Beer lovers know that Westvleteren 12 is supposed to be the best beer in the world but does it really live up to all the hype? I had to find out with a taste test.
I’ve read a million beer reviews and lots of people seem to reckon there are two other beers out there which are “as good as”, “the same as” or “better than” Westy 12. Those beers are St Bernardus Abt 12 and Rochefort 10.
I’ve tried all three quadrupels – and liked them all – but remained convinced that I liked the Westvleteren the best.
But I’d went to great lengths to get it, spending hours trying to get through on the ‘beer phone’ and travelling from Scotland to Belgium to pick it up. I had to be open to the idea that maybe I’d been influenced by the hype. I wanted to know for sure.
I decided to do a blind taste test with all three beers. The boyfriend was more than happy to assist me with my research for a second opinion.
I bought six identical glasses so there was no cheating, and I wrote which beer was which on the underside with a dry-wipe pen. Because they’re all dark beers we’d only see what was in the glass once it was empty.
Tasting each beer one by one, I wrote the type of amateurish notes a beer connoisseur would snort at – but they were good enough for me to tell what I liked and what I didn’t. I then had a second taste of each one and took more notes to see if I picked up on any other flavours, and so I could double check I was happy with my decision.
Obligatory cheese was had as a side – Old Amsterdam which goes nicely with a dark Belgian beer.
Beer 1: This one had quite a distinctive treacle-like smell, and when I sipped it I thought had a really smooth taste. I rated it ‘very good’ and moved on to the next.
Beer 2: The first thing that hit me was its super sweet smell. Definitely banana, maybe a bit of vanilla. A bit more watery than the first beer but much sweeter tasting.
Beer 3: I got more of a raisin-like smell from this one, and a sweet aroma too but not as overpowering as Beer 2. It was lovely, easy to drink, and I detected a vaguely smokey taste.
Beer 1: I wondered if I could start to smell a bit of banana from this one too but wasn’t sure. Looking back on my notes I’ve simply written ‘smooth as fuck’ (eloquent, I know).
Beer 2: Still nice, but in comparison to Beers 1 and 3 this one tasted slightly more sickly sweet.
Beer 3: I was still struck by its beautiful smell which now seemed almost a bit herby compared to the other two. It had a very strong whiff of alcohol and fruit – vaguely reminiscent of the type of waft you get when you wave your nose over a sangria or sherry.
Verdict – and the reveal
All were delicious and I wouldn’t turn my nose up at a glass of any of them. But picking a winner wasn’t a difficult decision – one stood out and was the clear victor.
First place: Beer 1
Second place: Beer 3
Third place: Beer 2
I reached the bottom of the glasses to find out which was which:
Beer 1: Westvleteren 12
Beer 2: St Bernardus Abt 12
Beer 3: Rochefort 10
So it turns out I didn’t just get sucked in by the hype after all. I wasn’t convincing my tastebuds I liked the Westvleteren 12 best…I genuinely did. Getting my hands on it really was worth all the effort.
And I learned a few other things too. Amazingly I’d never noticed how much St Bernardus Abt 12 smelled like banana but now I can’t drink it without noticing. I also thought I liked St Bernardus 12 better than Rochefort 10, but it turns out I was wrong and it’s the other way around.
It’s worth noting that the boyfriend didn’t agree with my verdict. He put the St Bernardus Abt 12 in first place, followed by Rochefort 10, then Westvleteren 12. So it’s all a matter of personal taste!