Westvleteren XII

Total Score: 9.4/10 DarkFruits1BrownSugar1Coriander1Chalice1

Well this is it – the granddaddy of beers: Westvleteren XII. 5 years ago to the day when I joined BeerAdvocate this was the number 1 beer in the world, since then it has been overtaken by barrel-aged beers (and a whole lot of hyperbole) but this is the one I have always wanted. Now that I have it warming up to 12 Celsius on my kitchen bench I find myself reflecting back over the last 5 years and 649 beer reviews: I’ve had a great time, it has been a real pleasure to taste so many fantastic brews and I’ve quite enjoyed writing every one of the 240,000+ words on the subject, as I hope many have enjoyed reading them. Well it’s time now to see what the monks of Sint-Sixtus can do.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Chimay chalice.

A: Presents with a cloudy caramel brown and nice dense 2 centimetre off-white head that slowly tapers back to a still dense half centimetre blanket on top. I’ve always loved the look of a decent Quad and this one is no exception – top marks. 10/10.

S: Sweet dark fruits (plum, prune, date) with a splash of brandy and some nice bready yeast tones. It’s not quite as complex as expected, but it is nonetheless a moreish Quad aroma. 8/10.

T: Sublime flavour profile – begins with the above noted dark fruits, touch of brandy, some mid palate bread and burnt sugar notes follow through to a hint of cracked pepper and an apothecary of herb characters – it’s difficult to pick an individual herb but if I had to I would say wormwood. This is a flavour profile that commands respect (although so does the MUCH cheaper St. Bernardus Abt 12). 10/10.

M: Medium to heavy bodied with a mid to light, dense carbonation. A touch of stickiness means you get a nice Quad sheen coating your tastebuds. 10/10.

D: Was it as good as I was expecting? No. Still it is one of the greatest Quadrupels I’ve managed to lay my hands on, and I’ve had a few Quadrupels now. Compared to its brethren St. Bernardus Abt 12 and Trappistes Rochefort 10 though it’s not worth the price or trouble you go through accruing it, and I suspect if it was a bit more available that it might not be so hyped, but there you go it is and St. Bernardus Abt 12 is my Quad of choice overall. As Westy XII warmed up even more a wild cherry note became present, how complex can a beer get? This guy. 9/10.

Food match: Obvious choice is cheese made by the sisters of Abbaye de Belval which uses Westvleteren beer to refine it, and other Trappist cheeses would work well.

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Nøgne Ø Quadrupel (Red Wine Barrel Edition)

Total Score: 8.95/10 DarkFruits1Vegemite1RedWine1Tulipglass1

Nøgne Ø, despite being one of those brewers from Norway with that ‘Ø’ symbol in their name, how the **** do I even pronounce that??? Anyhow, they brew some good shit, you might even say “sheeeit” to emphasise the goodness of said shit. Last brew I tried of theirs was the Imperial Stout, and like Darth Vader I was “most impressed” with this Norwegian brewer (I also even thought to myself at the time that “the force is strong with this one”). So here we are – a massive 15.5% ABV red wine barrel Quad. Socks are set to their ‘soon to be blown off’ setting.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

A: Like most brews over the 15% mark the head reduces quickly to a thin collection of tan coloured bubbles, then nothing. Body is a cloudy chocolate brown. Everything looks decent, it’s not a knock-the-ball-out-of-the-park hit but it’s neither an ugly duckling. 8/10.

S: Straight away the nose is smacked sideways by bold dark plum/red wine barrel characters. Further whiffs introduce that grape hubba-bubba bubblegum note that you get from a certain Red Flanders Ale named Rodenbach Grand Cru. A touch of sourness as well, hopefully not a defining feature, and that all too familiar Vegemite note you get in high ABV dark beers. This is indeed a formidable Quad in front of me, but who are we kidding – it’s more of a Quinque than a Quad. 9/10.

T: Woah! [said in my best Keanu Reeves impression voice] Tasty, tasty drop! Upfront dessert wine sweetness gives way to rich plum, hints of Vegemite, vanilla and caramelised (slightly burnt) sugar. Finish has a light woody dryness. The overall flavour is squarely in the realm of dessert wine with fig notes coming in as well. Damn, damn tasty. Reminds me of Commandaria port (without the metallic notes I often find in Commandaria). 9/10.

M: Heavy bodied with an almost black-hole dense carbonation. 9/10.

D: If you enjoy a dessert wine, and you know you do – you’re drinking this beer right now, look in your hand… how did I do that? Magic – you will love this rich tapestry. A downside to this beer? It is sweet. Very. No really, it’s quite sweet, you think a glass of dissolved sugar is sweet well that’s peanuts to this beer*. As far as 15%+ brews go this is definitely the best I’ve had. Nøgne Ø nailed it. 9/10.

Food match: Dessert. Cheese platter. Angina. Infarction of some kind. Early death.

*Yes I may have recently read Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, what of it?

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Pannepot Old Fisherman’s Spiced Ale (2013)

Total Score: 8.05/10 Clove1 BrownSugar1 Earth1 Chalice1

Another recommendation, from the colleague that recommended Rodenbach Grand Cru, so I am looking forward to this one. Pannepot is described by Struise brewery as being “somewhere in between a Belgian strong dark ale and a stout”… I like both of those styles [yes this statement is diminished by the fact that I do enjoy a great deal of beer styles… shut up!]. Anyway after the Grand Cru I have high expectations for this brew.

Poured from a 330ml bottle into a Chimay chalice.

A: Deep, dark, murky almost obsidian brown, quite dark and luscious body with a thin ring of khaki lace in the glass… the bubbles in the glass are dense and I know that I am truly in for a heady beer treat. 9/10.

S: Spice heaven. Heavy notes of cardamom, cinnamon, coriander and mace combine with dark fruit (raisin and fig), truckloads of brown sugar, earthy hops and a coffee note. It’s very Christmassy, and in this hot Australian summer the brew warms up quickly… in fact I need to shut up and drink this now. 9/10.

T: Interesting! Hits you with the above spices, dark fruits, earthy notes and coffee. It’s quite sweet (yes brown sugar). However there is this heavy Vegemite™ note throughout – Vegemite (for those of you unaware of anything Australian or Men at Work’s classic single) is a salty, meaty yeast spread – an acquired taste for anyone not Australian or Kiwi (NZ has Marmite). In any case it is a classic mixture of Belgian flavours with an almost bizarre inclusion of Vegemite. Oh well, I happen to like Vegemite. 8/10.

M: Mid to heavy bodied with a rich creamy carbonation. 8/10.

D: This brew is a flavour punch in the face: Tasty but a tad over the top. The Vegemite character gives this Old Fisherman’s Spiced Ale a sense of the theatrical which indeed provides us with something different from the rest of the Belgian pack. Is it as noteworthy as Rodenbach’s Grand Cru (the Flemish Red Ale I now recommend to customers)? Not really. The flavour profile is Christmassy but the Vegemite note can be a bit much for others, and the overall flavour is a bit too chaotic, like a firecracker going off in your trousers. 7/10.

Food match: I’m making Vegemite on buttered toast now… not of much help to those of you outside Australia/NZ who don’t have access to or hate Vegemite, but you could just have an orange and five-spice glazed ham with roasted sweet potato and other vegetables.

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St. Bernardus Abt 12

Total Score: 9.8/10 DarkFruits1 BrownSugar1 Bread1 Chalice1

Holy Mother of St. Bernardus! I’ve finally got my hands on a bottle of St. Bernardus Abt 12. This one comes from the greatest bottleshop in Australia, aka Plonk (in Canberra folks), I asked for it and they got it in (I love those guys!). Well this has been one at the top of my list for ages, isn’t it great when you finally get to topple giants? Anyway without further ado (I hate ado’s) let’s crack open some Abt 12.

Poured from a 750ml bottle into a St. Feuillien chalice as it is the glass that compares most to the one on label, plus how happy does that monk look? I want to look that happy.

A: Cloudy, with yeast particles everywhere, deep ruby ( and I mean really really really deep ruby) body with a 1cm fawn head that stays like a champ. 10/10.

S: First whiff is a combination of dark fruit (plum, fig, date) esters and white wine spirit. Further notes of heavy bread yeast, brown sugar and a hint of peppercorn is revealed afterwards. That touch of wine spirit is the only disturbance to a perfect score. 9/10.

T: One massive dark fruit experience! With added bold characters of brown sugar, rye bread and alcohol warmth at the back. There is a light medicinal hop note providing a hint of bitterness to cut through the sugar, and a slight peppercorn spice plays in to the flavour as well. What’s amazing about this brew is how flavoursome it is at 10% ABV. A buttery diacetyl opens up as the glass warms. Damn these monks in their fancy cassocks can brew! 10/10.

M: Medium bodied with velvety smooth carbonation, it paints a rich tongue-coating tapestry throughout the mouth, mmmm. 10/10.

D: Well the points are flying left right and centre for Abt 12, and so they should be – this is one brilliant Quad. Better than Trappistes Rochefort 10? Yes, this one has a touch more character in the flavour. As Doc (i.e. me, I’m doing a Caesar referring to himself in the third person thing now) always says: “The T in my reviews is king”. Indeed it is with the Abt 12. Let’s talk about the cons of this fine Ale: None. No wait, if you’re the designated driver going to a party and they’re serving bottles of this you might end up driving home drunk, getting caught and having your licence suspended… that is however a very specific and unlikely scenario (err, someone serving Abt 12 at a party that is, not the drink/driving part). 10/10.

Food match: Some Trappist cheeses would go down a treat along with crusty bread.

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