3.7AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 15/20
Belgian beers, especially Trappist beers (made by monks) are known for being intense, complex, sippers. But why can’t they make a lighter, more direct, and refreshing brew for casual drinking? I guess that’s the idea behind Westvleteren Blond. It’s got the basic characteristics of the Trappist ales, but without the intensity or prerequisites that come with most beers of the sort.
NOTE: Of all the Westvleteren beers, the Blond is not meant to be aged (according to the monastery’s website). The bottle I drank was purchased in February of 2009, although the original buyer isn’t sure when it was brewed and bottled. It’s possible I was not drinking this beer the way it was meant to be served.
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
I poured an 11.2oz bottle into a Trappist chalice. The beer is lively and bubbly with a bright orange/yellow body with tons of tiny Belgian bubbles streaming up from the bottom of the glass. Although the beer is not intended for extended cellaring, it is bottle-conditioned as plenty of yeast can be seen in the bottle and even leaves a brown stain in the otherwise bright white, fluffy, head.
The aroma is a little weak. I notice a typical Belgian blond scent not unlike Duvel of light fruit and yeast, but there also seems to be a touch of skunkiness (again, this could be due to the age of my bottle).
When drinking a Trappist beer one of the first things you notice is how much flavor they deliver immediately. Westvleteren Blond is a bit different than the others as its flavor doesn’t make itself known right away, but shows up in the finish and aftertaste. As it crosses my palate I get hints of fruit and yeast, but it’s otherwise mild. What’s interesting is that it’s actually very refreshing while it’s in my mouth.
The majority of the flavor comes on the backend. I notice three distinct green fruits: white grape; Granny Smith apple and green pear. The only caveat is I have to reach for those flavors. Perhaps if I were drinking a fresher bottle these flavors would be more robust and more satisfying. As the beer warms the fruitiness becomes a bit stronger, but the yeast presence becomes drier. There’s a lingering dry bitter aftertaste from this beer, but it’s easily ignorable.
Although my frame of reference with Trappist beers is rather limited, I would be surprised if I encounter a monk’s brew lighter and/or more refreshing than Westvleteren Blond. The first few sips have that peppery mouthfeel Belgian beers are known for, but it quickly mellows out and becomes soft and pillowy. The mild palate is certainly refreshing, and at only 5.8% ABV this is practically a "Trappist Lite" brew. If I had the means to buy this beer in bulk I would love to offer it up at summer picnics as I think it would pair well with lighter fare or just work as a great lawnmower beer.
While I wouldn’t honestly consider Westvleteren Blond anything mind-blowing, it does impress (and slightly amaze) me that a beer this light and drinkable would be a Trappist brew.