Name: Extra 8
Brewery: Westvleteren (Vleteren, Belgium)
Style: Trappist Ale
Source: The Beerstore
I found this random unlabelled bottle in the back of Dad’s fridge some time late on Saturday night. I wasn’t sure what it was but I was already too hammered by then to care, so I opened it up and used it for the Circle of Death drinking game we were playing.
What did it taste like? Lord knows! I had to scull it back and I’m pretty sure it had some tequila and white wine mixed in with it by then, but I do remember thinking (as I threw it up the next morning, not at the time) that it might have tasted a bit Belgian.
Relax – I jest! I jest! Imagine if I’d actually sculled a Westvleteren beer as part of a drinking game! Would any readers have killed me if I had?
For the non beer-geeks, it’s funny because the three beers from the trappist Westvleteren brewery are rated online as some of THE BEST IN THE WORLD (booming, thunderous voice), with the holy grail being the Westvleteren 12 – ranked number 1 on Ratebeer.com.
I think the mystical aura surrounding Westvleteren contributes to it’s appeal – by which I mean, the fact the monks only produce very limited amounts, and that they don’t sell it to any wholesalers. You can go and buy it from the abbey, but each person is only allowed one or two cases every two months, and you have to phone ahead and reserve it first. Talk about playing hard to get!
And that’s why it seems a bit strange that my dad was able to get me this bottle, simply by visiting The Beer Store and parting with $55 or so. Too easy, right?
Some people would probably argue that Westy isn’t meant to be exported to the other side of the planet. That you can’t be sure all the middle-men have handled it properly, and that the bottle you have in your hand in the end is only a shell (albeit a much more expensive one) of it’s former self. All quite true probably, but I’m not concerned. I may never make it to the Belgian municipality of Vleteren, and so if it weren’t for this grey market import, I might never get to try it at all.
And anyway, it was still very very delicious by the time it reached me.
I got malty aromas of raisins, marzipan, and brown sugar. In the mouth it wasn’t the massive sweet beast I was expecting, but one of the more refined, dry trappist ales I’ve had. I got a delicious blend of spices, leather, yeast, and stonefruits, a tiny hint of tartness and a medium, smooth mouthfeel. The dryness of it meant that it went down easy and, not helped by the fact I had to share it with about 5 people, disappeared in 3 minutes flat.
Had I not been aware of all the hype around Westvleteren beers, I can’t say I would have instantly declared this the 10th (or whatever it’s ranked) best beer in the world. That’s partly because I’m not enough of an afficianado, and partly because it probably did lost a little of its magic along the way.
Despite that, I heartily recommend forking out for a bottle to try on a special ocassion – or just to pour into a beer bong if you want to watch a beer geek sweat.