3.9AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 3/5 TASTE 8/10 PALATE 3/5 OVERALL 17/20
The Trappist monastery at Westvleteren is known for making "The Greatest Beer in the World" with their "12," but what about the other beers they brew? Beer nerds tend to gloss over the "8" - a dubbel brewed in the traditional Belgian style. While not quite as complex and robust as the 12, this beer is still very impressive for what it’s able to accomplish.
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
I poured a 2010 vintage 11.2oz bottle into an authentic Trappist chalice. This beer looks very traditionally Belgian with a dark burgundy color and an extremely hazy body. It forms a small, off-white, soapy head that dissipates quickly and leaves no lacing.
The aroma is akin to a white wine, which is strange considering its dark appearance. There seems to be notes of green apple, red apple, cherry, and a bit of alcohol.
Every time I’ve drank a Trappist beer, the first thing I notice is how similar these beers are to wine in taste and Westvleteren 8 is no exception. Up front I get a strong taste of red wine, followed by a sharp, sour red grape flavor. The finish and aftertaste is cherry, plum, and green apple. There also seems to be a slightly bready component to the palate, giving the beer a bit of a malty sweetness.
Usually, beers like this tend to grow more complex and more robust as they warm, but I found this beer stayed about the same from beginning to end. While I did notice quite a few flavors, I was surprised by how little energy comes from this palate. This could be due to the sharp sourness, but once it mellowed out, this beer drank more like a juice. Still, it tasted very good even though it’s quite different from most beers of the style I’ve experienced.
Bottle-conditioned Trappist beers tend to have a mouthfeel not unlike Pop Rocks candy, but Westvleteren 8 was surprisingly calm. It’s only a medium-bodied beer with the liquid feeling slightly thick, but the lack of carbonation and peppery texture was odd. This should be a sipping beer, but it can be drank in bigger gulps easily.
This beer weighs in at 8% ABV, which is actually seems a bit high. There is little alcohol in the nose and next to none in the taste, nor in the constitution. The palate, mouthfeel, and potency all combine for a highly drinkable beer. This would ordinarily be a good thing, but because this beer is so rare and expensive you have to force yourself to savor every sip.
I’m never afraid to say the emperor has no clothes and I think, technically, that’s true with Westvleteren 8. It’s consistently rated among the best of the best on Rate Beer and Beer Advocate, but I think that’s due more to hegemony than true quality. I’m sure this beer ages wonderfully and I would definitely like to try an older vintage if I could.