Checkout Part II HERE
Here’s Johnny, or how I ended up spending $208 for 6 Beers
Winters in Michigan can be long and cold, and sometimes you get a little stir crazy. Remember the movie “The Shining” when Jack Nicholson is stuck watching a hotel
in the off season and he goes a little batty? What would have happened if he had a credit card and a high speed internet connection? My guess is that he would have gone online and started beer shopping and Shelley Duvall would have only had a credit card bill to be concerned about. So instead of smashing down a door I decided to go online and that is when things got a little silly.
In a previous SommBeer post I mentioned that I came late to the Belgian Beer scene. Now I am a major fan of Belgian style beers and in the winter there is nothing quite like a Quadrupel. And the height of Belgian Quadrulpels in the Trappist Westvleteren 12 brewed at the Trappist Abbey of St. Sixtus in Vleteren Belgium. They only brew 4000 barrels a year and the Westie (I am not that trendy but I don’t want to spell out Westvleteren for this whole post) is sold directly at the Abbey to individual buyers by reservation only. That’s right, you have to go to Belgium and knock 60 days after you called the single phone line that receives 85,000 calls an hour…unless there are some savvy entrepreneurs out there that have turned Westie’s into a business. As I researched I learned two things: 1) In 2012 they did a limited release of Westie’s in the US and 2) there is a really healthy Gray market for this stuff. Since I don’t own a time machine that could take me to 2012 for the Westie hunt, I decided to go gray to match my hair.
One thing I did know is that there is a beer that is readily available in the United States and is often called a “Westie clone”. That beer is St. Bernardus ABT 12. I drink this beer often and it is absolutely amazing, but is it truly a Westie clone? How did this cloning happen? What is the back story? As I drank a few beers I found a website; www.bonbeer.com which had loads of information about St. Bernardus, located in Watou Belgium, 5.2 miles from St. Sixtus, “Shortly after the Second World War, the nearby Trappist Monastery of St. Sixtus decided they did not want to brew commercially anymore, so they engaged in an agreement with (a) Mr. Deconinck to brew their beers. The agreement between Deconinck and St. Sixtus was that the monks from St. Sixtus would brew beer inside the walls of their Trappist Monastery for their own consumption, for sales to the public at the gates of the Monastery and also for a few taverns whom were connected to the Monastery, while Mr. Deconinck of St. Bernardus would brew the St. Sixtus beer for commercial production. This agreement was set for a period of 30 years. The beers were brewed at St. Bernardus with the help and original recipes of the master brewer of Westvleteren (Source www.bonbeer.com). Well that seems like a clone to me, but how can I be sure unless I taste them side by side…
So I decided to roll the dice and order some Westies. A quick search revealed a lot of options so I pencil dropped and picked a website that looked as legit as a gray market site that resells beers from monks could possibly be and opened http://www.westvleterenshop.com/. This site is very utilitarian but it has a wide variety of St. Sixtus beers and allows you to pay with PayPal so I figured the risk was low. So I ordered a six-pack of Westies for…$149.00 and $52.00 shipping. Of course before I finished the purchase I had the good sense to try to rope a buddy into this silliness. I sent a text to my friend Easy E the cicerone and waited for his reply. Did not take long for him to reply “Heck yes” (not really what he said, but this is a family blog, well I mean he did use the word “yes” in the reply). I completed the transaction with PayPal and waited for confirmation. Then it dawned on me, I just spent $35.00 on 11.2 ounces of a beer that is supposed to have a clone that I can buy for $20.00 a 4-pack. Then I thought, I am really doing this for SommBeer and the readers deserve to learn from my misadventures. Positioning this purchase as fodder for education and a blog post eased my guilt and killed any buyer’s remorse that the beer had not already numbed.
I ordered the beers on January 1st, and did not hear from the shipper until January 3rd. I received the shipment on January 9th. Not too shabby…and man were they well packed. The best part was that they were described as “porcelain vases” to avoid any duty. These guys thought of everything.
I immediately contacted Easy E and we arranged to meet and do the exchange. That went without a hitch and I walked away with 3 Westie 12’s for $104.00 and the chance to answer a burning question that has already been answered countless times on the internet (but never for SommBeer): Does a St. Bernardus ABT 12 taste as good as a Westvleteren 12.