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This is the only Trappist I haven't tasted, I can't wait to get my hands on a bottle, to see if it lives up to the hype
 

Snow

Beer me up, Scotty!
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Planning a trip to Flanders, Barfridge? :chug:

- Snow
 

KoNG

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I'll hopefully be there in feb/march....
the list of things to do gets longer
 

kook

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I've had all the westies, including the 6 cap red, not brewed since 1999.

Westy 12 does live up to it's reputation. Its definately in my top five favourite beers, and is my highest rated beer.

It doesn't have overtly "in your face" flavours, just such a silky blend of so many complex flavours, melded together in a way to seem completely balanced.
 

warrenlw63

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kook said:
It doesn't have overtly "in your face" flavours, just such a silky blend of so many complex flavours, melded together in a way to seem completely balanced.
[post="71866"][/post]​

Balanced with what can only be described as "deceptive" alcohol. Easy enough to drink and easy enough to fall over afterwards. :blink:

Bloody nice complexity. The 8 (blue cap) is my fave. :super:

Warren -
 

Malnourished

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I was a bit disappointed with all the Westvleterens to be honest. I mean I think they're very good beers but none really blew me away like I expected. Perhaps the constant hype surrounding them affected my impression though. Perhaps I should say they are great beers amongst a raft of great beers in Belgium.

I got the feeling that the beers are immaculately made but that the yeast is perhaps holding them back slightly. I much preferred that big cookie dough-and-allspice aroma of the Rochefort line, and to me the Westvleteren yeast character seems decidedly "subtle."

I liked the Blond the best, but it seemed pretty similar to XX Bitter, Moinette, Oeral etc.

That said, drinking with the local retirees at In de Vrede (if you can find it!) is an awesome experience. Mmmmm... hommelpaptart...
 

kook

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Is that you Lach ? :) If so, duff gave me a taste of the Cuvee de 89 at GBBF, and I must say thankyou! Brilliant stuff.

I think the thing that attracts me most to the Westy 12 is the balance. It is subtle, yet still so complex. I could drink it all night long, pondering the flavours yet not have it get cloying, harsh or astringent.
 

Sean

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They are certainly good beers, but I don't honestly think they are the best. The difficulty of getting them adds enormously to their reputation, IMO.
 

Malnourished

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kook said:
Is that you Lach ? :) If so, duff gave me a taste of the Cuvee de 89 at GBBF, and I must say thankyou! Brilliant stuff.

I think the thing that attracts me most to the Westy 12 is the balance. It is subtle, yet still so complex. I could drink it all night long, pondering the flavours yet not have it get cloying, harsh or astringent.
[post="71968"][/post]​
Might be :D I think giving me some of that Chimay Dore more than makes up for the Cantillon. Looks like you've been having a decent couple of weeks beer-wise too!!

I can't argue with anything you say about the 12. It struck me that perhaps my problem was that I only ever had the 12 at the cafe (and bottles I bought there in the following days) so it perhaps hadn't had enough time in the bottle to really develop. Just a thought.
 

Doc

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I had heard that this was the case. Good to hear it wasn't just folklore.

Doc

Monks speak out

If Westvleteren beers had labels they would read: 'Do not import to the United States'

Oct 3, 2005 - The monks at the abbey of St. Sixtus of Westvleteren have turned to one of America's largest newspaper to make it clear they don't want their coveted beer sold in the United States.

Brother Joris, the monk who oversees brewing at Westvleteren as well as running the library, agreed to be interviewed by USA Today for a story about he monastery brewery so he could to warn Americans against buying illegally imported Westvleteren.

"My message is, people should know that the beer arrives there in a very un-Trappist-like way," he said. "It's the result of a lot of maneuvering in the dark before it actually shows up there.

"I would advise your readers not to ask for or buy Westvleteren," he said. "You do not support the Trappist cause by buying Westvleteren in the United States."

Westvleteren beers received much attention during the summer after Westvleteren 12 was ranked the best beer in the world at Ratebeer.com and members of media learned how difficult the beer is to get. It is sold only at the brewery's cafe, In de Vrede, across the road from the abbey and at the abbey gate.

On select days the beer is for sale at the gate, cars start lining up at the abbey at 5:15 a.m. The gates open at 10 a.m., and buyers are limited to two cases per car. "Not to be resold" is stamped on the receipts, but customers regularly disregard the monks' wish, and the beer is exported to America and elsewhere.

The bottles do not have labels when they leave the brewery - all the legal information about alcohol content and "a best by" date" are on the crown - and importers in other countries add those before selling the beer. "If we had a label, it would say, 'Do not import to the United States,'" Brother Joris said last winter while giving a tour to the author of Brew Like a Monk.
 

peas_and_corn

I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I cannot mash that
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Sounds interesting... the fact they don't make much is the reason why people line up for hours to get it.

How much do they sell it for (the monks)?
 

n00ch

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Trappist Westvleteren 12 (10,2 vol.% alc.) = 27.00 euro for a crate of 24.
 

peas_and_corn

I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I cannot mash that
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27 euro... that's about... umm... $50-something??

Be interesting if they pushed the price up because of all the interest recently
 

n00ch

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Works out to be $42 a crate. Pretty damn good. Now i just have to get there....
 

dreamboat

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could you pick me up a crate while you are there???? Or two?

Thanks ;)


dreamboat
 

Weizguy

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n00ch said:
Works out to be $42 a crate. Pretty damn good. Now i just have to get there....
[post="80943"][/post]​
...and hire a car...and wait there from 5AM

Seth :p
 

KoNG

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Maybe they hand out a stubby or two to people waiting in their cars....
just like they did for all the keen beans waiting to buy a krispy kreme when they first opened..?!?!
 

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