Westvleteren 12 vs. St Bernardus Abt 12

The Battle of the Beers:   

Westvleteren 12 vs. St Bernardus Abt 12

Westvleteren 12 and St Bernardus 12

These 2 beers are made 5.2 miles apart from each other as the crow flies (for those who will have to use bike or a car, it’s about 9.2 miles).  It is said that St. Bernardus uses the same original recipe as Westvleteren, so what is the difference besides one is easy to find on the store shelves and the other for all practical purposes  you can only buy at its source in Westvleteren.  Let’s find out…

 Tale of the Tape:

 

Westvleteren 12

St Bernardus Abt 12

Brewery:

Brouwerij   Westvleteren

(Sint-Sixtusabdij van Westvleteren)

Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV

Town

Westvleteren   Belgium

Watou Belgium

Style:

Quadruple

 

Quadruple

ABV:

10.2% abv

10.0% abv

Bottle   Date

Aug 2011

May 2011

Best   by Date

On Cap:     17.08.14

On Label:      31 05 16

BeerAdvocate Ranking (among beers with 1000+   reviews)

#2

#8

RateBeer Ranking

#1

#41

Cost:

$3.60

(8€ for a mixed 3 pack at the  Abbey with an exchange rate of $1.35 per 1€)

$4.79 

The single bottle price at my local Total Wine

How served:

11.2 oz capped bottle poured into a Westvleteren chalice

11.2 oz capped bottle poured into a

St. Bernardus chalice

My Initial Serving

Temperature:

45°F

(in the future I’ll wait for it to warm up before serving)

45°F

(in the future I’ll wait for it to warm up before serving)

Ideal Drinking

Temperature:

55°F

55°F

 In researching for an article about our upcoming tour to St. Bernardus my wife was surprised to learn that although Westvleteren is now using Westmalle’s yeast, St. Bernardus is apparently still brewing the original Westvleteren recipe with Westvleteren yeast…  So she came to think that if she’s lovin’ a Westy, is it really a Westy? or is St Bernardus the real Westy?  Confusing, for sure.  So all we could do was pull out a bottle of each of them…which was conveniently located in our Coke Machine, and do a blind tasting.  Life is rough sometimes, but we were willing to make the sacrifice in order to provide you, our readers and beer voyagers, with enlightenment.   

Westvleteren 12 & St Bernardus 12 bottles

St Bernardus 12 & Westvleteren 12 bottle caps

But we’ll get back to the tasting later. Meanwhile, here is the story behind St. Bernardus:

Located in Watou, in Western Flanders in the heartland of hops, is brewery St Bernardus. The land on which this brewery was built was originally owned by Trappist monks from the Mont de Cats Abbey in France, who had left France for safer ground in Belgium during an anti-clerical movement.  Here, on a farm they called “Refuge de Notre Dame de St. Bernard”, they produced cheese in order to sustain themselves. When things improved in France and the French monks left Belgium to go back home, the cheese production was continued by Mr. Evariste Deconinck, who gave the cheese the name St. Bernardus

Shortly after the Second World War, the nearby Trappist Monastery of St. Sixtus decided they did not want to brew commercially anymore, so they engaged in an agreement with Mr. Deconinck to brew their beers.  Initially, before the brewery building was completed, Mr. Deconinck made the cheese in the morning and used the same equipment to make beer in the afternoon!

The agreement between Deconinck and St. Sixtus was that the monks from St. Sixtus would brew beer inside the walls of their Trappist Monastery for their own consumption, for sales to the public at the gates of the Monastery and also for a few taverns whom were connected to the Monastery, while Mr. Deconinck of St. Bernardus would brew the St. Sixtus beer for commercial production.  This agreement was set for a period of 30 years. The beers were brewed at St. Bernardus with the help and original recipes of the master brewer of Westvleteren.

As they say, all good things must come to an end, and although the agreement was renewed over the years, it ended in 1992, when St. Sixtus decided not to renew.  This was because by that time, the Trappist Monasteries decided that the qualification ‘Trappistenbier’ could only be given to beers brewed inside the walls of a Trappist Monastery. At this point, the beers brewed at St. Bernardus began production under the name St Bernardus instead of the brand name St. Sixtus.  They also at that time added St Bernardus Tripel, to the existing Pater 6, Prior 8 & Abt 12, (which, incidentally, were all created by the brewmaster from Westvleteren based on the Westvleteren recipes).

As for the results of our tasting….well, although they’re both similar in appearance and taste to a degree, they were not the same.  There were different carbonation levels, different tastes as they warmed slightly, etc…

Appearance:

Westvleteren 12:  Pours a cloudy deep dark reddish brown with a few chunks floating in the glass. It had a one finger tan head and left a nice thin lace on the glass.

St Bernardus Abt 12: Pours a hazy dark reddish brown with a 1 finger creamy tan head and left a nice lacing on the glass.

AppearanceWinner:  Almost identical in appearance, but the edge goes to St. Bernardus.

Aroma:

Westvleteren 12:  The nose was initially muted and was sweet with hints of dried fruit (raisins/plums).  As this beer warmed up to about 55°F boy did it come alive with aroma!  The dark fruits intensified and I also picked up cheery, figs, caramel, licorice, chocolate and the alcohol poked through sherry like.

St Bernardus Abt 12: There was a rich malty sweetness with notes of caramel, dried dark fruits like raisins, figs and prunes as well as a hint of the alcohol.

Aroma Winner: Initially at the 45°F  pour, St. Bernardus had the advantage, but as it warmed up it was Westvleteren by a “nose” at the finish line.

Flavor: 

Westvleteren 12: The taste is very similar and as complex as the nose was, especially as it warmed to 55°F.   There were notes of caramel, dried raisins, prunes, figs, vanilla, sweet (but not too sweet) candy sugar, some licorice, a hint of cherries and a mild spiciness.

St Bernardus Abt 12: Starts off somewhat semi sweet with malt and caramel and peppery spice, then I picked up fruits like raisins, plums, dried cherries, figs, prunes and maybe a bit of toffee too. 

Flavor Winner: Similar in the flavor profile but not the same.  Like the Aroma, St. Bernardus lead at the beginning, but as it warmed up I enjoyed the Westvleteren more.

Mouthfeel:

Westvleteren 12: The mouthfeel is of medium creamy feel with a nice pleasant warmth from the 10.2% abv.

St Bernardus Abt 12: Medium-light to medium creamy body with a moderate and prickly carbonation level. A nice pleasant warmth from the alcohol.

Mouthfeel Winner:  This is where the beers had their biggest difference.  I was distracted by the prickly carbonation level of St. Bernardus, so the winner here is Westvleteren.

Drinkability:

Westvleteren 12: This was a very drinkable brew and I’m tempted to open another.

St Bernardus Abt 12: This was a very drinkable brew, especially given the 10% abv.

Drinkability Winner:  A virtual Tie, but I’ll give it to St Bernardus., for the ease of purchase.

My Overall Opinion:

Westvleteren 12: Amazing 

St Bernardus Abt 12: Amazing 

Overall Winner:  Westvleteren by a nose!

But what we think and taste will be different than your opinion.   And if you love one of these more than the other, or love them both equally, does it matter if you really know all the gory details behind it as long as you enjoy it? We can tell you this much… they are all good. And they are all even better when enjoyed at the source…while on Beercation

If you join us on our “Grand Crus to Farmhouse Brews- A Beercation Cruise through Belgium & France” October 27 to November 3, 2012 you  will have a chance to try both of these brews fresh at the “source” when we visit Brouwerij St. Bernardus and café In de Vrede at Brouwerij Westvleteren.  

In addition to the above we will also visit 9 other breweries including:

√ Brouwerij Rodenbach (meet the brewmaster himself- Rudi Ghequire and enjoy dinner in the brewery)

Chimay

Brasseries de l’Abbaye Des Rocs   

Brouwerij Van Eecke

Huisbrouwerij Sint Canarus

Brasserie St German (France)

Brasserie Bailleux  (France)

Brasserie Thiriez (France)

Bon Beer Voyage

Beer #189 Val-Dieu Grand Cru

Val-Dieu Grand Cru

Name: Grand Cru

Style: Quadruple

Brewery:  Brasserie de l’Abbaye du Val-Dieu   website

Country: Belgium

Region: Aubel

ABV: 10.5% abv

How served:  750ml corked and caged bottle poured into an Abbeye de Leffe chalice.

My Overall Opinion: Amazing.

I paired this beer with: Steamed salmon with onion garlic pan roasted potatoes.  Yummy!!!

Tasted on:  Monday January 30, 2012

Notes:  Cork read best by 03/2009.  So this bottle is about 5 years old.

This beer poured an opaque deep brownish black with a 2 finger light brown head which dissipated quickly leaving a thin lacing on my glass.

The nose was mixed with caramel, raisins (plus other un-named dark fruits) cotton candy and faint chocolate.

The taste was slightly sweet with dark fruits like raisins & figs; caramel and brown sugar with hints of chocolate and toffee finishing more on the dryer side.

The body was of a light to medium body & extremely creamy and smooth with minimal carbonation; it was as if this beer had come from hand drawn cask.

The drinkability was amazingly smooth and easy to drink for a 10.5%abv brew; it drank like a 5-6%er.

Overall, is one of the better Quadruples in the marketplace  Find it, drink it, enjoy it…then compare it to the best rated Quads you’ve had and you’ll see for yourself why I feel this under the radar and under hyped  brew is so damn good!!!!!!

On the Label:  This authentic Abbey Ale is based on the recipe perfected centuries ago by the monks of Abbey Val-Dieu.

From their website:  Un petit bout d’histoire ?

The abbey of Val-Dieu was built 1216 by Cistercian monks. They were looking for a lone valley with a stream for agricultural and brewing activities, a haven of peace full of nature. Cistercian orders are well-known abroad for their brewing skills. The monks of this abbey made no exception to this rule.

Because of the numerous hazards encountered by the abbey over time (fire, destruction, expulsion of the monks during the Napoleonic revolution), monks have not always been able to brew. That explains why their beer production remained limited to the local level.

Fortunately, since 1997, the farm has discovered the typical roar of the brewery again. The only difference with the past is that beers are nowadays brewed by a layman. Moreover, the beers of Val-Dieu are brewed in the former agricultural exploitation.

Reinstalled 1997 in the abbey itself, the brewery took inspiration from the receipts formerly used by the brewers-monks of Val-Dieu to make this tradition last. Of course, those receipts had to be adapted to the raw materials and techniques of today.

Nowadays, our beers are real abbey beers, of high fermentation, not pasteurized, simple, without seasoning and brewed according to the old infusion method.

That is why the small stamp opposite can be found on the labels of our beers. This stamp proves the veracity of our products. To know more about it, go and visit the belgian brewers’ confederation.

Tradition, however, does not only apply to our beers. The “pays d’Aubel” is full of products that are emblems of the culinary tradition of the region. In the surrounding orchards, apples are growing which will be used to produce cider and “sirop de Liège“. The livestock which grazes in the green patures will offer you delicious delicatessen. Those are all reasons why you should visit the beautiful “pays d’Aubel” and discover its marvels.

Beer #183 Deschutes Jubel 2010 Once A Decade Ale

Deschutes Jubel 2010 Once A Decade Ale

Name: Jubel 2010 Once A Decade Ale

Style:  American Strong Ale

Brewery:  Deschutes Brewery  website

Country: USA

Region: Bend, Oregon

ABV: 10.0% abv

How served:  22 oz waxed and capped bottle poured into a Delirium Noël snifter to get me into the holiday mood.       

My Overall Opinion: Amazing. 

I paired this beer with:   Lobster raviolis with marinara sauce.  Not the best choice of beer to go with this lobster ravioli, but what the heck, life is short and drink what you want, when you want it.  Overall nothing clashed and meal & beer was very enjoyable… mission accomplished!

Tasted on:  Wednesday December 14, 2011  

Notes:  This is a Special batch of their seasonal winter brew Jubelale. 

 The beer poured a muddy deep brown with a thin dark tan head which left a thin and sticky lacing on my glass.     

 The nose had nice aromas of toffee, chocolate, plums, roasted malt, hints of vanilla and a very pleasant warmth from the alcohol.

 The taste is similar to the nose.  I got chocolate, toffee and sweet roasted malts up front, then the vanilla, dark fruits and some bourbon flavors snuck in midway, and the beer finished dry with a very pleasant warmth from the alcohol.   

The body with medium to moderate with a slick/creamy mouthfeel with a very nice warmth from the alcohol.

The drinkability was good, but one which you would like to sip and savor.  This beer improved greatly as it warmed up and was good to the last drop.  Wait only 9 more years & look for the 2020 at a bottle shop near you.

On the Label:  Best after 1/29/2011   1032K

From their website:    Strong Ale  Alc. 10% | IBUs 55

Jubel 2010 is a deeply complex, intensely flavored take on our festive winter seasonal, Jubelale. Available on tap as Super Jubel at our pubs around the holidays, 2010 is only our second bottling of this prized rarity originally released to mark the 2000 millennium.

Pairings: Braised Pork Belly with Potato Rosettes Malt Crusted Idaho Trout

Beer #176 Funky Buddha Wide Awake It’s Morning

Funky Buddha Wide Awake It's Morning

Today was the GRAND OPENING of the Funky Buddha Homebrew Store (located directly next door to the Brewery) and the release of their highly anticipated Imperial Maple Bacon Coffee Porter.

The regular version of the Maple Bacon was at one time the number one buzz beer in America on beeradvocate.com and remains the number one American Porter. It was also the number one sweet stout on ratebeer.com.  Their Imperial Version comes in at 10.5%ABV!  The Grand Opening of the store and the release of the Imperial Version  was at 3:00pm today with a special 2:00pm preview for their Snifter members.

Funky Buddha Draft Board

 Along with the Imperial Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, they tapped some other rare and specialty Buddha Brews like the Bourbon Oaked Aged Nikolai Vorlauf (Imperial Stout), Vanilla Espresso Porter, Pineapple Hop Gun, No Crusts PB&J Brown Ale, Nib Smuggler, Blueberry Cobbler, Raspberry Wheat and others.

 

Funky Buddha Tap Handles

Besides Wide Awake It’s Morning I also tried today the Pineapple Hop Gun & the Bourbon Oaked Aged Nikolai Vorlauf.  Both were spectacular and I especially enjoyed the Pineapple Hop Gun.

Now for my Review of Wide Awake It’s Morning

Name: Wide Awake It’s Morning.  (aka Imperial Maple Bacon Coffee Porter)

Style:   Imperial Porter (my best guess or Imperial Stout) ??

Brewery: The Funky Buddha Lounge & Brewery.  Website  

Country: USA

Region:   Boca Raton, Florida

ABV: 10.5% abv

How served:  10 oz pour from the tap into my Bon Beer Voyage snifter member Funky Buddha Lounge & Brewery snifter glass.   

My Overall Opinion:  Amazing

I paired this beer with:   Nothing.

Tasted on:  Sunday  June 26, 2011  

Notes:  This is the Imperial version of their Maple Bacon Coffee Porter.  Today was the official release of this beer.  Besides what was poured on tap, only a total of 50 bottles were released to snifter members

This beer pours a dark brown, almost black with a very thin layer of beige foam.    

The nose was what you would expect from the name, roasted coffee, maple and hints of smoked bacon.   

The taste was a little more intense than the nose, with the roasted coffee and the maple sharing equally as the stars of this brew and the smoked bacon playing second fiddle.  This beer was well balanced with it not being too sweet, which you might have expected from the maple.

This beer had a medium to thick mouthfeel with an extremely low level of carbonation; it finished with a very pleasant slickness on the palate and a nice warmth from the alcohol.     

The drinkability was excellent as it went down nice and easy for a 10.5%abv brew.

Overall, if you liked the “regular” Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, you will not want to miss this one.  I liked this Imperial version better, as my palate like the balance of this one more.  I hope they will be brewing this one again!!

On the Label:  (Rx type label)

Pour into snifter glass Take by Mouth as Needed Daily.  Buddha, MD

Rx 10042006-06262011

Qty 22 oz

Refills Mandatory

 10.5% ABV.  Dark Carbonated Liquid.

The Consumption of this Tasty Beverage May Impair The Ability to Drive or Operate Machinery.  Use Care Until You Become Familiar with its Effects.

Check with your Friendly Bartender or Your Physician if You Are or Plan to Become Pregnant While Consuming This Beverage.

From their website:   No information on this brew.

Beer #169 Weihenstephan Vitus

Name: Vitus

Style:  Weizenbock

Brewery: Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan  website

Country: Germany

Region:   Freising

ABV: 7.7 % Abv

How served:  500ml capped bottle poured into a Sierra Nevada wheat beer glass.  

My Overall Opinion:  Amazing

I paired this beer with:  a bag of Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips, yummy!!!

Tasted on:  Sunday May 8, 2011  

Notes: The beer poured a cloudy light gold with a massive 5 finger white head on a very slow pour. The foam hung around for a longtime leaving a nice lacing on my glass.   

The nose was of bananas, cloves, bubblegum and citrus. 

The taste was of spicy pepper and cloves, banana and coriander as well as wheat bread; this beer was crisp and refreshing.

The  mouthfeel of a medium body with some nice warmth from the alcohol.

 The drinkability of excellent. 

This is one of the best Weizenbocks I’ve tasted & will be looking forward to enjoying a few more as we head into the summer months.  Prost!

On the Label:  Brewed Under the Purity Law of 1516.      7.7% alc/vol.       Store Dark and Keep Cool 46° – 52° F

 From their websiteA light-coloured, spicy single-bock wheat beer, for both beer lovers and the beer connoisseur.  Extra long and cold storage in our monastery cellars makes this single-bock a really special beer with full body and a distinctively great mouthfeel. Prost!

Original wort: 16.5% by weight

Bitter value: 17

Alcohol content: 7.7% by vol.

Calories: 260 kcal/0.5l

 

Beer #168 2009 Deschutes The Abyss

 

2009 Deschutes The Abyss

Name: The Abyss

Style:  Imperial Stout

Brewery: Deschutes Brewery  website

Country: USA

Region:   Bend, Oregon

ABV: 11.0 % Abv

How served:  22 oz black waxed and capped bottle poured into The Bruery tulip.  

My Overall Opinion:  Amazing 

I paired this beer with: Game 5 of the Heat vs Sixers playoff game.

Tasted on:  Wednesday April 27th, 2011  

Notes:  This is a 2009 vintage.  There have been many claims that some of the 2009 bottles of The Abyss are infected, so I am holding my breath that this is not one of them.  I last tried this vintage in Dec 2009 when it was “fresh” and there were no signs of infection at that time.  However, this is a different bottle and has aged at least 16 months, which could have given any nasty bugs time to do their dirty work.

So here it goes.

As I removed the cap I heard a faint hiss.  So far no signs or scents of an infected brew.

 The beer poured a very dark deep brown to midnight black with a 2 finger dark tan head which dissipated by the time I was half way thru my glass and left a minimal lacing on the glass, so far no odd smells.  After taking a deep whiff from my glass I’m sure this in not infected as all I got from the nose was bourbon, chocolate, molasses, vanilla and some coffee.  The taste was like the nose,  I got bitter chocolate, molasses, mild bourbon notes and vanilla plus I was able to pick up some of the black licorice flavor which I love.  The beer had a medium to thick slick mouthfeel with a nice carbonation level.   The drinkability of this 11% abv brew was very good with minimal heat from the alcohol.  I’m glad I got a “good” bottle, now I have to hope my others are good too.  I’m looking forward to doing a vertical tasting in 2013, as I have the ’06, ’07, ’08 & ’09, now all I need is the ’10, ’11.,’12 & ’13!

On the Label:  Best after 11/1/10. The Abyss: Stout brewed with licorice and molasses with 33% aged in oak and oak bourbon barrels. It’s dark. It’s deep.  It’s mysterious.  This imperial stout has immeasurable depth inviting you to explore and discover its rich complex profile.  The flavor of this special brew draws you in further and further with each sip.  The Abyss beckons.  Enjoy the journey.

From their websiteStout   Alc. 11% | IBUs 65

A deep, dark Imperial Stout, The Abyss has almost immeasurable depth and complexity. Hints of molasses, licorice and other alluring flavors make it something not just to quaff, but contemplate.

As for the great “drink it now or let it age” debate, we stand clearly on the fence. Distinct and delicious on release, the flavors meld and fuse into an entirely different pleasure a year on.

Beer #166 De Struise Cuvée Delphine

De Struise Cuvée Delphine

 Name: Cuvée Delphine

Style:  Russian Imperial Stout

Brewery: De Struise Brouwers.  website

Country: Belgium

Region:   Oostvleteren

ABV: 13.0 % Abv

How served:  330 ml capped bottle poured into a De Struise glass.  

My Overall Opinion:  Amazing

I paired this beer with:  After dinner drink, no food pairing is needed with this beer.

Tasted on:  Monday April 11th, 2011  

Notes:   This beer poured an almost pure black and opaque, with a thick 2 finger dark tan head on a very slow pour.  There was very little lacing left on my glass when I was done.  The smell was of chocolate, roasted malts/coffee, dark fruits and hints of the bourbon barrels this was aged in and oak.  The taste started off mildly sweet with cherries, roasted coffee, licorice and a bit of cocoa.  Near the finish I picked up mild bourbon flavors from the 4 Roses Barrels and ended mildly bitter.  This beer had a medium creamy mouthfeel with a moderate  level of carbonation.  The drinkability was very good especially since this is a 13% abv brew with the alcohol level not very noticeable.   This was extremely well balance as the bourbon was not over the top in this well blended brew.  I prefer this over the base beer Black Albert. WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!

On the Label:  Vintage 2009    Lot: BR26.230.610       Best Before 15 07 2015

Black Albert was used in a new barrel aging project.  More than a year ago, Carlo was able to get his hands on a stock of Four Roses Bourbon barrels, and we happily filled them up with Batch “0”.  This unique creation was originally to be named 4 Black Roses in honour of its heritage, but our friends in Kentucky strongly advised us not to do so!  What to do?  As the disowned offspring of Black Albert, the name Cuvée Delphine imposed itself.  Savouring the Belgian irony, we are most honoured to have the by Delphine Boël shining on this label.  You will not find this ale all over the globe.  There is no export program, but we will try to provide stock through our web shop and some specialty beer pubs.

 Art Work on the label is:  Blue Sky, Vicious Rumor.

 

Bon Beer Voyage and Special Guests Jason & Todd of  BeerAdvocate will be visiting De Struise Brouwers on one of our stops during our this October’s Amsterdam to Bruges Beercation Cruise.  

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