Food, Beer, and Travel

a dump from the mind of Jon Piper

Fresh Westvleteren 12 vs. Aged Westvleteren 8

Posted by jwpiper on January 3, 2009

There’s something about the most excellent of beers which makes the memory of every other beer you’ve experienced up to that moment fade. For me, those excellent beers include Alesmith Speedway Stout, Thomas Hardy’s Ale with some age, Westvleteren 12, and Westvleteren 8 with some age, to name a few. That moment becomes a singularity – as if nothing like it happened before or since.

I have a decent stash of 2-3 year old Westvleteren 8 which I open only on special occasions – though sometimes the occasion is only made special by the opening of one of these bottles. A few months ago, I returned from Belgium with a set of fresh Westvleteren 12. A series of innocent events (described along with reviews, here: Westvleteren 8 and here: Westvleteren 12) drove me to perform the comparison of these two beers which I intended those months ago.

Objectively, I recognize the incongruity of the times I’ve had that moment with Westvleteren 8 at my home and the singularities I’ve experienced with Westvleteren 12 at In de Vrede over the past 2 years. As an aesthete, this contradiction doesn’t bother me; indeed I revel in it. However, some (I concede the possibility that this group includes only myself) might call me hyper-rational. The scientist in me could not abide the inconsistency and savored the possibility of so worthy an experiment. To be fair, at the first sip the aesthete savored it as well.

While the comparison will never fade from memory, I fear I may have robbed myself of the deliciously contradictory singularities which could have continued in each new experience with either exemplary beer. I do relish in the still unanswered question, “At what point, if any, will an aged Westvleteren 8 surpass a fresh Westvleteren 12?” In the meantime, I can only hope, and indeed suspect, that these divine Trappist brews will continue to transcend reason and recollection to demand the title, “Best Beer in the World” in that moment.

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