The Westvleteren 12 is the stuff of legend with beer connoisseurs.
The short explanation is that it’s consistently rated as the best beer in the world from popular beer sites like RateBeer and BeerAdvocate. It’s a Belgium Quad (nicknamed the Westy 12) with 10.2% ABV.
The long story is that it’s a rare beer and hard to come across beyond Belgium. Even inside the country, it’s a process.
The Westvleteren Brewery is a Trappist monastery in the town of Vleteren, which is an hour and 40 minutes from Brussels and an hour and 10 minutes from Ghent. You’ll need to rent a car to get to the brewery.
First, to buy a case of beer from the brewery (for 38 euros), you need to get through a hotline and provide your license plate. They’ll give you a time to arrive. Then you drive there, wait in your car in a long line, hand over your cash and drive away. The monks only make enough beer to sustain their lifestyle.
The easier way is to buy a beer from the cafe across the street, providing they have it available. Back in 2012, cases were shipped to America with official glasses as a fundraiser for the monastery’s new roof. As you can imagine, it sold out instantly. I didn’t get my hands to it.
I came across a beer bar in Sevilla that had it listed on their bottle list, but it was sold out. So when I saw that you can find a few places in Toronto, I had to get it.
My quest began and ended at The Town Crier on John Street in downtown. They not only had 12, but Westvleteren 8, the brewery’s dubbel. They’ve got an extensive tap and bottle list that will remind you of the Delirium Bar in Brussels.
What’s the verdict for $24CAD beer? It tasted like nothing I’ve had before, even though there are similar styles to it. It’s dark, boozy, complex and tastes of deep wood, black cherries and figs. It’s definitely a sip and savoir beer. I ordered it with poutine with beer gravy. Hmmm, beer and gravy.
I wasn’t disappointed, but is it the best beer in the world? Not all beers can be judged alike, but I can say in honesty that it is a worthy quest to get your hands on one. A quick Google search of Westvleteren 12 and Toronto will give you a list of bars that can carry it.
Here’s a news report from Germany about the brewery: