What Price the Best Beer in the World?
Bierkonig. It is located in the heart of Amsterdam, close to Dam Square, and just a short hop from the Dutch Royal Palace. According to most guide books, and online review sites, it is consistently regarded as the best bottle shop in Amsterdam and has achieved legendary status among craft beer fans.
It must be doing something right, as it has been serving a huge range of international beers since 1985, so as I was in the area, it would have been rude not to have paid a visit to Bierkonig.The business occupies a rather unassuming shop, just a short distance from Dam Square – a location that seems to be a popular meeting place. It was quite easy to find, and not as far from the cruise terminal as I first thought. This quite often happens when I'm exploring new places, but it's better when it’s this way around then finding one has under estimated the distance, and the time taken to reach a place I was looking for.I hadn't been there long before they’d finished their browsing and were ready to pay for their goods, so I then had the store to myself.
The shelves, which extend around most internal walls, were well-stocked, and there is also a raised area at the rear of the premises, with a section below. I thought that I’d taken more photos that I actually did, but you will get the picture from those posted below.
There were quite a few strong Winter and Christmas Bock beers from Germany, but as I was in the Low Countries, I stuck to mainly Dutch varieties, with the occasional Belgian offering for good measure. I was also mindful that I would have to carry my purchases back to the cruise ship, and whilst I came equipped with a sturdy and reasonably sized rucksack, I didn’t want to overdo it.Westvleteren 12, the beer ranked by the site RateBeer.com, as the best in the world, and therefore, because of limited production, one of the most sought-after beers as well. I had already decided that no matter how expensive was beer was, I would still buy at least one bottle, due to its rarity value. After all, it’s not that often the one gets the opportunity to purchase the “Best Beer in the World.” €17.50 per bottle – yes, that’s seventeen Euros and fifty cents, for a 330 ml bottle!Now it’s said that every man has his price, and those bottles of Westvleteren were just too expensive, despite my earlier decision, but before going back on it, there was one final arbiter - more about that in a minute. €17.50 was not unreasonable under the circumstances, but whilst I was quite prepared to fork out €10.00,an extra 75% on top of that was just too expensive. I resolved to ask Bierkonig’s proprietor what his thoughts were on the matter, so I began by asking him whether in his opinion a bottle of Westvleteren 12, a beer touted as the best in the world, was worth that exorbitant price. Jelle Hultinkstated that Westvleteren 12 was an extremely good beer, he said there were plenty of others, equally as good. He told me that he had to charge that amount, because of the price he has to pay, but he also qualified that statement by saying there are plenty of buyers out there, willing to pay considerably more than what he is charging. My mention of the RateBeer ranking brought a wry smile to his face which prompted the admission that the majority of these cash rich buyers were American.European Beer Bloggers’ Conference, I was fortunate to visit Westvleteren.I didn’t get to see the brewery; no-one ever does as St Sixtus is the Willy Wonka chocolate factory of breweries. But if you think the monks occasionally hide "golden tickets" in amongst their packs of beer, then think again, as the closest anyone gets is to either visit the modern and spacious In de Vrede café, located just across from the abbey in the Donkerstraat 13, or to try their luck at the drive-thru pick-up gate. Westvleteren beer which makes it so hard to get hold of, and why are supplies so limited? The situation dates back to 2005 when the beer-information website RateBeer.com rated Westvleteren 12° as the best beer in the world. The monks at Saint Sixtus who brew this dark, quadrupel-style beer were not at all pleased by the ensuing publicity, despite this award being an achievement that most brewers can only dream of. The problem is they are not in the business of brewing beer in order to win awards; neither are they in it for the money. They brew beer only in sufficient quantities to support themselves and their abbey.
You can read the rest of the article here, but when I arrived back at the cruise ship, I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps I had missed a golden opportunity. A work colleague certainly thought I had, and it wasn’t as though I couldn’t afford the price asked at Bierkonig. So, was it a case of buyers regret, or did I make the right choice. I’m sure there will be other opportunities to try Westvleteren 12°, including a return visit to the In de Vrede café, located just across from the abbey of St Sixtus, as mentioned above. We shall see!!