They say…

Des de Moor
Best beer and travel writing award 2015, 2011 -- British Guild of Beer Writers Awards
Accredited Beer Sommelier
Writer of "Probably the best book about beer in London" - Londonist
"A necessity if you're a beer geek travelling to London town" - Beer Advocate
"A joy to read" - Roger Protz
"Very authoritative" - Tim Webb.
"One of the top beer writers in the UK" - Mark Dredge.
"A beer guru" - Popbitch.
Des de Moor


Westmalle Extra

ABV: 4.8%
Origin: Malle, Antwerpen, Vlaanderen


The Cistercian Trappist Abdij Onze-Lieve-Vrouw van het Heilig Hart van Westmalle, on the main N12 road between Antwerpen and Turnhout in the Belgian Kempen, is home to arguably the most influential, and alongside Chimay the most commercially active, of the Trappist breweries. Its brace of regular beers, the dark Dubbel and golden Tripel, have provided the template for scores of secular imitators. It’s lesser known that the abbey brews a third, lower gravity, beer primarily for consumption by the monks themselves, a beer sometimes referred to for obvious reasons as Singel but officially named Extra.

Until recently the beer was almost impossible to obtain publicly, though it occasionally hopped across the main road to the famous (and recently rebuilt) Café Trappist opposite, the unofficial brewery tap. Given the compulsion for all things bearing the Authentic Trappist Product seal among certain members of the international beer appreciation community, this made it one of the world’s most recherché beers, scarcer even than the strictly rationed output of the Westvleteren monastery. When Tim Webb and Joris Pattyn listed it as one of their 100 Belgian Beers to Try Before You Die in 2008, there was some criticism of the implicit elitism in including beers the general reader would find completely inaccessible. But Tim and Joris probably had inside information, as since then Extra has become a little less scarce. Supplies are now finding their way to a few specialist and beer festivals — I got my first taste at the Kulminator in Antwerpen.

It would be a shame if Extra suffered the same scale of fuss and bother as Westvleteren’s beers, as, appropriately for its intended consumers, it’s a modest and unassuming brew. Joris describes it as “the ultimate Belgian session beer.”  Like the other Westmalle beers it uses French and Bavarian malts, German and Czech Žatec hops and the house yeast, though I’m unsure if it also includes the candy sugar added to the stronger brews.

It’s a blond beer with a rich and creamy white head and a light creamy, malty and slightly hoppy aroma which is quickly disappated if served in the traditional Westmalle goblet glass. A pale, slightly lagery palate has sharp citric and sweat notes, strawberry fruit and prickly edges. The swallow is refreshingly dry, leading to a lightly dry but creamy finish, excellent balanced with slightly chewy hops. Not quite enough to make me want to become a monk, but it sure must brighten up their days.

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