Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Belgian Beer no.132 and no.133: Westvleteren(s)

The queen amongst beers: Westvleteren! And please welcome Michael, a new guest writer.

Text and photo: Michael
Website/ blog:

I’m sure that it is well documented that of all Belgian beers, the Westvleteren beers are the most hard to come by. As most will know, the beers are only available at the Monastery and it’s adjacent café “In de Vrede”. Further, to get your hands on a crate, you have to phone first to find out when the hatch at the monastery is open, then again to book a time slot for collection. Even if you manage to get through with your first call, you (apparently) don’t know what you are going to get until you get there, and even if you do manage to successfully navigate the first two stages, they will only sell you one crate.

Our first attempt in October 2006 proved fruitless – not only were we unable to get through to the monastery by phone, but even the Café In de Vrede was also closed that day due to some cycling event.

Our second attempt in December 2006 was a tad more successful. We were still unable to get through the complex booking by phone system (it’s not in English!), and our journey to the monastery itself had us taking three detours due to severe flooding in the surrounding farmland. We were relieved when we finally got there and “In de Vrede” was open.

The café shop also has restrictions on the sale – each person is only allowed to purchase 6 bottles, and only the Westvleteren Blond, and the Westevleteren 8 were on Sale.

27th May 2007
Westvleteren Blond (Green Cap)
Until today, we’d managed to keep our collection of Westies in tact for that special occasion. An article forwarded to me this week by a friend however suggested that the shelf life of the Blond and the 8 was much shorter than many writers have suggested. ( Discussion point anyone ?)

Anyway, after all the hype of Westvleteren, we were a little disappointed with the Blond. We are not beer connoisseurs, and we look to other writers to give us direction as to what it is that we are looking for in a beer. A common trend amongst writers seems to be that the blonde has a honey aroma with undertones of toffee, implying sweetness. I simply did not find it sweet, more bitter and acidic, but still palatable once the preconception of it being sweet had gone away. I would recommend it to try, but think that there are definitely better blonds out there.

Westvleteren 8 Blue Cap
On a slight downer after the initial disappointment of the Blond, we opened the Westy 8 prepared for another potential let down. However we were in for a nice surprise.

The beer poured into the glass with bits of sediment towards the end of the bottle. ( A notice in the “In de Vrede” apparently recommends keeping the last centimetre in the bottle, but the missus didn’t tell me till after I’d poured it !).

As you can see from the picture, it is a dark brown beer with a kind of lacey head. The aforementioned sediment seems to disperse equally and suspends in the beer, unlike some beers ( e.g. Achel where the sediment is extremely active).

In laymans terms (our kind!), it has a wonderfully powerful sweet taste with a hint of something else that we couldn’t identify on our own. Referring then to other beer writers comments, Toffee, Honey, dates, and Sherry seem to be a theme. Certainly Honey as opposed to Toffee in our opinion, dates ? well I don’t like dates, so if it is dates, then I like them now – and the Sherry, well yes, that gives it the kick.

I would certainly recommend this beer and can’t wait to try the 12 again!
Tagged with:


Anonymous said...

Wouldn´t it be better to put Belgian Beer no. 132 AND 133? Do two different kinds of beer of the same brewery count as one? That would reduce drastically the 500+ beers available in Belgium! No shortcuts...each beer counts as one until we complete them all!

Andreea said...

done :) thanks for pointing it out. fully agree.
let's go on then ... next?

galvao99 said...

Great description. I almost cant taste it myself.

Glibbidy said...

Oh! Andreea I'm drooling over the
Westvleteren's. The blue has got to be one of THE best beers in the world. Rock On!

Anonymous said...

Wondering if anyone would like to comment on the recommended shelf life anyone ?

Ray Challoner said...

Just back form another weekend in Belgie, Antwerpen to be precise.
Tremendous weekend that included a visit to Kulminator and on the way home Ieper, Noel's shop in Poperinge and Westvlteren.

Disaster there though, at the In de Vrede shop there's a sign in Flemmish "no beer".

On further investigation, they will not sell any beer in the shop now on sundays (period) or on any busy day in the cafe. This is to ensure the cafe has an adequate supply = DISASTER / TOTALLY GUTTED.

Needless to say we had to stay for a glass. The 12 was magnificent, dark, complex and soooooo smooth. The blonde was not as special but divine in its simplicity and taste.

So folks, be warned, even getting 6bottles each has become more difficult; but it is worth it.

Skwirl said...

If you're ever in Brussels the Beer Temple (around the corner from the world famous Delirium) usually has some of the doubles on sale. I've even seen a triple once even though they probably weren't supposed to be selling that ;)