Two unprecedented events in the world of beer occurred today, and we are not likely to see another day like this one for many years. It’s hard to say which is the bigger event for the beer fan: the culmination of a nearly 12-year long brewing project by Stone Brewing, or the first (and likely last) domestic release of what many consider to be the best beer in the world.
Made By Monks
The excitement over the release of the acclaimed Westvleteren XII has been building for months, and beer geeks across LA spilled into the streets to find a “brick” of Westy12 bottles at their local bottle shops. Sell-outs and price inflation seemed to be the norm for many we talked to, and even I was caught up in the fever and was able to land a box of the elusive quad.
What’s all the hubbub? First is the hype that surrounds the beer. Westvleteren XII is often cited as the best beer on the plant, and it holds the highest ratings at Beer Advocate and Rate Beer. People clamor for a thimble-sized taster of this beer whenever a bottle is opened, and that is a rare event indeed since the beer is so difficult to get a hold of.
For the most part the beer is only available directly from the brewery located at the Trappist Abbey of St. Sixtus in Vleteren, Belgium and only by appointment and allocation. Occasionally a case will be sold on the grey market, but this has historically been a very difficult beer to acquire.
The monks of the Abbey make a very limited quantity of beer and sell it only to fund the upkeep on their monastery and their modest, vow-of-poverty governed lifestyle. But the Abbey needs some upkeep and repairs and the savvy monks have earmarked about 200 barrels of the lauded liquid for export for the first time. Just 1/10 of that allocation will see US shores, but this is still the best chance American’s have had at the Belgian quad.
Hopefully you were able to score a gift box!
The End of an Epic
Today also marks the final release of Stone Brewing’s ambitious Vertical Epic project. We’ve talked about the VE series of beers before, but an undertaking of this magnitude warrants another mention.
To put it in perspective when the first Vertical Epic beer was released on February 2, 2002 there were only around 1500 breweries in the US. Stone had only been brewing beer for seven years, and they were still located in their original facility (that now houses Port Brewing Company/The Lost Abbey.) Craft beer was a mere blip on the horizon.
In the last 11 years nearly a thousand breweries have opened in America, and Stone is distributed across the country. Those that are lucky enough to have a bottle of VE 02-02-02 (less than 300 cases were produced) can literally drink history. I only started collecting the VE series beers in 2007, and the thought of finally opening these bottles that I’ve been hoarding for over six years, through near countless moves, job changes, and life events is very exciting.
But even if you haven’t been saving bottles and planning a vertical tasting for years you can still enjoy the culmination of the Vertical Epic with today’s beer. The 12-12-12 is a pretty amazing Belgian-style Noel beer that is rich, thick, and redolent with spices.
Congratulations to Greg, Mitch, and the rest of the Stone Brewing Team for the successes of a truly ambitious and amazing feat that the craft beer world has never seen before!