Our final BrewView for 2016 is on an extremely special beer, one that is in limited release… we were fortunate to get our hands on a bottle of the revered ST. BERNARDUS ABT 12 OAK AGED.
We took much of our BrewView here from our previous October 2015 BREWERY OF THE MONTH feature when we highlighted Brouwerij St. Bernardus. If you wish to visit that full article, click here.
ABOUT BROUWERIJ ST. BERNARDUS
The history of the St. Bernardus brewery is connected to 2 trappist monasteries; one gave it their name, the other gave it their beer.
The Cheese Factory – Trappist monks of Mont des Cats in Godewaersvelde, France. Due to the anti clerical policy in the beginning of the past century, the Catsberg Abbey Community, located in the northern part of France, decided to move to Watou, a small village only a couple of kilometres further away but located in Belgium.
They transformed a farm into the “Refuge Notre Dame de St. Bernard” and started with the production of Abbey cheese.
In the early thirties, the attitude versus the monks improved and in 1934, the Abbey community decided to dispose of the Belgian annex and to bring back all activities to France. Mr. Evarist Deconinck took over the cheese factory from the Trappist monks and expanded the cheese factory. The most important cheese was sold under the name St. Bernard Watou.
The cheese factory was sold in 1959 and the production is now in the hands of Belgomilk in Moorslede.
The Brewery – Trappist Monks of Westvleteren
Shortly after the Second World War, the Trappist Monastery St. Sixtus in Westvleteren was looking for somebody to commercialize their beer because they did not want to do that themselves anymore. They gave a license to the cheese factory, and Brewery St.Bernard was founded. The brew master from Westvleteren, Mathieu Szafranski (from Polish origin) became a partner in the brewery and brought along the recipes, the know-how and the St.Sixtus yeast strain.
They started selling the trappist beers under the brand names Trappist Westvleteren, St.Sixtus or even later Sixtus.
During a period of 46 years they brewed and commercialized the beers, while the monks continued to brew for themselves and for sales to 3 pubs in the neighborhood. Amongst them, the world famous cafe In De Vrede, just next to the monastery.
In 1992, the license came to an end and since then, they continued to brew the same beers, with the same recipes, but under a different brand name: St. Bernardus.
BEER STYLE AND COMMERCIAL DESCRIPTION FROM ST. BERNARDUS
Style category: Abbey / Trappist-style Quadrupel
St.Bernardus Abt 12 is Brewery St. Bernardus’ flagship and is considered one of the best beers in the world. The Abt 12 is brewed following the original recipe from 1946.
This St. Bernardus Abt 12 Oak Aged is brewed using the same recipe and then matured for 6 months in Oak Calvados barrels before it is bottle conditioned. This maturation in oak kegs gives the beer a deeper and richer taste, leaving the palate remarkably satisfied.
OUR BREWVIEW OF BROUWERIJ ST. BERNARDUS ABT 12 oAK AGED
APPEARANCE / THE POUR:
11% ABV. We poured it at 52°F in the signature St. Bernardus open-mouthed chalice. We took great care to serve it at the temperature spectrum that the brewery specifies that it be served at (52° – 56°F) so that the aromatics and flavor complexities could fully express themselves. We waited 2 months for this experience- and wanted to do it right!
It poured a slightly lighter color than its counterpart, the original Abt 12, with a Deep Amber / Amber brown color, at an SRM value around a 15-18. It easily poured a voluminous, ivory colored, dense, creamy 2-finger head with large and small bubbles. (We did ensure the glass was “beer clean.”) Rim color variation- lighter than the beer body (Deep Gold SRM value 6)
After 7-8 minutes of pouring it into the glass, it did collapse to about an 1/8″ in height, but the lacework left behind was even sheeted, and thick. The meniscus is slow rising.
AROMA / BOUQUET:
The Abt 12 Oak Aged has a higher level of spiciness than the original Abt 12. It still has the classic fruitiness, but the Calvados barrel aging gives it a character that leans more towards the Westvleteren 12 spiciness. The signature St. Bernardus bready yeast aromas are mixed with Calvados wood. You get aged apples, apricots, butterscotch and chocolate notes which intensify as the beer warms up.
Sometimes when we try beers as sublime as this, we get caught up in the initial taste. Listening to the recording of our tasting notes, you would think that we were experiencing a near-orgasm (moans and groans) while sipping it for the first time… it was quite hilarious, actually. The best way to describe it is an Abt 12 kicked up with wood- beautiful bready St. Bernardus yeast flavors with raisins, chocolate, and apple brandy spice.
MOUTHFEEL / PALATE:
The Abt 12 Oak Aged has a slightly bigger alcoholic / carbonic bite than its cousin. The effervescence level is medium to high. The first sips tickle the sides of the tongue and the back of the throat. The spice factor is as such where it definitely invites you to take that next sip.
FOOD PAIRING SUGGESTIONS:
Our suggestions will be very similar to those for the Abt 12, with a few differences.
A wide variety of rich cheeses would pair well- cheddars, soft ripened, washed rind, blue veined. Bacon wrapped shrimp and steak tartare immediately come to mind.
We suggest pairing this with rich, savory meats- a great aged Ribeye steak, blackened and served medium rare with a side of fresh horseradish with buttery, creamed sweet potatoes would be excellent. Apple Beef Stew, or a slow cooked Beef Roast with apples and onions.
Chocolate Chip Apple Cake, Fudgy Apple Brownies, Chocolate Apple Crisp.
We were fully blown away with this beer! Already fans of the Abt 12, we waited with great anticipation to taste this masterpiece!
We obtained our 750 ML bottle at our local Liquor Barn. Nick (one of the employees at Liquor Barn) could not stress enough how awesome this beer is. If, you have the opportunity, we would highly recommend doing a tasting of the Abt 12, the Christmas Ale, and the Abt 12 Oak Aged, side-by-side. Prepare to have your taste buds fully assaulted in a great way!
Unlike the Abt 12, the Oak Aged version is in limited availability. If you see more than one bottle on the shelf at your local retailer, buy as many as you can afford. Yes, it is worth the price tag you’ll see on it- (we paid $25.99 and it was worth every penny!) If you do purchase more than one bottle, drink one now, and cellar the rest, enjoying one as each year passes. One can only imagine the complexities the Abt 12 Oak Aged would develop in 5-10 years time. As the label says, it is truly “HEAVENLY NECTAR WITHIN REACH.”
2 Corinthians 9:15
The St. Bernardus beers are available in the United States from D&V INTERNATIONAL.
The video below is just a short excerpt of the interview we had with St. Bernardus’ sales manager, Marco Passarella. He discusses the character of St. Bernardus Abt 12 Oak Aged. To view the full length video, click here.