Foam or no foam? Drink fresh or age it?
Every beer has it’s own serving temperature, it’s own storage advise and it’s own way to drink. The Westvleteren 12 is no different. Due to the rarity of the beer, you might want to double-check how you should store, serve and drink it so you can make your tasting experience as sublime as the beer itself.
First of all, congratulations if you have acquired yourself one of the most famous Belgian beers and even one of the most famous beers worldwide. It’s is one of the few true trappist beers, the beers that are brewed by monks. The Westvleteren 12 has won countless of awards in the beer industry and has been awarded year-on-year the best beer in the world award. Now, let’s make sure that you can enjoy the Westvleteren 12 to it’s fullest potential.
1. Storing Westvleteren 12
The Westvleteren 12 is a bottle conditioned beer, meaning that the beer will continue to evolve inside the bottle. You have to make sure that the bottles are stored correctly to ensure that the beer doesn’t take a turn for the worst. The Westvleteren abbey’s advice is to store the bottles upright, away from direct sunlight and at a temperature of 12 – 18 °C.
2. Ageing Westvleteren 12
We know this might not be the answer you were looking for, some beers are best drunk fresh, the Westvleteren 12 isn’t one of those. The general advice is that you can age the beer for 2-3 years so the taste can fully develop. Wait 2-3 years before drinking it, if you can wait that long.
There have also been some reports of people keeping their Westvleteren for over 10-15 years before drinking them. While the taste can continue to develop, it can go both ways and is highly dependant on how the beer is stored. When opening the the beer after such a long period of time, carefully pour it in a glass and give it a sniff and taste test to see if it has aged properly.
3. Serving Westvleteren 12
As with the majority of dark beers, the Westvleteren 12 shouldn’t be served cold, it should be slightly below room temperature. This ensures that you can taste all the different notes and aromas, if it is served too cold you wouldn’t be able to taste the beer to it’s fullest. The Westvleteren Abbey’s advice is to serve the beer between 12 – 16 °C.
As with the majority of trappist beers, the Westvleteren also has it’s own chalice glass. It goes without saying that this is the go-to glass for serving all Westvleteren beers. As an alternative, you can use a chalice-shaped glass or a wide wine glass. Whatever glass you end up with, never drink from the bottle.
Once you have the right glass and the beer is at the right temperature, gently pour the Westvleteren 12 in the glass at a 45° angle. When the beer is about an inch away from the glass hold the glass upright and keep pouring gently, this will create a nice layer of foam. The general advice is to have about 2 fingers worth of foam, it is part of the beer and contains part of the aroma and taste.
4. Drinking Westvleteren 12
It might have taken a bit longer than you were planning to, but after 2-3 years of waiting in anticipation it is now time to drink your Westvleteren 12. Now, the key here is, drink it slow and enjoy every sip of it. The Westvleteren 12 is a beer that is made to be sampled and savoured rather than just to be drunk. To add to this, the strong alcohol percentage (10.2%) is also good to keep in mind.
Let us know what you think of your Westvleteren 12, how did were you able to age it for? Did you wait 2-3 years?