Westmalle: Extra (Belgium: Belgian Blond Ale: 4.8% ABV)

Visual: Straw coloured, lots of carbonation. Medium sized white bubbled head.

Nose: Hay fields. Lightly earthy. Very crisp. Palma violets. Lightly peppery. Lemon cakes. Doughnut dough.

Body: Good bitterness. Earthy and doughy hop character. Mineral water. Vanilla. Dry fudge. Greenery.

Finish: Good bitterness. Slight granite touch. Mineral water. Lemon cakes. Greenery. Good hop character. Dry honey.

Conclusion:So, this is the for so long hidden Trappist. I will admit this is not like what I expected. For on thing, mineral water like notes? What is up with that?

I guess that that odd character may be part of why this is viewed as the session Trappist beer, so now I just need to work out if that is a good thing or not.

Ok, so let’s warm up gently and start on the more standard side of the beer; The body is gentle in the malt styling with vanilla and dry fudge character. It is nicely attenuated, not too heavy. It is flavoursome but sessionable. A good start.

The hops character is probably the strongest point of the beer. This is heavily hopped for a Belgian beer and done in a crisp way that is very drinkable. Starts out very crisp on the nose, then lightly earthy and peppery. It manages to give a real solid bigger character and a doughy hop feel that adds character and heft without an accompanying weight that would ruin the sessionable character.

There is also some light citrus counterpoints that keep it fresh, but the more bitter hops are what keep my attention.

So after all that, mineral water character. This is very minerally. Initially I disliked it, it felt watery, and intrusive. Now, after a few bottles tried on separate occasions I actually find it interesting. I’m not 100% sold, but the mineral side of it adds flavour and the water side seems less intrusive, which means I am interested enough to grab a few more and see how I find them. It is different, and not unpleasant now.

Right now it is very good, and interesting even if I am not 100% sold on it. Well worth a try to see how it suits you. Probably not the “ultimate Belgian session” in my opinion though. Possibly got hyped up due to how hard it was to get.

Background: Oh this is something I was very excited for. I first heard of this in “100 Belgian Beers To Try Before You Die” Where it is described as “The ultimate Belgian session beer”. At the time it was only available to the monks in the monastery, and occasionally to visitors to the monastery. So, pretty unlikely to get hold of. It only just got a general bottled release so I jumped on that as quick as I darn could. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, my old faithful during lock-down, I drank this while listening to Billy Nomates: No. A quirky, politically active album, which still warms my heart. Worth noting, the 100 beers book lists it as 5.5% abv as opposed to the current 4.8% so it is likely the recipe has changed slightly over the years. Also the book lists it as having “like mineral water” elements, though it seems to view them more favourably than I did.