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I read in a blog post a few months ago that Westvleteren 12 is considered one of the, if not the, best example of a Trappist. I had one shortly after and it was a very, very good beer, although I don't know if it was so different from other similar versions (i.e. Rochefort 10) that I'd feel comfortable calling it 'the best'.

That said, I wonder if there's any particular Trappist that's normally considered the best of the style?

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"Trappist" isn't so much a style as it is a commercial label. Something like "Organic" or "Kosher" that comes with a set of regulated conditions that product was produced under.

Per wikipedia, to be able to be labelled a Trappist beer:

  • The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, either by the monks themselves or under their supervision.
  • The brewery must be of secondary importance within the monastery and it should witness to the business practices proper to a monastic way of life
  • The brewery is not intended to be a profit-making venture. The income covers the living expenses of the monks and the maintenance of the buildings and grounds. Whatever remains is donated to charity for social work and to help persons in need.
  • Trappist breweries are constantly monitored to assure the irreproachable quality of their beers.

A lot of those monasteries also make lighter or hoppy beers. Engelszell even uses honey in their beers, so there's a pretty significant variety when it comes to what you can call "Trappist".

But if we're talking the classic dark Belgian-y abbey ale. According to the Beer Advocate ratings, the top Trappist-produced beers are:

  1. Westvleteren 12
  2. Rochefort 10
  3. Chimay Cinq Cents
  4. Achel Extra Blond
  5. Rochefort 8

Through user rankings. The Brothers that run the site give Rochefort 8 a higher rank than 10, which I agree with, and give both Rochefort's a higher rating than Westy 12.

So I guess the answer is that somewhere between Westvleteren 12, the Rochefort 8 and 10, and Chimay is the best Trappist beer. But even in the top 5 here there's some variation since Chimay and Achel are blondes, and Rochefort 8 is a fair lower ABV than the other 3.

With the styles being so wide, the real answer is probably whichever one you like drinking the most.

Though really, Rochefort 8 forever.

  • Interesting the Rochefort 10 is second to Westvleteren. I remember after trying the Westvleteren for the first time, telling my brother that the Rochefort 10 would give him a good idea of what the Westvlet is like, since WV is so hard to find. Although, I've rarely seen Rochefort 10 in Ontario either. – Canadian Coder May 28 '15 at 17:15
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Here in Belgium where the majority of 'true' (certificated "Authentic Trappist Product") Trappist breweries are located (6 out of 11), the common answer is the almost mythical Westvleteren 12. It is notoriously hard to acquire. One has to register by phone to get a date and hour. You can only reserve 2 crates (42 euros each) and this at most once every 60 days per phone number and car. I drank it once and it was very very good. I however like blonde beers more and prefer Orval, which has the additional benefit of actually being readily available.

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As said, Trappist isn't a style but something like a certificate of origin and, let's say, quality standards. That put aside, it can be anything. Belgians themselves don't give a damn about style definitions actually. They only follow their traditions (from the region where they live, their monastery, their community, whatever).

So, you are going to find beers varying from very shinning blonde to dark/ruby and thick ones that almost resembles a wine, which is the case of Westvleteren 12, that one being the myth it is because it is not sold (at least officially) outside the monastery, and one is supposed to schedule and go pick it up personally with an amount limit, and everything. Off course, although I'm sure it is a really good beer (I've never had it), all that difficulty to get it undeniably contributes to its fame.

I find Rochefort 10 (a belgian dark strong ale as Westvleteren 12) one of (if not the) best, certainly my very favorite on the list, but on the other end of the flavor range, Achel 10 (a strong golden ale) is my favorite blonde/pale trappist as well.

La Trappe, which is the biggest trappist brewery, has at least twice the labels other breweries have, and is widely available on market, still has very good beers.

So, the short answer is: trappist is not a style, and there's no such thing as the best one. It all depends on what you like, so, taste all them. Even nowadays, with some new-age trappist beers popping up, there aren't still so many out there, so tasting all trappist beers is pretty feasible in short time (except for Westvleteren, off course).

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The Westvleteren 12 is rated best beer in the world according ratebeer

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