Food, Beer, and Travel

a dump from the mind of Jon Piper

Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

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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Posted by jwpiper on December 30, 2008

I feel I should introduce the blog with some sort of an explanation of why it’s called “Food, Beer, and Travel”.

There are a few repetitive tasks which are required for survival: eating, drinking, and sleeping. Sleeping is pretty boring for me as my memory for dreams is worse than it is for reality. In general, I despise repetitive tasks. My wife would attest, I hate cleaning, taking out the trash, paying bills, yardwork – the list goes on. But cooking and eating and drinking I enjoy immensely; they are the exception to my rule.

I also enjoy creative expression. We could survive, however, without most forms of art. And while we could also survive without artful cooking and brewing, there’s something about the intersection of the necessary and artistic which I find fascinating. Or perhaps it’s the pragmatist in me: I can’t imagine spending hours perfecting my lawn. Spending hours on a meal, however, seems like a worthy use of time.

Food and drink in their most transcendent expressions also employ nearly all of the senses: taste, smell, touch, and sight. Combine that with the fact that they’re essential to survival, and it’s tough to argue for a more perfect art form.

Why beer instead of some other drink? Having an alcoholic father who abandoned our family always made me approach alcohol intrepidly. I used to proclaim that alcohol only existed so people could get pissed – and let’s be honest, with most of the crap that people drink, it’s the truth. One by one, though, I was introduced to examples which proved otherwise: first some good wines, then some good beers, and finally some good liquor. In truth, each of these beverages is sure to make it into this blog at one time or another, but for some reason it’s beer which fascinates me the most.

And travel… yet another thing which is required of me – this time by my employer. And like food and drink, I don’t begrudge travel. Indeed, I revel in it. There is so much to be appreciated within minutes of my home, but I enjoy observing and interacting more broadly with the world. It is one way in which I experience God: through His creation.

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