Westvleteren 12 And The Monks Who Make Them

Not being a regular beer-drinker, the allure of beer was always lost on me. I never acquired the taste and satisfaction other people get from it especially growing up in an environment where beer was more associated with excessive drinking and the less privileged – think poor, unemployed men getting drunk until dawn at the local variety store. It was only a little better when I moved to the U.S. where the world revolved around limited choices like Budweiser or Miller, with some Heineken or Corona thrown in the mix. But even then it wasn’t so much about craft and quality as it was for chugging and frat parties. Moving to Europe it became all about quality and choice, and the malt landscape was now Dutch, German, and a great part Belgian.
I’m still far from being a regular but when I found out about a Trappist monastery that supposedly makes the world’s best beer over in neighboring Belgium, a road trip was born. Off we went this rainy morning to Westvleteren, almost up to the French border, and after over three-hours’ driving sat down to an attractive glass of dark 10% alcohol brew.

Given my still-empty stomach, it was wise to order at least a local version of the croque monsieur so I didn’t stumble out of there like a teenager. As for the beer, it was substantial and full-bodied, reminding me of Guinness but not as strong, and a bit pricey for a third of a liter serving. I didn’t get to see any monks in the area though it would have been for the best. Who knows how many times the Lord’s name would be taken in vain if they saw I’d only finished half my glass. Even with the best in the world looks like beer’s still not my thing.

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