Daily Archives: December 31, 2009

#66 – Westvleteren 12

#66 - Westvleteren 12

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 10.2 %

My last beer in Belgium on this trip was always going to be a bit special. In 2005 there was something of a media frenzy whipped up when the Westvleteren 12 was again voted the best beer in the world. It seemed preposterous to the journalists of the world that a beer made by monks in a tiny monastery in the middle of nowhere could lay claim to this, and they decided to investigate. The inevitable happened and the eyes of the world turned to the Trappist Abbey of St Sixtus (#46). Suddenly, and rather uncomfortably for both the monks of Westvleteren, and indeed the local population, hoards of beer lovers and profiteers alike from all over the world descended on the quaint country lanes north of Poperinge. For anyone who has driven up to the Abbey, they will testify that this must have been pure carnage. It is hard enough finding the place, let alone considering 3km queues of angry punters not being able to get anywhere near the Abbey doors.

The monks remained unrepentant and refused to up the sales of the beer. In true Trappist tradition (#7) they remained vigilant in only producing enough beer to provide for themselves and the community. On the opening of the new brewery premises, the head abbot stated “We are no brewers. We are monks. We brew beer to be able to afford being monks.” – a wonderful sentiment, but not one to appease the outside world who misread this statement as an indication of the beers becoming even rarer, and thus the queues grew and the media frenzy intensified further.

The monks have been true to their word, and even now only brew 4750 hectolitres per annum. To put this into perspective Chimay probably turn over 135,000 hectolitres per annum, which is almost thirty times the amount of beer! They are able to manage this by advertising sales by appointment only from the website, and by restricting public sales to a very limited amount on visiting. In fact I was only able to buy six Westvleteren Blondes (#90) to take away at the ‘In de Vrede’ café/brewery tap, and as many as I wanted of any of their three beers as long as I was on the premises. Time was short and I had a car to drive, so Tash and I shared what is still, according to the ‘Rate Beer’ website, the best beer in the world.

It was over four Euros which is fairly excessive but probably not really when you consider the location and how I paid nearly double that for a bottle of Westvleteren 8 in the UK (I wont tell you where in case I get anyone into trouble). It was elegantly poured and served at our cafeteria style table, and looked superb glistening under the lights. It was dark, but just enough light was able to radiate through. The overriding aroma was of liquorice and christmas pudding, followed by fruit and malt and many many more winter treats. On the palate it was solid, thick and venomous, as if the best mince pies had been liquidised with good beer. In a way it was more like dessert than a beer, and therefore I still vouch that the Trappistes Rochefort 8 (#31) is a tidier beer for its subtlety and style. The Westy was trying just that bit too hard, although I think maybe this might have tasted better had I the opportunity to savour my own by the fireside on a winters evening, as opposed to sharing a quick sip in a heaving tourist-ridden cafeteria in the middle of the day. We will meet again I am sure.

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Filed under 8, Abbey Beer, Abt/Quadrupel, Trappist Beer, Westvleteren

#65 – La Moneuse

#65 - La Moneuse

Size: 375 ml

ABV: 8 %

There is a most definite morbidity amongst the Belgians. We have already come across and drunk beers known as Judas (#5) and Duvel (#34), and learnt of others called Satan and Lucifer. While there is a certain degree of separation between the modern world and these figures of notoriety, the story behind Blaugies La Moneuse is far more contemporary. The person in question is Antoine-Joseph Moneuse, and the co-owner of Blaugies, Marie-Noelle Pourtois, is convinced that she is his descendant. On further reading I might have kept quiet about this !

A J Moneuse claimed to be a miller and a trader, although most who ran into this unsavoury character would argue this was a euphemistic claim. Moneuse spent most of his career as a coach driver cum highwayman, womaniser, robber and murderer. It was unlikely though that he would become anything but given his family background. His grandfather died in prison while on a fourteen year stretch, and his father was murdered during a fight with a sword. He fell into bad company while driving coaches, and it was inevitable he fell into the highwaymans way of life.

It would be easy to romanticise this character in the style of Dick Turpin, however when you read of his works, it is ever more surprising that somebody named such a great beer after him. Legend has it that when unwitting victims refused to give up the location of their stash, Moneuse and his cronies would burn their feet on the open fire until they confessed. The worst story came from 1795 when Moneuse and twelve other men attacked a hostel killing a couple, their six children and the family doctor. Records of the time reported that the bodies were macerated by both blunt and sharp weapons while the body of a twenty-two month old child was found with the guts ripped out in the arms of her dead sister.

Thankfully Moneuse was eventually caught with a number of his cronies and imprisoned in Asquillies. He was eventually sentenced to death and faced the Guillotine (#61) in June 1798 in the Place de Douai with his accomplices. They were made to wear the shameful red shirts set aside only for murderers and poisoners.

It was with trepidation that I visited the Trois Fourquets in Blaugies for lunch on our last day in Belgium. It was a far more enjoyable experience than the one documented above, ordering local sausages cooked in front of us on the open griddle, and served with a large bottle of La Moneuse. This was as near to an Orval (#37) as I had tasted since, yet more subtle and pronounced in its hoppiness. A truly impressive saison drunk in wonderful surroundings. The beer was a pure pleasure, quite unlike the man it is in honour of.

(Post-Script) – I have done a few brewery taps for lunch in Belgium now, but probably none finer than Blaugies – Its remote but if you get the opportunity do it !

Address: Rue de la Frontière
435 Blaugies, 7370
Belgium
Phone: 32 (0)65 65 03 60
Email: info@brasseriedeblaugies.com
URL: http://www.brasseriedeblaugies.com/



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Filed under 8, Blaugies, Horse, Saison