Tag Archives: belgium

It’s Over – The Westvleteren XII Craze

Well. Wow. So.

For those not in the know, the very rare and (supposedly) best beer in the world was released in Ontario LCBOs today. Westvleteren XII, previously only available in the St Sixtus Abbey in Belgium, upped production and came out with limited box sets in order to raise funds for renovations to the abbey and sent them out. Ontario snagged quite a few and, thanks to a Toronto Star article by Josh Rubin, the buzz was huge. The LCBO was hazy on when they’d actually be releasing the beer out in to their stores so many people, myself included, got in extra early throughout the week to check in.

And today it was released at a few stores. Thanks to Mike for letting me know that the store I was heading to wouldn’t have it today which led to me going to a location that did. There were over 150 people lining up and only 120 boxes. The line was huge and my hands were numb from waiting outside in the cold for 40 minutes. But hey, I’m no wimp when it comes to lines. I’m a veteran of the last Harry Potter book release (second in line) and many anticipated movies. To the people who moaned about this wait, I laugh at you.


And once the doors were open it all went so quickly. Staff were at the doors handing off a box to each person who came in until they were all gone.  According to the store manager they sold out within four minutes. And considering each set, which included six bottles of the rare brew and two souvenir glasses, costed about $76.85, that means that particular store made $9222 in four minutes. Cripes.

westcheersAnd I got mine, which was fun. I can now cross this beer off of my Bucket List of beers I have to try. I already had one of the beers and the rest will most likely go in to the cellar to be aged for a few years.

The bottle is gorgeous and so is the glass (will definitely be using it for a while). The beer itself is pretty young, with a HUGE alcohol burn cutting through the sweetness (not unexpected since it’s about 10.5% ABV), but once it warms up a bit some nice notes of dried fruit and a hint of vanilla kick in. It’s a very pleasant beer and one that I think will benefit from a couple of years of ageing. Worth the price? I’ll let you know in a couple of years. But I’m not disappointed by this beer. It really is a delight.

LCBO stores will still be trickling them out this week, but for me the hunt is over and I’m looking forward to some good times with this rare brew.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m still thawing from that wait. Brr…



Filed under Uncategorized

CURRENTLY DRINKING: Three Beligian Beers

So Three Belgians walk in to a bar…

Found myself on a weekend having an all-Belgian cast and thought I’d write about these darlings.

Two I’ve had before, Delirium Tremens and Westmalle Tripel. The third though, Palm, has always been under my radar a bit. I’ve seen it around, but haven’t had a chance to pick it up.

Belgian beers hold a really special place in my heart. With the Belgian yeasts that give the beer a wonder fruity aroma and taste along with, in some cases, the Candi Sugar adding a fantastic depth to the taste, some mighty fine beers have been made by the good people of Belgium. It’s safe to say that Belgian-style is one of my top types of beer.


From Palm Brewery and known as “Belgium’s Amber Beer”. Palm is one of those beers that I’ve seen around the liquor store a lot, but never really got around to picking it up. After some research, it was interesting to know that the brewery had a pretty fun history and that Michael Jackson (no, not that one. This one is THE top beer journalist) had some wonderful praise for it. So I decided to give it a shot.

COLOUR: A nice amber-like honey colour.

AROMA: A bit subtle, but definitely hints of honey with some nice fruity notes.  Kind of an edginess to the aroma that I can’t quite pinpoint.

TASTE:  Kind of syrupy mouthfeel and pretty sweet! Citrus, dried fruit and honey taste make a good appearance and then everything is wrapped rather nicely with a light bitter finish.

VERDICT: I think this is a pretty good introduction beer to the Belgian style. It showcases what the style is capable off without going full hog and intimidating newer drinkers. To be honest, if I was putting on a party (or gathering, or box social) I would consider picking up this beer as the “help yourself” beer.


From Huyghe Brewery in Belgium. I’ve always been in love with this drink. From the dark humor of its name (Delirium Tremens is a pretty serious form of alcohol withdrawal) to the little pink elephants on their glasses (also going the dark humor route).

COLOUR:  Golden yellow with a beautiful white head. Carbonation works out especially good if had with a snifter glass (which is ADORABLE AND HAS PINK ELEPHANTS).

AROMA: Light citrus notes, cloves. A sliiiiight hint of Bananas and Peaches. Very plesasant.

TASTE: Still light citrus notes, but the sweetness from the sugars and belgian yeasts are kicking in. A nice, almost honey feel to it. Alcohol content is creating a bit of a tang. Pretty refreshing drink.

VERDICT: This beer is one that definitely becomes the star on the patio. Very refreshing. Just don’t have too many.


I’ve mentioned this beer before in some detail on my post on Trappist beers, but thought I’d do something of a proper review, since the LCBO decided to stock this wonderful beer. From the Westmalle Brewery located in the Abbey of Westmalle. This beer did indeed make me weep with joy and even my mother, who enjoys just sipping the beers I have was suddenly turned into a convert of the “beer is wonderful and complex” way of thinking.

COLOUR: Cloudy straw yellow colour.

AROMA: Sweet. Lemon, orange and various spices. Very soothing

TASTE: You know, in the Trappist post I mentioned that the taste always left me dumbstruck because I just couldn’t describe it. Light mouthfeel with a LOT going on. Citrus, Bananas, spices, cloves…it’s all just hitting you at once. Working together like a choir. Just wonderful.

VERDICT: Sorry, I have something in my eye…


And that’s it for now! Stay tuned this week and next since, due to sickness and travel preparations, I have a few backlogged posts on the way.


Filed under Currently Drinking

Gateway Beers Part 3: Trappist Beers

Yes, GATEWAY BEERS.  Maybe you noticed some strange things happening with your son and/or daughter.  Leaving craft beer magazines lying around the house, starting a collection of coasters or glasses from brewpubs and microbreweries or even having a schedule of beer events happening WITH SEVERAL OF THEM CHECKED OFF OR CIRCLED. Yes, there’s no way around it.  Your kid is a Beer Fiend, a Hophead, a Malt Maniac, a Liberal, or whatever the hell kids are calling them these days. And it was all thanks to that damn Lambic!

Basically, this was inspired by the friends and family I have who have said “I don’t really drink beer, but when I do I usually drink _______.  What should I have?”.   

But you know what?  Today I feel reckless.  Today I don’t think I’m going to go with the template of “I usually drink ________”.  Today I’m going to just suggest a type of beer that you HAVE TO TRY before you die.

I am talking of the holiest of them all, the Trappist Beers. Cue the music to play along while reading this!

Trappists, also known as The Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, are an order of Roman Catholic contemplative monks who follow the Rule of Saint Benedict to the letter and have taken a vow of stability, fidelity to monastic life, and obedience.  While they don’t go so far as to take a vow of silence, talking too much IS discouraged.  Apparently speech disturbs a disciple’s duty for quietude and receptivity, and may tempt them to exercise their own will instead of the will of God.  A special sign language was created to further discourage speech and all meals are spent quietly listening to a reading.

There are about 175 monasteries and convents in the world and most of them make stuff! Turns out the Rule of St. Benedict encourages the monks to produce stuff with all income going to the monastery! This stuff ranges from clothing to food to toys…and BEER (which works because the monks don’t abstain from alcohol or think it’s particularly wrong).

In response to breweries, clothing companies and other non-Trappist purveyors abusing the Trappist name by calling their product Trappist, the International Trappist Association was formed which put a smackdown on the fakers and set up some strict rules to determine what is worthy of getting the “Authentic Trappist Product” sticker on their product.

Because this is a beer blog, I’ll give the rules as they relate to the making of beer:

  • The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist abbey, by or under control of Trappist monks (although this has been stretched to allow outsourcing to breweries outside of the abbey as long as the ENTIRE process is overseen by the monks).
  • The brewery, the choices of brewing, and the commercial orientations must be of secondary importance within the monastery and should reflect the monastic way of life.
  • Profit is not a goal.  Money received from sales goes towards the living expenses of the monks and building and maintenance of the grounds.  The rest goes to charity.
  • Trappist breweries must be constantly monitored to ensure the best of quality.

And if any one of those rules are broken BAM, The sticker comes off and they are no longer considered Trappist.  But why is that considered a big deal? After all, There are thousands of Abbey breweries out there.  This is true…but there are only seven Trappist breweries in the entire world (six in Belgium and one in the Netherlands), so staying on that list packs a lot of prestige.

Now I’m going to go through the seven breweries and say what I can about them.  Keep in mind that, due to limited availability, there are several that I have not tried and therefore won’t be able to comment on them.  Though with that it should be said that trying all the Trappist beers is something that should be put on your bucket list.

Bières de Chimay: Comes in three different, wonderful colours.White, Red and Blue. Chimay Red Cap was actually the very first craft beer I ever tried and the complexities just blew my mind.  First brewed in 1862, Chimay Red Cap has  a lovely copper colour, sweet apricot aroma and a taste that reveals the fruit nuances and delicious malts.  These folks also put more in to advertising than any of the other breweries and with their easy availablity are often a gateway in to the world of Trappist beers.

Brasserie d’Orval: This brewery makes two beers; one for the public and one just for the monks (but can also be purchased at the monastery itself or the cafe near it). The public one, Orval, has a light cloudy colour, is somewhat high in carbonation and with a spicy, leathery aroma.  Taste is sweet with some citrusy tones and a distinct note of pear and apple.  Slight hoppiness due to dry-hopping during the three-week maturation period.  Also should be noted that the brewery uses a unique local wild yeast for fermenting.

Brasserie de Rochefort: Never tried the three beers from this brewery. Rochefort 6 is only brewed once a year and is very difficult to hunt down, Rochefort 8 is their most popular brew and Rochefort 10 packs a punch with an 11.3% ABV, which I imagine adds some lovely distinctions to the flavour.  A fun note about this brewery is that they obtain the water from a well within the walls of the monastery.

Brouwerij der Trappisten van Westmalle: Westmalle makes three brews speculated to be based on the Holy Trinity. A Dubbel, a Tripel (the first golden strong pale ale to be called one) and Westmalle Extra, which is pretty rare.  Not going to lie here folks, when I first tried Westmalle Tripel I actually wept tears of joy.  The aroma is quite sweet, with hints of lemon zest, orange and sweet spices but the the taste is another matter. VERY creamy mouthfeel to it with such a complex flavour.  Really, nothing I can say about the flavour will do it justice.  Every time I try to do a tasting I’m just left dumbstruck.  Combinations of sweetness, bitterness and earthiness combine to form a holy trinity on its own.  For the love of all that is Holy (and these folks are pretty holy) try the Westmalle Tripel.

Brouwerij Westvleteren: These folks do absolutely no advertising, make just enough beer to support the monastery and the only official sell points are the brewery itself and a cafe across from the abbey.  Any other places you get it should be punished because once purchased the buyers are given their receipt with “DO NOT RESELL” on it.  No pubs have it either.  They have not changed the amount of beer they produce since 1946.  This kind of thing brings out the romantic in me and makes me want to go on a pilgrimage.

Brouwerij der Sint-Benedictusabdij de Achelse Kluis: The smallest of the breweries, the building of which was assisted by the monks at Westmalle and Rochefort. They brew six beers, two of which are available only on tap at the Abbey, one available in bottles only at the abbey and the remaining are distributed worldwide but to quite limited availability. I regret to say that I haven’t tried any of these beers, though I have been told that Achel Extra Brune, which seems to be their most popular beer, is “what a strong ale should be”, with a creamy mouthfeel and hints of rye, caraway, molasses and cloves.

Brouwerij de Koningshoeven: More known as La Trappe.  The only one of the Trappist breweries not based in Belgium, but in the Netherlands.  While they make about seven beers plus one seasonal, in my experience the three most popular are the Dubbel, Tripel and Quadrupel.  As luck would have it, a pub right down the street from my office serves all three on tap.  The tripel  has a rich, bittersweet taste with hints of pears and coriander while the quadrupel would have to be the sweetest of them all, with strong tastes of molasses, cloves, bay leaf, vanilla and raisins, a sticky mouthfeel and a very slight bitterness that only comes from it’s alcohol content (10%).  A personal goal of mine is to try the oak aged batches of the quadrupel, which adds a whole new element to an already fantastic beer.

PHEW!  So that’s all of them.  So here you have a group of breweries with a very rich history and a way of life that is so unique.  Not to mention that by buying the beer, you know the money is going towards maintaining the monastery with the rest going to charity.  In all respects Trappist beers are feel-good beers.

So now that this post is written, I’m going to get something to eat, head down to my local pub, purchase a bottle of Orval and let out a very solemn “hallelujah!”


Filed under Gateway Beers