I feel under a certain amount of pressure to come up with something a bit special for beer number 100. I hope this will do, as it’s a bottle of something rather rare which I brought back from Belgium when I visited in February.
Westvleteren Blond is one of three beers brewed by the Trappist monks at The Abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren somewhere deep in the Flanders countryside. The Blond is perhaps the least famous of the three, and the lightest in terms of alcohol, at a sensible-by-Belgian-standards 5.8%.
The beers are officially only available at the monastery, and even then only after you jump through some pretty draconian hoops. The reason is that the monks have no desire to become a commercial brewing operation, instead preferring to sell just enough beer to pay for the upkeep of the monastery, and to allow them to carry on with their monky business undisturbed.
So they’ve rather shot themselves in the foot, then, by brewing what many consider to be some of the very finest beers in the world. The combination of lack of supply and huge demand mean they’re also some of the rarest and most difficult to find.
Fortunately for 300 Beers, there’s a small, shall we say, grey market in Brussels, and you can get hold of them if you know where to look, at least if you don’t mind parting with a few extra euros.
As you can see, the monks don’t even feel the need to do anything so pretentious as to put a label on their bottles, instead squeezing all the required information onto the cap.
There’s a hefty dose of loose yeast in the bottle, making it impossible to pour without getting a little in your glass, which doesn’t matter. As such, the beer pours an attractive, cloudy, deep golden colour with a modest amount of tenacious white froth which coats the glass beautifully.
The nose is all grapefruit, honey, delicate floral hops and Belgian yeast. The mouthfeel is interesting for a blond, as it’s so velvety smooth, and the beer is really quite full bodied.
To taste, that honey is there in spades and is joined by banana fruit courtesy of the malts, and big pepper and clove spice notes from the Northern Brewer hops.
The spices are present right through to the finish, which is surprisingly bitter for a blond. In fact it’s distinctly salty, in a way that’s reminiscent of an unaged Orval, which in many ways I guess is quite a similar beer.
The saltiness is a little odd at first, but soon becomes mouthwatering, and combines with the slightest of sour and farmhouse notes to provide an overall effect that’s a great deal more satisfying than many Belgian blonds.
Whilst it was always going to be hard for the Blond to live up to the high regard afforded to the two other beers in the Westvleteren family, in particular the Abt, there really is a very special quality to it: a real balance and refinement that only the finest beers ever achieve.
Facts and Figures