It’s been some time since I’ve made the Greatest Beer in the World! (Westvleteren 12 clone) I thought it fitting to do a tasting so that I can record what is and isn’t the same with the “commercial” example and my attempt at recreating it. Firstly, it was not a cheap beer to make. The candi sugar is pricy and I would like to explore making a homemade version at a much cheaper price. Sure the grains and hops weren’t a major factor since I buy in bulk, but the sugar was not an insignificant cost.
Another factor to take into consideration; it wasn’t a fast beer to make. The overall conditioning of the beer took a considerable amount of time. Fermentation and then the cold conditioning added up to a couple months. Then there were a couple more months of conditioning in the keg. I feel that if I had bottled the beer it would have added even more time.
All of these were expected, and don’t really detract from the enjoyment of the beer. Even the real thing is not the easiest, or cheapest, beer to obtain. It took us many a phone call, and many a missed opportunity, to amass what we eventually brought back with us to America. You could find it occasionally on the shelf in beer stores, but it wasn’t an authorized distribution. And it wasn’t cheap. More so that last part. And that’s only when you could actually find it.
To make this beer, that I may never have the chance of getting in quantity again, was something my wife was totally on board with. Getting it close is a near term goal, with incremental refinements to dial it in. It might take longer than I would like due to the aforementioned time constraints that making it imposes. Getting in the ballpark should be easy with tons of people attempting it before me. As I mentioned in the last post about this brew.
I did, like mentioned above, keg this beer. I would have liked to bottle it to have it on hand for aging, but I thought for this initial batch I would just keg and serve on tap. Besides, I can bottle with my Blichmann Beer Gun if need be. I have been filling growlers to take to parties and traveling though, so that eliminates the travel issue. I will bottle the next couple batches. Or at least half of it will be bottled, and the other half kegged.
Initial tastes are similar to the real thing. It is a slight bit boozier than I would like though. I’m not sure if I got too much warmth in my fermentation chamber or the yeast was that much more attenuative. Perhaps my mash temp was lower than my thermometer was reporting? Or the candi sugar contributed to it?
Regardless of the boozy nature, it is almost spot-on. Creamy, dark fruits, caramel notes, raisin, a slight sweetness balanced out with a just the slightest bit of bitterness. I’m sure after a couple more refinements I’ll be where I’m proud to serve it and have it on hand continuously. My wife thinks it is pretty close as is, but I detect some things that make me feel there is more work to do. Mostly the boozy warmth. But I also detect a little diacetyl that I feel could be removed.
It’s worth the read of the entire post(s) on HBT about making this beer (that’s a lengthy post, so fair warning). It is also worth it to read Brew Like a Monk (BAM). I gleaned a lot of helpful information from both. BAM is distilled to the essentials in the HBT thread, but there is more to it than just W12. Although reading the post and the book take almost equal amounts of time. But, like I said, it’s worth it.
Overall, I think I’m pretty close. I’ll continue to dial in my recipe and try and substitute some different sugars in there. Buying the syrup will definitely add up and become cost prohibitive. Unless I win the lottery some time soon. I’ll also have to start bottling so that I can compare them with some age. This, I feel, is the true test; seeing how they hold up to time like the real thing does.