Friday, 29 December 2017

12 Beers of Christmas - Day Nine - Westvleteren 12

Day Nine - Westvleteren 12 (Belgium, 10.2%)

Westvleteren 12 is probably the ultimate “saving it for a special occasion” beer. Often referred to as the best beer in the world (as if there’s any such thing), I’ve often thought I need a pretty good reason to drink the bottles in my possession. I also told myself I should age them for at least two years before cracking the cap. Well, the post-Christmas lull seems as good a reason as any to me now, and this was bottled at the end of March 2015. No excuses; just open the bloody thing.

It’s a bad start, as despite careful pouring, my glass is full of enormous chunks of sediment. They look like fat suspended in gravy, and I find it massively off-putting even if it’s unlikely to have much impact on the flavour. And actually, I soon forget it, because that flavour really is very good. Initially it’s very sweet, with notes of caramel and cola, and also strikingly boozy, leaving a warm feeling in the chest like a nip of brandy. Keep drinking, though, and these qualities are rounded out by smooth but bitter chocolate and dried fruit, figs and plums. The depth of flavour is massive, but in fact, it’s quite easy drinking; after that first initial shock of alcohol, it doesn’t really drink its strength.

Best beer in the world? I wouldn’t think so on a sticky summer evening. I probably wouldn’t even think so if I was drinking it in the pub with my friends. But right now, on a chilly winter evening where I have the time to really ponder it, it’s pretty much the best beer I could have in my glass.

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