Their beers are often talked about by beer geeks in hushed tones; reverential, almost forming an incantation.

It's often called Westy, an unfortunate result of social inadequate's txt spk and those who can't be arsed to learn how to pronounce it.

Buying it seems to be a cross between spy novel and performance art worthy of Camden's finest; call an answering machine, leave your car registration, meet a monk at an allotted time by a gap in a wall.

If you're lucky/fortunate/well-connected, friends bring bottles over to you. If you're desperate/geeky/misguided, you pay a fortune to import a bottle (that may not even be the real deal. Ebayers beware).

I am glad to have generous friends.

So, here are beers that - surely - cannot possibly be as ball-bustingly great as the hype make them out to be. Even though Ratebeer.com still ranks the '12' as the Best Beer In The World.

My verdict?

The '8' is full of tart plums. The '12' is almost too complex for its own good. The Blond stole the show - plenty of pears and cloves and a feisty peppery-biscuit finish.

Best beers in the world? Not today. Perhaps it's because I refuse to believe the hype. Perhaps I'm rewarded for that. Perhaps I've just tasted great beer and enjoyed it; not revelled in it, not gone all misty-doe-eyed over it - just enjoyed it. Perhaps that's all you're meant to do. After all.... it's only beer.


  1. I have enjoyed the Westvleteren beers, and with a bit of planning was able to bring back a blonde, a 12, and a couple of 8s from a recent trip. I think the 8 is my favourite out of them, but possibly that's because I've had it quite a few times and therefore have better flavour memory of it than the others.

    But I don't think they're any better beers than, say, a decent Rochefort 8 or 10, which are easy to pick up in a Belgian supermarket for less than €1, and are reliably good.

    So without ragging on the beer itself, I would (IMHO) imagine that those who tag it 'best beer in the world' either haven't had it, or have a bit further to go with their own beer education. Perhaps an accolade of 'hardest to obtain beer in the world' would be more appropriate!

  2. I've had the 8 and 12 in the last couple of days and love drinking them because they are so interesting to think about and talk about, but as for the best beer in the world... they aren't... probably... but then I'll reserve judgement until I try them at the brewery. There's nothing like pulling a bottle out and seeing someone's face when they realise what it is! It's all hype. Fascinating, tasty hype.

  3. Agreed - they are very good beers but not the best in the world. Given that tastes in beer vary so much I doubt anyhting is really "best in the world". It might be someone's personal "best in the world" but that's something entirely different. Perhaps this is soemthing Mark could blog about at some stage - it's the sort of thoughtful abstract thing he does so well.

    By the way Mark - you won't be able to try tham at the brewery - the nearest you will get is the brewery-run Vrede across the road.

    Final comment - I find the 8 matures very well in the cellar for a few years - when young it can have a few rough edges.

  4. Our summary would be: "Smashing, but hardly worth the money or the bother when you can drink St Bernardus instead."