Monday, June 21, 2010

The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time with Brouwerij Westvleteren 12

When I first tasted Westmalle Tripel two years ago, I instantly became fascinated with Trappist ales. I tracked down Rochefort, Achel, and Orval, and found that I loved them all. Reading about these breweries, particularly in Stan Hieronymus's "Brew Like a Monk," I found myself more and more eager to try the beers of the one Belgian Trappist brewery that does not export. Westvleteren 12 has the reputation of being the finest of all Belgian abbey ales, and naturally, when a very good friend of mine picked a bottle up for me during a trip to Belgium, I was ecstatic.

It was hard to choose a video game to pair with Westvleteren 12. Everything I had heard about the beer suggested that it was rich, complex, and an altogether epic experience. I considered The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, as it possesses the same qualities. However, after a loyal reader suggested The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time (or Zelda: TOoT, as Zelda: TOoT veterans call it), I knew what I must do.
Zelda: TOoT is one of my favorite games of all time. I bought it on the day is was released in 1998. I have played through it several times, each of which takes a good many hours. A friend of mine and I once went so far as to set up two TVs and N64s next to each other and start games of Zelda, TOoT at the exact same time in order to see who could beat it faster. After 7 hours, I was about half-way through the game and firmly in the lead, and my opponent admitted defeat.

Please excuse me if I'm getting off-track here. I just get so excited about Westvleteren 12 and Zelda: TOoT that I could probably write a hefty book on this topic (publishers can reach me at I'm not going to go into further detail about the nature of the game, as most of my readers are probably quite familiar with it. I will, however, talk a little bit more about the beer. It comes in a bottle that bears no label, and is marked only by its cap. It pours a hazy brown with golden-brown highlights and a creamy beige head. It has an aroma of sweet malt and dried, dark fruit, similar to Kellogg's Raisin Bran. A sip of Westvleteren 12 sends one's palate on a fantastic adventure through the fields, forests and hills of flavorland. One first encounters delicious, graham-crackeresque malt, dried apricots, raisins, and prunes. Due to a relatively high level of carbonation, the beer has a creamy, yet prickly, mouth feel. It's initial flavor gives way to a refreshing acidity, which fades back into slightly sweet barley, then to a surprising bitterness, and finally back to a maltiness that lingers on the tongue for days. Seriously, after I finished this beer, I refused to start drinking anything else until I could no longer taste the Westvleteren in my mouth, and after about 30 minutes, I finally gave up. Even after taking sips of my new beer (Barley Island Flat Top Wheat Ale, which I recommend), I could still taste the first.
Westvleteren 12 has been hyped-up quite a bit in the last few years, and while harp-playing angels did not carry me up into the clouds while I drank it, it was awesome to finally get to try it. I'm not sure that I liked it much more than Rochefort 10, but it was certainly unique and incredibly tasty. I'll admit that I focused more on the beer than the video game, but when all was said and drunk, I came away armed with a newfound sense of courage. This helped me to quickly vanquish the evil Dodongo and move on to the belly of the piscine Lord Jabu Jabu. This pairing was like eating a pulled-pork sandwich while riding a unicorn through a starry sky. Both elements were so enchanting that it was hard to give adequate attention to either, but it made me extremely happy to be alive.

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