5 Rare Beers You'll Never Get to Try

...and how you can prove me wrong

It’s 3:30 in the morning, 40 degrees, and pouring rain in a small, coastal New England city. My buddy and I are sitting in nylon folding chairs, wearing trash bags for raincoats and clutching umbrellas with cold, white knuckles. I nod off and my umbrella tips, allowing a stream of cold rainwater from an overflowing gutter to course down my neck, soaking the last plot of dry real estate on my clothing.

The driver of a passing car might assume we are waiting for concert tickets or the release of the latest revolutionary Apple gizmo. But were they to ask, they would learn that the answer is much simpler than that — we’re here for a glass of beer.

Yes, there are beers in the world worthy of such trials. They’re sometimes referred to as "white whales" in the beer community, and their rarity can drive many of us to extreme measures. Camping out in line in the rain, for example, or journeying to a Trappist monastery, or driving for days to a festival celebrating the perennial release of a legendary recipe. Are the beers worth it? Well, that’s subjective. But regardless, the pursuit and adulation of these beers is as much an appreciation of the care, attention, and skill that the brewers pour into them as it is for the final product.

And with that, here are five that you’ll probably never get to taste (unless you really, really want to). One quick note: I must confess that I have only had one of the beers listed below, so any other descriptions are heresay... for now, at least.


Westvleteren 12

Why you'll never try it: “Westy 12,” as it is affectionately known, is the granddaddy of them all. Created at what is one of only seven Trappist monasteries in the world still making beer, it is perhaps the most sought-after brew in active production. This fruity, spicy Belgian Quadrupel presents a centuries-refined balance of spiciness and phenols with rich malty notes of slight chocolate and caramel. I’ve seen one bottle of it in my life, brought forth from a cupboard momentarily by the host of a beer tasting, who then quickly returned it to its dark home. His paranoia over having revealed such a treasure before our covetous, thirsty eyes was palpable.

How to prove me wrong: Westy 12 is only available at the monastery itself, only in 6-packs, and only at certain unannounced times of year. So you could easily plan your trip to Belgium, drive through the countryside, and show up at their shop, only to find that the 12 isn’t available. And even if you do manage to get some, you still have to either stow it in your luggage or ship it home.


Three Floyds Dark Lord

Why you'll never try it: Dark Lord is a Russian Imperial Stout that is released annually by Three Floyds Brewing Company, a rising yet well-established star in the craft beer world. They’re located in Munster, Ind., just a short drive south from Chicago. A rich, dank alcohol-laced imperial stout, Dark Lord boasts the full range of the style's characteristics — dark fruits, chocolate, coffee, and a molasses-like sweetness. In recent years, some variations have been produced, including barrel-aged and vanilla-infused versions. You won’t find it in any store, and those who have acquired bottles have a habit of locking them away for years to allow the beer to age and mature.

How to prove me wrong: Dark Lord Day is an annual festival on the grounds of the Three Floyds brewery and is your best chance at securing a sip of the elusive brew. By purchasing a “Golden Ticket” beforehand, you are guaranteed the right to buy a predetermined number of bottles. Smuggle them home in your trunk and don’t go overboard with the Darth Vader asthmatic-breathing jokes during the drive.

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About the Westy 12.

As someone wrote it is possible to buy 24 pc. wooden crates of Westvletern beers if you call the Abbey and get the date, there is no saying which of the 3 beers you'll get (12, 8 or blonde)
You'll allso be able to buy beers from the shop across the street in 6 packs (again no telling what beer you'll get) though if you show up in tourist season there is a chance it is all sold out (the shop is connected to a huge restaurant that allso sells the beer (at perfect temp.).

As said ealier it is allso possible to buy it at bars in Belgium and very good beer bars in Europe, i now of 3-4 bars in Denmark alone that sells them


Pliny the Younger - RARE? In San Diego it's realtively easy to find it during the limited release times.


I have had three of these: Westy 12, Dark Lord and Black Tuesday. Have also had Pliny - the Elder - several times. All were good, but none mind-blowing.

There are many IPAs I prefer to Pliny the Elder (Ballast Point Sculpin for example.) I do love Vinny's sour beers though.

Here are two more rare beers you'll never get to try:
Stone Vertical 020202
Port Brewing Isabelle Proximux


You can also buy Westy at numerous bars in Antwerp, Brussels and Brugges. Or if you go to the Abbey, there is a shop right across the street which sells it as well, all three brews, all the time. That is where you get the six packs. At the Abbey itself you get crates of 24.

I've had all of these brews except for the Bruery one. Dark Lord is the most overrated in my opinion, won't be going to DLD any more, just way too many people there who only want it to resell for 10x the price on the web. Rare beer is meant to be enjoyed and shared. Not squandered in the hopes of gouging some poor fool who can't make the event.

Jonathan Burr's picture

@aperol - You're absolutely right about the seven Trappist breweries, thanks for pointing that out! (corrected)
For those who are interested, the other three are Koningshoeven (who make La Trappe), Westvleteren, and Achel.


Westvleteren 12 is not sold only in a six pack. It is actually sold in wooden racks of 24 beers. The number of racks you can buy varies but I was lucky enough to get three racks of the 12 twice. It was a journey and the hardest part was getting through on the Beer phone line in order to reserve it.


Westvleteren 12 is not sold only in a six pack. It is actually sold in wooden racks of 24 beers. The number of racks you can buy varies but I was lucky enough to get three racks of the 12 twice. It was a journey and the hardest part was getting through on the Beer phone line in order to reserve it.


Thanks to you, now I have a new mission....get these beers and drink them!!!


I have had all 5.. Pliny being the best, one he'll of a hop bomb!


I have had Elder, but never Younger. Are they very different? I'm not sure why Elder is so highly regarded. While I think it's good, I just don't find it great. For me there are many better IPAs including Ballast Point Sculpin, Avery Maharaja, and even Odell IPA.


there are actually 7 operating trappist breweries, not four

top 4
orval. just fyi


Because of your article I now plan on searching for these and other rare beers to impress my friends! Your knowledge of beer and the craft astonish me. I look forward to reading more about your travels and experiences.

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