They Brew it, I sell it, You Drink it... and so do I..

Friday, 15 July 2011

Westmalle vs. Westmalle

Old stuff rules. Fact! Don't believe me? Tough luck, it just does.

I love aging beers. I have about 50 bottles in my cellar patiently awaiting my drinking approval. Every time I take one from the age old stocks I replace it with a new beer perfect for aging. It's a good system, and allows me to always be in contact with some very old beer. If it sounds like I'm bragging, well I am! It's taken many many years of self control to create a perfect balance of the perfect amount of beers so that you can follow the drink one, save one routine and still end up with old beers all year round.

Tonight I had the privilege (once again) to get my senses around a very old beer with one of my co-workers from the stash.

Westmalle Triple.

It's not a beer I like. At all. I have nothing against the brew, It's just a matter of personal taste, and the fact that it's not to mine. I think it's over carbonated, over alcoholic and a beer which is too gassy and out of my beer 'likes' to enjoy. (a bit much like Duvel...)

Don't get me wrong, there are many Triples I absolutely love, Karmeliet Triple is one example, but Westmalle is certainly not one of them. I've spent many years introducing people and friends into the world of the -none mass market- Belgian Triples, and I'm happy to say that no one has ever disliked anything I've ever recommended. (I know this because they've all, always come back for more... that may be a statement about how good Belgian beer really is.)

Moving onto the beer of tonight though, Yes, it is Westmalle Triple. A beer I really dislike, but age the beast and you come out with something truly fantastic, something completely different, and something certainly worth the praise of the greatest beer writers in history! It really is that good.... if you are willing to give it the time.

I shared this with Beth tonight, the newest addition to our Beer Ritz team, and someone who certainly knows her way around a drink. (trust me!) As with most things we had to have a old and new comparison, so that's what we have to our right in the picture. The bottle of aged Westmalle was about 7-9 years old, (it's always hard to tell with the massive sell by dates the Belgians put on their beers) the other was fresh in this week, and I think it's pretty obvious to tell which is which.

The first thing that stood out massively was the colour. Now I'm pretty sure that, being a Trappist Brewery, they will not have changed their recipes.. ever. So how was the, such huge, colour difference brought about??

Enough about that though, I'll tell you why you should age beers....

Fresh Westmalle: massive aromas of banana, bubble gum and lemon sherbet. It's a beer that's trying too hard. (for my tastes) It's over carbonated, far too boozy and alcoholic, and too dry and spicy.

7/8 Year old aged Westmalle: This beer is so different it's untrue. It has aromas of Barley Wines meets Vintage Ciders. It's caramelized and super sweet - think massive honey comb crunchiness. There's not a lot of carbonation left, and give it a couple more years and it would disappear completely (which is something I've sampled... and makes it better!) Think caramel apples, not bananas. There's loads of spice mixed with a dried apricot fruitiness, with the lemon sherbet still creeping in.

This is something that really needs to be experienced to be believed. I say to the people then, buy as much as you can, so that you can keep some away from your self control lacking. Keep them for ten years, I would say it's the optimum age for this beer. (big bottles would be better) And in ten years time, indulge in a beer that is not only older than anything you've drunk before, but better than most that you've drunk before!

Aging beer rules! End of...


  1. You have many leatherbound books and your beer cellar smells of rich mahogony. I jest of course. I planned to keep two bottles of Westmalle for 2 yrs but now see this falls way short of what it needs. Good post..cheers.

  2. I've got a bottle of fullers vintage ale from 1999, maybe we could do a collab review? You bring sumat old too!

  3. Neil - sounds like a good idea! Will have to talk about it next time you visit the shop.

    Broadford - you would see and taste a difference after a couple of years, but Belgian beer needs ages to really evolve into a thing of beauty.

  4. I've got a load of vintage ales I plan to share later in the year...doubt anyone would want to come to NI though!

  5. The best before date on westmalle tripel is 2 years - quite an important point when writing about aged beers is to know the year that they were bottled!

    Nest time, try to spend a little more time doing some research and a little less time bragging and pretending you're an expert.