Sunday, May 25, 2008
Apparently, Westvleteren is the only Trappist brewery in the world where the monks actually still do all of the brewing. And they take it even further. This brewery has only FIVE monks that run most of the brewery. Five monks. I think that they hire a couple of secular people to do some of the grunt work, but its mostly the monks doing their monky thing and making the beers all special and stuff.
I must say that this beer was delicious. I almost can't describe it, and you know that says a lot. The balance of the beer is absolutely amazing and so delicate, yet rich in flavor and spices. I wanted to say pepper - but it was so fragile that I amended the description to 'white' pepper. I do wonder though, if the hype of the Westy (as those in the know call it) made me love it more or if this beer was really as good as it seemed. I am a Los Angeles girl, after all, and greatly influenced by such things as hype. But, no.... I think it was a damn fine beer (Sorry for the cursing monks.)
I will say that because of all the hype - and I'm probably contributing to - and because of the rareness of these beers, the abbey is totally against the resale of their beer. (I didn't buy this beer - a friend brought it from the abbey.) It is there sincere wish that the beer is only available for sale at their abbey or at the small shoppe in town. No bars or pubs are supplied with this beer. And actually, monks at the brewery have explained that they are not trying to increase production to meet the demand of this beer. Westvleteren 12 was named "Best Beer in the World" in 2005 by ratebeer.com.
In fact, the monks have stated that they have "a desire to live a peaceful monastic life," and that "We are no brewers. We are monks. We brew beer to be able to afford being monks." And even though that makes this beer ridiculously hard to get, I respect and dig that philosophy!
Friday, May 23, 2008
Beer from the Westvleteren Trappist Brewery is a treat bestowed on only the few who are 1) willing to reserve their ONE case (the maximum you are allowed to buy) by "beerphone;" 2) able to get to Belgium; and, 3)able to drive to the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren to personally pick the beer up. OR those who have a hook-up like a fellow beer fanatic friend whose company headquarters are in Belgium! YEAH.
As with all other Trappist breweries, the beer is only sold in order to financially support the monastery and other philanthropic causes. Trappist breweries are supposed to exist to make just enough money to help run the monastery and not necessarily to make a profit.
Modern commercial breweries might say "Vous etes fou!" to these selling methods, but the Father Abbott on the opening of their new brewery said, "We are no brewers. We are monks. We brew beer to be able to afford being monks." It is the only Trappist brewery where the monks still do all of the brewing with only FIVE monks running the brewery, with an additional five monks helping during bottling. Its no wonder this beer is so rare!
So, back to me. This morning my friend called me and said, "I have something for you." I told him to say "The eagle has landed," but I guess he forgot - Anyway... tonight he is bringing me the Westvleteren Blonde (green cap) a 5.8% ABV beer for me to try for the very first time. This style is relatively new (about 10 years old) but its comes from a brewing tradition that started in 1838. This Blonde style is the beer that replaced a previously produced lighter beer that served as the monks' table beer.
The brewery currently brews only three beers: the Blonde, Westvleteren 8 (blue cap,) 8% ABV and Westvleteren 12 (yellow cap,) at 10% ABV. The members of BeerAdvocate.com and RateBeer.com (my two favorite websites), consistently rate the Westvleteren 12 as their most favorite beer. The 12 is considered by many to be the best beer in the world.
So here I go. Tonight, I become de-virginized. Tonight I drink Westvleteren.
I'll let you know how it was.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Aside from writing about myself in the third person, the answer is no, la chica de la cerveza no esta loca! I have found a nice happy light colored pale lager style that, if done right, I like a lot; especially for summer: called Helles. Now...what the hell is a Helles beer?
The word "Helles" (pronounced hell-us) actually means "a light one" in German. But this light really only refers to the color of this beer and not necessarily the alcohol content. And, according to the German Beer Institute, "if there is one beer style that typifies the greatness of German, and especially of Bavarian beer-making, it is this straw-blond lager." The subtlety of flavor from a Helles challenges the palate, in the best way.
Don't get Pilsners and Helles confused. This style is a Bavarian style (Southern Germany) not the Bohemian style that Pilsners are. This beer looks like a Pilsner, but its not. It looks like a dazzling blond sparkling beer, but because it is a full-bodied beer with more malty characteristics, this style is extremely satisfying to the sophisticated beer drinker. You may think you're drinking a light-bodied beer because usually, this style - like many lagers - has virtually no nose. These beers should be dry, but never harsh, it should have some good hops but be delicately balanced and elegant. A great summer beer for cool beer chicks.
Here are some good Helles that I've enjoyed:
Friday, May 2, 2008
I can't tell you how proud my parents were when I told them that I had discovered my passion, and that my passion was beer. Their reaction was less than effervescent to say the least. They were more casky (see Real Ale article) about it.
Slowly, though, through methodological tasting and pulling and prodding, I've finally turned my mother (who's past annual beer consumption consisted of one-half can of Bud Lite on Superbowl Sunday) into a bonafide beer drinker. And thank God, because there are times when she could really use one, believe me. Love you Mom!
So, with Mother's Day coming up. I thought that it might be interesting to list the beers that led up to her becoming a cool beer chick.
The first time I brought my parents to my favorite beer bar I knew I had my work cut out for me when they told me - the self-proclaimed beer chick - that they wanted a beer that tasted like Diet Coke and they weren't kidding. So I went to the bar and I ordered a Lindeman's Peche Lambic for my mother and I ordered a Rogue Hazelnut Brown for my father. I brought them to the table.
My parents tasted both beers and quickly traded, my dad opting for the Lindeman's Peche (we'll talk about him another time), and my mother savoring the Rogue. "I love this!" she said. And then she uttered a statement that I hate, "This doesn't taste like beer at all." I let it slide, because, you know, she's my mother; and I focused on the positive. That a) my MOM was drinking a dark as molasses beverage that b) wasn't Diet Coke that c) was BEER and that d) she was loving it!
Since then, my mom's been open to trying many new beers. Some she loves, and others not so much. Most of the beers that she likes are beers that "don't taste like beer at all," and that's okay. I've tried to explain to her that beer has a huge vast width of taste and flavor and the beer she likes does indeed taste like beer - but, what are you gonna do? Baby steps.
Here are some of the beers my mom (and hopefully your mom will too) dig.
Hazelnut Brown Nectar - Rogue Ales Brewery - Newport, OR:
I mentioned before that this was the first dark beer that my mother had consumed in her life. This American Brown Ale is wonderful. Full of roasted hazelnut and chocolate notes, this beer maintains its richness without being cloying or heavy.
Hoegaarden Original White Ale - Hoegaarden, Belgium:
My mom discovered this beer on a trip to England. She wrote it down while she was there and brought the note back to me. "YES mom... I've HEARD of Hoegaarden." (They really don't get what I do yet.) Anyway, turns out that my mom really likes Belgian Witbier. This one, I'm sure you all know with its coriander and citrus zest and bright light body....but did you know your mom would like it?
New Glarus Spotted Cow - New Glarus Brewing Company - New Glarus, WI:
My mom called from the University of Wisconsin's Student Union to tell me that she was enjoying this farmhouse ale. "Brewed with flaked barley and the finest Wisconsin malts." This beer "gives a nod to our farmers with a little hint of corn." This beer is unfiltered and on the lees to create full flavor in a relatively light bodied beer.
Jahva Imperial Coffee Stout - Southern Tier Brewing Company - Lakewood, NY:
This one surprised the heck out of me. My mom and I wanted a late afternoon coffee, but we didn't want to get all jacked up. I had a bottle of this in my fridge (Thanks Larry), and I suggested that we try this. I thought for sure that mom would poo poo this one, but turns out she loved it. This beer is made with Jamaican coffee, so, I assume there is some caffeine there, but the 12% abv. balances that caffeine right out, let me tell you.
Happy Mother's Day to all you hot beer drinking mamas out there!