Thursday, May 31, 2012

St. Bernardus Abt 12 (2010 vintage in a 750ml)

It's literally the last day of May and I haven't posted a review of a Belgian beer for the month yet. A guy that used to work at the beer store I frequent said I didn't do St. Bernardus Abt 12 justice back in September of 2010 when I split a 330ml bottle with Kevin and Henry (I actually tried to get a 750ml bottle back then but there were none available). I actually agree that this beer deserved a re-review out of a 750ml bottle, so I decided to do it all by myself! It'll be especially interesting to see how this compares to the original review since this bottle is about two years old. I hope you're happy, KodiakSKE!

NOTE: My camera broke! This may be the last episode for a while until I get it fixed (or get a new one... or just shoot everything with my webcam or iPhone).

My text review from 2010:

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 18/20
Chad9976 (669) - Albany, USA - OCT 7, 2010
Anyone who is big into the craft beer scene knows Westvleteren 12 - a Trappist beer made by monks in Belgium and sold exclusively at the monastery - is the most sought-after beer. Most of those people have likely heard that St. Bernardus Abt 12 is either a "clone" or a very close replica of the famous "Westy 12." Having drank both beers I can tell you they are definitely different and the authentic Trappist brew is definitely superior. However, Abt 12 is still a very good beer in its own right and a lot easier to come by.


I poured an 11.2oz bottle into a Trappist chalice. I was amazed this beer produced a huge, fluffy, tan head. It was slow to dissipate and left nice lacing on the glass. The color is that typical Belgian shade that’s not quite brown and not quite maroon, but very hazy.

The aroma is also typical for a Belgian strong dark ale: alcohol, perfume, and dark fruits. Not nearly as aromatic or as inviting as an authentic Trappist, though. In fact, it’s surprisingly mild.


Before I comment on the taste, it should be noted that the bottle of St. Bernardus Abt 12 I drank was fairly fresh and had not been cellared. Beers like this age like wine and it’s almost a bit unfair to drink them young. That being said, there’s still a lot of flavor to experience here and it’s still pleasantly satisfying.

Much like Westy 12, St. Bernie’s is a fairly complex beer. The overall taste is a mélange of dark fruits like plum, apple, cherry and fig. There’s also a noticeable dryness to the finish and in the aftertaste due to the high alcohol content (and the fact my bottle was rather young). The palette opens up a bit as it warms, but only slightly. It’s funny how a beer can have seemingly a variety of flavors, but the actual intensity is a bit muted. It’s like listening to a symphony with the volume turned way down.


Belgian strong dark ales tend to be an enduring experience of drinking due to their unbridled energy in the mouthfeel. Yet, Abt 12 was an amazingly easy beer to drink. I was surprised and delighted by the pillowy softness of the mouthfeel. Beers like this tend to act like Pop Rocks, but this beer slides across the tongue with amazing grace. Surprisingly, it is only a medium-bodied beer and has a lighter mouthfeel than you’d expect.

At 10% ABV, St. Bernie’s should be a beer to handle with caution, but the drinking experience would indicate otherwise. While there is definitely a sharp, dry, alcoholic presence to the taste, this isn’t the kind of beer that must be sipped, nor is it the kind that overwhelms the drinker only halfway through.


St. Bernardus Abt 12 is a beer that has pretty much everything going for it, including a reputation for being so similar to one of the world’s most revered beers. I almost want to give a perfect score, but I can’t due to the absence of a true "wow!" factor. Maybe if I try a vintage version I’ll change my mind.

Grade: 9/10

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