Westvleteren is one of the six Trappist monasteries that brews beer. While Chimay and La Trappe are relatively easy to find, Westvleteren is quite scarce although easier to find in Belgium and The Netherlands.
The monastery of St. Sixtus, near the small village of Westvleteren, is located in the southern part of the Belgian region of Flanders close to the border with France. The monastery is close to Poperinge, right in the middle of Belgium’s hop-growing region. From this tiny Trappist brewery come three of the most distinctive, strong, and tasty of all the Belgian ales. These beers are incredibly hard to find but the local cafes always seem to have a bottle or two hidden away.
In the village of Westvleteren, directly opposite the monastery gates, is the Cafe De Vrede. The Cafe has a small gift shop where visitors can purchase official glasses from the abbey and bottles of their beer.
The most distinctive feature of Westvleteren, is that the bottles don’t have a label and the beer is identified by the cap. The gold cap is the 12, a blue cap identifies the 8, and the 6 has a green cap.
Westvleteren Gold Cap is the strongest of the 3 beers made publicly available by the Trappist monks at Westvleteren.
Firstly, serve at room temperature – this is NOT, repeat NOT a Bud light. Secondly, pour with care. There is usually quite a bit of yeasty sediment.(Obviously you must open the bottle between firstly and secondly. But you knew that, right?)
The beer pours to a murky, dark red amber with quite a slight head and a very sweet, malty aroma. Very lightly carbonated, it has a somewhat flowery scent and is reminiscent of ‘bouquet garni’.
This is a rich, dark , full-bodied brew that is moderately bitter. The mouth feel is thick and creamy – viscous, almost chewy.
There are flavours of vine fruits – raisins perhaps, sweet malts and a delicate hint of chocolate. Flowers and dried herbs linger on the tongue, with a bitter hop aftertaste. You can literally taste the potency.
If you ever get the opportunity to try this ale, DO SO.
The taste of this exceptional beer is so unusual and pleasurable that it does not compare to any other beer I’ve ever tasted. Sipped alongside some mature cheese and bread, it is an exquisite experience.
Westvleteren Trappist 12 Gold Cap has an alcoholic content of around 11% ABV so it should be drunk with some care and respect. A gentle sip on a bottle or two whilst chilling out at a warm, welcoming fireside is the way to go.