Westvleteren 12 (or the Westy 12 to its friends) is one of the 10 true Trappist beers and has many times been chosen as "Best Beer in the World" by Ratebeer. Like its Westvleteren 8 and Westvleteren 6 siblings, it's brewed inside the Sint Sixtus abbey in the rural Belgian town of Westvleteren by monks and is one of the rarest and most sought after beers. Apart from being widely regarded as the best beer in the world, it's also been called a "desert island beer". It's the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for so many beer geeks, a world class Belgian Trappist beer that doesn't have many peers.
Officially it's only sold by appointment from the abbey and getting an appointment is a difficult task. The maximum amount one can purchase is 2 crates (48 beers and the creates are sold at a very reasonable price considering it's scarcity.
A few years ago on Nov 4th 2011 the monks decided to "allow" the Westvleteren 12 beer to be sold commercially, to fund some necessary repair works in their abbey. In Belgium it was sold through Colruyt and in the US it was distributed by Shelton Brothers. Special packaging was created for the Westvleteren 12 - a type of box with illustration of old heavy stones on it, to reflect the reason why it was being sold (for the renovation works of the abbey). A total of 7760 of these boxes, each containing 6 bottles and two glasses were imported in to the US, where they sold out very quickly.
The Westvleteren 12 beer bottle has no labelling at all and is distinguished from the other Westvleteren beers by the colour of its cap, which is yellow (as opposed to blue or green for the other two Westvleteren beers). This beer can be easily kept for several years and some say storing Westvleteren 12 in the cellar will only improve its taste.
This is a classic Belgian "quadrupel" beer, meaning it's a strong dark ale coming in at 10.2% ABV. Descriptions that appear most in tasting notes include "plums", "dark fruit", "chocolate" and "brown sugar". It has a murky brown color with a creamy and light brown head. It's absolutely a beer with a complex and very special, balanced taste that must be tried at least once by everyone who likes having a beer.
St Bernardus ABT 12 is brewed in a small village called Watou, in a remote corner in the West of Flanders where so many great beers are made. Even though the brewery is located on "Trappistenweg" (translated as "Trappist Road"), the St Bernardus ABT 12 is not a trappist beer. The bottle is characterised by a bright blue label with a cartoonish drawing of a happy monk holding a glass of St Bernardus.
It is a Belgian Abbey ale, a typical quadruple beer and it is listed among Belgium's best ales. This is the strongest beer that St Bernardus makes, with an alcohol percentage of 10% ABV. St Bernardus ABT 12 is obviously a dark beer with a full off-white, creamy head. It's generally regarded as the star beer of this brewery and indeed among one of the best beers in the world. It's been ranked up to 4th best in the world by the famous Ratebeer website and currently this beer holds a perfect 100 score. The "Abt" part of the name refers to the Abbot of the monastery who is the highest ranking monk.
All the abbey beers from this brewery are internationally held in high regard. The recipe for St Bernardus ABT 12 has been unchanged since 1946 and accounts for more than half the total output of the St Bernardus brewery. St Bernardus ABT 12 has a fruity aroma, has quite a complex taste and is characterised by its long sweet and bitter aftertaste.
St Bernardus ABT 12 is famous for the fact that it used to have the same recipe as Westvleteren 12. Originally this brewery used to brew the beers for Westvleteren until 1992 when the license ran out. Since then they have been brewing separately and under different names. An important distinction between these two beers is that the St Bernardus ABT 12 uses water from a local well, which has a salty taste and is softer. Westvleteren on the other hand simply uses the local municipal water. This would obviously account for some taste differences.