It’s not every day you get a new version of what is widely regarded as one of the greatest beers of all time—doubly so when you’re talking about a classic Belgian ale, most of which are characterized by their unchanging permanence. The abbeys that produce sought-after beers such as Westvleteren, Rochefort and St. Bernardus are known for their steady hands, holding to their classics rather than rushing new beers into production on a yearly basis. And so, when you get a genuine spin-off from a beer as beloved as St. Bernardus Abt. 12? That’s news.
Abt. 12 is regarded as the flagship beer of St. Bernardus, and is one of the world’s best-loved takes on the style of Belgian quadruple/Belgian dark strong ale. Or as St. Bernardus puts it, “Abt. 12 is brewed in the classic Quadrupel style and adheres to the original 1946 recipe.” The new version, on the other hand, will be called St. Bernardus Abt. 12 Barrel Aged Sour, and represents an oak-aged, intentionally soured version of the original. The description from the abbey is limited, but says the following:
St.Bernardus Abt 12 Barrel Aged Sour is brewed with the same recipe but after brewing the beer rested in oak barrels for 3 years. This beer aging lets the beer go sour in a natural way. In June 2019 the beer was blended with freshly brewed Abt 12 and bottled in 75cl bottles.
The beer has a fruity – sour aroma that comes from our own specific yeast strain. Remarkable is the absence of alcohol flavor. The acidity in the finish very well masks the gravity of the beer (Alc. Vol 10%). Furthermore, it is a very balanced beer with a fresh taste and a perfect balance between malty and bitter. In short: a must-try!
From St. Bernardus, we wouldn’t expect anything less than “perfect balance.” Unfortunately, it’s not clear if and when we’ll get to try this stateside, as the brewery states that “given the limited number of bottles, it’s really a beer for enthusiasts. Bottles of the new sour are only being sold in the brewery store and at Bar Bernard, but perhaps if the response to them is strong enough, we could see a U.S. release? We’ll be hoping for some good news.