St Bernardus Abt 12: I May Have Found the Perfect Belgian Beer

It has been a couple of weeks now since our ungettables gathering in Boise at Brewforia, but there were so many great beers that I had a chance to try I may never get them all posted on this site.  There were however a few standouts that I need to get up here, because they were so unique or in this case just super amazing awesome. I kind of tipped my hand in the title of this post, but this is perhaps the best Belgian beer that exists.  Period.  Oh, you can go on about Westy 12, and I haven’t had it yet, so it might be amazing as well, but this beer was truly special.

St Bernies has an elusive 100 ranking on Rate Beer, and the brothers over at Beer Advocate give it an A, and in my estimation it was well earned.  You could balance this beer on the head of a pin it was so well rounded and the flavor profile just spot on in every way.  This is a quad that has a 10% ABV, but the alcohol mixes so well with the brewing that it was well hidden.  The brew was very floral, and that always gets me.  I love floral aromas and flavors.  Great use of the hop, but at the same time this beer has a great malt backbone that plays really wonderfully with those hops and the alcohol, and that Belgian Yeast!  Now let’s face it that isn’t an easy strain to work with, in lessor brewer’s hands it can taste too bready, or it can taste metallic, or it can just be too in your face, but the St. Bernies is up to the challenge and incorporates this often off putting flavor in a masterful way.  It is floral, and has a flavor of dark fruit like plumbs and cherries, and is sweet on the palate, but finishes kind of dry, but crisp.

Every once in a while you have a beer that just sticks with you, and this is one of those beers.  On the Belgian side of the ledger there have been only two other beers that have even come close, they are Chimay Grand Reseerve (Blue Label) and the Trappist Rochefort 8.  This beer eclipses those by leaps and bounds in my opinion.

While I know this is an ungettable in Idaho, I really have no sense of how rare this beer may be.  I’m guessing this was someone’s crown jewel in their beer bunker that they were nice enough to bring and share with the group.  What a special treat.  And one that I will be on the look out for, and will not soon forget.  This is the kind of beer that if I saw it at a restaurant I would build my meal around the beer instead of trying to find a good brew to go with my meal.

Have you ever had this beer?  What are your thoughts?  How rare is it?  Let me know in the comments.


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39 Comments on “St Bernardus Abt 12: I May Have Found the Perfect Belgian Beer”

  1. December 8, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    This is my go-to beer on Thanksgiving every year.

    • Don
      December 8, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

      I can see why. It was a great beer, and by far the best Belgian I’ve ever had. Here we go again Zac, agreeing with each other…Oh Ohh…

  2. BeerBanker
    December 8, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    ‘taint rare here in Atlanta…Bottle or draft… Brick Store Pub in Decatur is the largest Abt 12 account in the US… And I’m proud to say I’ve done my best to assist in that ranking.. An amazing beer, but to have more than one in a sitting is difficult for me. Between the high ABV and the intense flavors, I usually have to go mellower for any following beverage choices.

    • Don
      December 8, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

      Well I guess it isn’t that rare then. But it was a special beer and I really loved it. Hopefully we will be able to get it here in Idaho before too long. I know Rick at Brewforia is always pushing to get the best brews here.

      • BeerBanker
        December 8, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

        Of course, I’ve never even seen a label for either Pliny, much less tasted one…Just goes to show there’s plenty of big name brews out there that just don’t get too spread around…

        • Don
          December 8, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

          That is for sure BB. It is part of the magic and continual frustration of craft beer!

  3. December 8, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    It’s my favorite beer!

    • Don
      December 8, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

      Good choice Mikey. It would be one of mine too if it were available regularly.

      • December 8, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

        We actually use these for washing our cars out here they are so common. True story.

        • Don
          December 8, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

          Thanks for that Jim. You could probably stretch a bomber out to two washings of the mini of yours. 😉

  4. December 8, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

    This was one of my early favorites and I still enjoy it.

    • Don
      December 8, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

      Knowing how you feel about Belgians now Jim, that is really a ringing endorsement since you STILL enjoy it! I know that many if not most Belgians have fallen out of favor for you.

  5. Fred Colby
    December 8, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

    Don We get it up north sometimes Great beer, my Go to belgians( for now) are the Trappist Rochefort 8 and 10

    • Don
      December 8, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

      I love the 8 Fred, but the 10 is a wee bit unbalanced and too heavy handed with the Alcohol in my opinion. I guess I’ll just have to come up next time it is available! 😉

      • Rob
        December 8, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

        Donny Bear! How much do you want? 750s abound in the great barren north…

        • Don
          December 8, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

          When you coming down next? Perhaps I’ll have you bring me a few. How’s that baby girl of yours? BTW Rob, in case I haven’t said so, or you haven’t heard it enough, she is a killer! So cute. You and your wife will have a fun Christmas with her! Cute baby clothes abound this time of year.

        • rob
          December 9, 2011 at 12:53 am #

          Don, possibly coming down in January. Thanks for your kind words about the kiddo. Can’t get enough of her.

      • December 8, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

        Agreed about the Rochefort – I’m down with the 8 as well.

  6. December 8, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

    Mmmm, that was such a delicious beer, Don. So wished my pour was bigger after I finished my taste. And sad to know that it would be hard to come by again. Pretty sure Nicholas brought that. A.K.A. @Dasflipz.

    Dude, I think you need a dedicated beer porn camera. I got a good shot of it. This time there was actually still beer in my glass:

    • December 8, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

      Hmmm link might be hot if I put the full link in:

    • Don
      December 8, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

      No, Chad, a good camera wouldn’t help. I’m afraid it is genetic. My father had a great camera and couldn’t take a good picture to save his life. Jim, however can take the Holly Hobby pink camera and win awards for his photos! But I do appreciate the good picture. Thanks. I think you and I did get seconds of this beer. I know I did, and I think I poured you some too. Or perhaps you were full when I was pouring. Don’t know, but I was so glad to get a second pour.

      • Wayne
        December 8, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

        I think the photo captures it–it made me thirsty!

  7. oliver klosoff
    December 8, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    As far as the trappist quads go, I really like the Konigshoeven (La Trappe) Quad. Has a bit sweeter profile than the others.

    • Don
      December 8, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

      Oliver, i have one of those in the bunker right now. It has about a year of aging on it, and I thought it would be a great one to open for the holidays. While the sweetness appeals, it doesn’t take too much to push it over the edge for me. Hopefully it won’t taste like mashed up fermented raisins.

      • oliver klosoff
        December 8, 2011 at 3:07 pm #

        I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I’m ready to try the Oak Aged version for the holidays.

        • Don
          December 8, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

          That is the one I have.

  8. December 8, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

    As far as rarity goes, it is pretty available around here. But this is Philly Yo! Beer central. Belgium represents around these parts. I’ll add it to my list of beers to try. And FYI, I picked up a 12 ounce of the Duchess based upon your high praise (and of course the @BeerPoet’s). I’ll let you know how that goes!

    • Don
      December 8, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

      I know Jim would say you will be disappointed by the Duchesse, but I’m gonna say you’ll like it. It would be a go to for me if it were available, as would the St Bernies. Pick one up and let me know what you think G. We seem to have similar tastes in hooch!

  9. December 8, 2011 at 2:18 pm #

    This looks like one I’ll have to try. I can be pretty picky when it comes to Belgians but if it’s done right, I’m in love. The best beer I ever had was a Belgian Ale in a small pub in Brussels but I can’t remember the name of it for the life of me. I’ve been seeking something comparable ever since. Thanks for the tip!

    • Don
      December 8, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

      give this one a try B&B. I think it might be close to one you could love.

  10. Full Tun
    December 8, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

    I did a side by side a while back with this beer and the Westy 12. It was a little beer gathering of some intense beer nerds. Out of five fellows, it was unanimous that the Westy 12 eked out the SB 12 by just a little bit. I would try the westy 12, which will be arriving in the US on a one time deal in the spring, before saying which is better to see which you like better. To quote Jimmy Buffett, “Don’t try to describe the ocean if you’ve never seen it.”

    • Don
      December 8, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

      I didn’t say Westy 12 was bad, just that SB 12 was special. I’d love the opportunity to try it for myself. Maybe when that shipment arrives.

  11. December 9, 2011 at 8:26 am #

    People think I’m crazy, but I like this beer just as much as the Westy 12’s I’ve had. It’s my favorite quad and possibly my favorite beer after a few years of aging. I know it doesn’t sport the magical “Trappist” label, but it’s every bit as good as the best of those beers.

  12. Simmons Lauderdale
    December 11, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

    One got an 2010 ABT12 I can’t wait to open up this Xmas!

  13. Tom
    December 15, 2011 at 7:14 am #

    Have not tried this but this has made me curious. I have had a St. Bernardus Abt 12 (60th Anniversary “Special Edition”) sitting in the beer fridge in it’s container since 2007. Do you know if it is the same?

    While other beers are in the fridge trembling in fear knowing their day is near, this one has remained calm knowing that I have not been tempted to try it, (show ignorance now) as I have not yet been able to enjoy the Belgian beers that have the ‘wet hay, earthy, Belgian yeast funk’.

    What say you? Did it have that ‘horse blanket’ Belgian funk taste to it?

    • Don
      December 15, 2011 at 10:39 am #

      It didn’t have that barnyard flavor. However I’m not too sure what 5 years of aging will do to it.

  14. December 27, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    Just bought one myself. Had never seen it before here in MN, and it was the last (only?) one they had….so it’s not ‘everywhere’. Until I see it at a bar (apparently I’ll need to get down to Atlanta) it’s considered ‘rare’ for me.
    Looking forward to having a taste…

    • Don
      December 27, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

      Make sure you come back Joe, and let us know what you think. Enjoy it!

  15. M
    January 19, 2012 at 8:15 am #

    You have fine taste! This beer is excellent. Now, if you want to go the next level, Westvleteren 12°-1/3L is supposed to be the best on the planet. I have tried both and St. Bernardus is a very close second to the Westvletern.

    You can order St. Bernardus and the much pricer (at $40 per bottle) Westvleteren 12°-1/3L at the Belgium Shop at:

    The Westvleteren beers are not even supposed to be available outside of Belgium, but I think the Abby is undergoing some renovations and they have brewed extra stock to pay for the work. Even at the expensive price it is worth investing in a bottle or two just so you can say you have been there and done that. While you are at it, order some St. Bernardus at $6 per bottle as a side by side comparison.

    I have no connection with the Belgium Shop, just a happy customer.

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