I had the pleasure of attending a wonderful beer festival a few weeks ago. I worked my way about 40 minutes west of Boston to the city of Worcester on June 23 in preparation of The Festival. We got there about an hour before the doors opened, and the line out the door was long but not scary long. This festival was different than any other beer festival in US history (and yes, that is a very bold statement). 500 people per event (there were 3 different attendance times) had the privilege and the right to buy a gift box of the rarest beer in the world, Westvleteren XII.
For the first time in US history, Westveletern XII was available for purchase. The first 500 people to receive a ticket at the festival were given the right to sign up for one gift box per person. The gift box included 6 beers and 2 glasses. I would guarantee that half the people who went to The Festival only went because of Westvleteren XII, myself included. It is that special.
So why does this beer have all this hype? Well, for starters, it is brewed by one of the seven Trappist breweries in the world. To be a Trappist brewery, you must brew beer at a monastery, the beer must be brewed only by the monks of that monastery, and beer is only brewed when it is financially necessary for the upkeep of the monastery. That is it. All three characteristics must be met. Only seven breweries in the world are Trappist breweries, six in Belgium and one in the Netherlands. The Abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren has a Trappist brewery in their monastery. For no other reason than that, it is a rare beer.
The second reason for the hype is that Westvleteren beer is only available for purchase at the monastery itself. You have to call the monastery and set up a time to pick up your purchase of one case. You are only permitted to purchase one case per person per month per address per license plate. The beer you get (they currently brew three variations) is what was brewed that week. There is no guarantee that you will even get Westvleteren XII, because if they brewed Westvleteren VIII or Westvleteren Blonde that week, that is what you are getting. There is nothing wrong with the other two beers, at all. They just simply are not the XII though. For no other reason that this, it is a rare beer.
The final reason for the hype is that Westvleteren XII is consistently rated by beer experts around the world as the best beer in the world. Many people say that you have never had a good beer until you have had the XII. For no other reason that that, it is a rare beer. Put all three reasons together, and you have the most coveted beer for enthusiasts. Not only is it the best, but it is also ridiculously difficult to get. So why was it available in the US? The Abbey was hit by a vicious storm and needed more money than usual. It was decided that for the first time, they would offer their beer for purchase in the US.
That was the only reason that I went to The Festival. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to buy Westvleteren XII. Needless to say, I bought my gift box and I love every aspect of it. I will review the XII eventually. Oh, by the way, The Festival was great and I will try to attend again next year, regardless of the XII.
If you are ever in Portland, ME, you should try to go to the Shipyard Brewery and take a free tour. The tour includes a brief video of the history of the brewery and the processes they use, followed by a tour of the bottling area. The tour concludes with a tasting of 6-8 beers on tap in the showroom. They also have a very nice shop which is reasonably priced. You can make your own six-pack after trying some of the beers. I made my own six-pack, and one of the beers I included happened to not be involved in the tasting at all. It is not even a Shipyard label beer. It is actually a beer sold in the Virgin Islands.
The second beer on the list is the Virgin Islands Island Summer Ale, brewed by the St. John Brewery in the Virgin Islands. What does this beer have to do with Shipyard? St. John Brewery has contracted their United States brewing and distributing to Shipyard. The St. John Brewery has been brewing since 2004.
To the beer itself. I really like summer style ales, so I was excited about this one. For my first beer from the Virgin Islands, I was very pleased. This 6.2% half wheat, half pale ale was very smooth, flavorful, and light, with the wheat taste coming in right away before mellowing out. It very much reminded me of a Belgian blonde ale, which is one of my favorite styles of beer. I would love to have this beer again, especially on a nice hot summer day. It was very good.
By Jason Olivo
When I studied abroad in Brussels, I frequented several pubs and tried as many new beers as I could. For the first few weeks, I picked beer based off of their names because I did not know about the different styles (I was a young American college student used to drinking horrible beers like Bud Light and Busch Light). But as I drank, listened to bartenders, and did a little reading about beer, I began to build my knowledge of beer. Now I understand what the different styles are, which ones I like, which ones I do not prefer, etc. This beer is one of those beers that I picked early on, simply based off of the name. Looking back now, I would have picked the beer based off the style as well.
The pub was Delirium Cafe, which is the record holder for the most beer sold in one place (2,004 different beers). It is more amazing than you can even imagine. There are three floors, and you can get every beer only in the basement. Not a problem, since I thought the basement was the best to drink a beer, ever. The second floor (the ground floor) is a row of over 40 taps that change every few days. You can only buy what is on tap on this floor. The top floor is the quiet floor. You cannot smoke up there, and you cannot bring beer up there. You can only get select beers and microbrews from around the world. I was up there a few times, and it is very nice to enjoy a beer up there. Back to the basement. They have lists of suggested beers, as well as their giant beer book which is a great read. I was reading their list of the top 40 beers of the day you should drink, and I came across one that I simply had to try. It was called Satan Gold.
I feel like I would have liked this beer no matter what, just because of the label. It is basically the Jersey Devil admiring a beer. Amazing. It truly does not get any better than that. The beer was good too, which adds to its legend, and it is one of my all-time favorites. This 8% Belgian, brewed by Brewery De Block, is very similar to a tripel style. It is extremely flavorful and heavy, with a spice and hops kick right away before mellowing out. It ends with a pleasant taste that remains for the after-taste. It became one of my go to beers at Delirium, and I unfortunately have not been able to find it in the US yet. If you find it, let me know so I can have one of my favorites once again.
By Jason Olivo
My opinion of this particular beer was influenced partly by one of my drinking companions. He is, simply, the coolest man who has ever sat atop a barstool. To give you an idea, imagine Johnny Depp’s swagger mixed with Johnny Depp’s stare, and a pinch of…oh say…Sean Connery. For the rest of our trip through Scandinavia, we tried to recapture his confidently smooth disposition, but to no avail.
The atmosphere also helped shape my mind. Our friend-turned-tour-guide brought us out of the biting cold and down into a cellar somewhere in the middle of the Danish capital city of Copenhagen. I could not help myself from thinking that a place like this back in the States would grow into some stupid hipster hangout. However, here in Copenhagen it’s warm and inviting. Like a Danish Cheers this bar is the perfect respite from the winter and, after a couple minutes, Johnny Depp even knows my name.
I walked up to the bar, stand next to a man with an accomplished beard, and read the beer list inscribed with chalk on a blackboard. Keeping with the potentially hipster theme, the beers are all microbrews from around Denmark, and the bar tender was happy to help me choose. I sampled and quickly opted for what is now one of my favorite beers: Ale No. 16.
I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day.– Frank Sinatra