A good beer is always a good beer. Depending on your preferences, the best beer can be everything from a port to a light lager. Experts on the other hand look at different parameters when they decide what makes a good beer, or even the best beer in the world. Everything from brewing, maturing, bottling and environment is a part of the decision. The common denominator is usually that access and demand affect judgement. Beeradvocate and Ratebeer are two performers that with their experts are classifying and rating beers at their websites. They both agree that the best beer in the world at the moment is Westvleteren XII.
Brewed by Monks
Westvleteren is a Trappist beer. That means it is brewed and produced in a monastery by monks of the Trappist order. It is a Roman-Catholic monk order that descends from the Cistercian order. The Trappist order started in the monastery of La Trappe in Normandie in 1664. The Trappists where driven from France during the French revolution and spread to the rest of the world. Today there are about 150 monasteries with about 2000 nuns and 3000 monks. The rules of the order consist of eternal silence except at the services. Of these 150 monasteries, eight of them produce beer, one in the Netherlands, one in France and six in Belgium. They are self-sufficient but can´t be profitable. Any profit is given to charity.
The Monastery in Westvleteren
The monastery Sankt Sixtius of Westvleteren is situated in Belgium where they produce three kinds of beer, Westvleteren Blond, Westvleteren VIII and Westvleteren XII. The last mentioned is the one classified as the best beer in the world. To buy one of the coveted bottles you need to visit the monastery. Before your visit, you need to reserve your bottle by phone to the monastery. No reservation – no beer. It is such a small production that the monks tell on their website that you need to be very patient to be able to taste their beer. If you have succeeded once you need to wait 60 days before you can try to get another reservation. The control of this is very extensive. Phone number as well as registration number is always checked. This is to make sure that as many as possible will get the opportunity to buy and enjoy the unique beer. As a buyer you need to give a promise to the monks that you won´t sell it to anybody else.
A Trappist beer contains a relatively high percentage of alcohol, often around 10%. This is the result of three times of yeasting the beer. First in open fermenters, then in tanks and at last in the bottles. At the bottling they add sugar and yeast that makes it possible for the beer to mature in the bottle. The monks say that the beer can mature for years and only gets better with time. The bottle should be upright in temperatures between 12 and 16 degrees Celsius. When the beer is to be served the temperature should be around room temperature to enhance the flavours.
The beer is dark brown with tones of amber. It smells like syrup, yeast and malt with a touch of chocolate. The taste is round and complex with nuances of dried fruit, chocolate and wort. The aftertaste is long, and nothing can tattle about the percentage of alcohol. If it is the best beer in the world or not is hard to decide, but it is most definitely an experience in taste.