Westvleteren XII is the most overrated beer in the world. If you go on any of the major beer sites, this beer is guaranteed to be near the top, if not at the top of any “best beers in the world” list. Westy XII is a classic, Belgian-strong ale that is a notch below many of its fellow Belgian-strong ales.
In a side-by-side blind comparison, this is a beer guaranteed not be the stand out winner. Yes, it’s a good beer and if in front of you, definitely worth drinking, but it is not the best beer in the world. Why is it that this beer is ranked so highly and its fellow superior beers so much lower? The only logical answer is availability, also known as everything that is wrong with online beer reviews.
Going down these “top beer” lists, the sightings of regular offerings from a brewery are almost non-existent. The vast majority of these beers are extremely limited beers that in most cases, one must wait in line to purchase on a single day, travel out of the country for, or live in a very small market where that beer is available and even then, the beer is usually in limited supply. Lists like these show that in order to be world class, a beer must be hard to get. Why would a year-round beer that’s readily accessible, the cornerstone of a brewery, and the reason that brewery is still in existence be considered world class or worthy of a “top-beer” list? That would be a complete absurdity in the beer world, right? There is no way that a beer like Victory Prima Pils should ever be on such a list. It’s only regularly referred to as one of the best beers of its style, in a category that is often considered the hardest to brew. No big deal. It has no right to be on a list of boozy, high-alcohol, over-hopped, imperial beers that are hard to get. Why would someone want to drink a $2 bottle of a lager anytime they want, when they could buy a bottle of Three Floyds Dark Lord on eBay for a few hundred dollars only to stare at it endlessly, debating when to finally crack it open, which usually ends up being way past its shelf-life?
Why has judging craft beer become all about rarity? Why can’t people look at craft beer for what it is, not how they got their hands on it? Yes, tracking down sought-after beers can be fun, but it’s time to stop taking that into account when beers are judged. It’s time to start appreciating beer for being beer. Is Westy XII really a better brewed beer that Victory Prima Pils? Year-round offerings from breweries are often overlooked and lesser rated, and it’s something that needs to end. Would Sierra Nevada Pale Ale really be the anchor of a brewery that’s been leading the craft beer wave for over thirty years if it wasn’t a world class beer, yet it doesn’t even crack the top twenty on these lists? Year-round, flagship offerings are usually considered so for a reason. If Westy XII was on the shelf right next to St. Bernardus 12 on a regular basis, would Westy XII still be the best beer in the world?
Next time you review a beer, it may be time to take the beer itself into consideration. Forget how you got it or how much it cost you, because none of that actually matters. Close your eyes, drink the beer like you would the case of beer that regularly fills your fridge and think, “Is it really that special?” Is it really worth spending your paycheck on a single bottle of it on eBay? Next time you think about buying that bottle for $300, think about the ten cases of great craft beer you could have bought instead. And, start showing the regular beers some respect.