In a beer world of constant innovation and “new, new, new,” sometimes it’s great to look back in time to our heritage. Brouwerij Sint Bernardus has a particularly rich heritage to draw upon. Prior to taking the name St Bernardus, they were the brewery that was responsible for brewing and selling the beers of Westvleteren to the outside world.
When they started brewing the monastic beers of St. Sixtus in 1946, they got 4 recipes from the monks: Abt 12, Prior 8, Pater 6, and Extra 4. Westvleteren still brews the 12 and 8, although with different yeast. However the Pater 6 and Extra 4 were discontinued as tastes changed.
In 1992, the monks of Westvleteren recalled their licence as the Trappist monks were working to form the International Trappist Association so they could protect their trademarks. Without the license, the brewery renamed itself to St. Bernardus and continued brewing world-class Abbey-style beers with Westvleteren’s recipes and old yeast.
In 2014, the brought another beer back to life: the Extra 4. The Extra 4 was the old Single or table beer for the monks. Even in its day, this style was hard to come by in Belgium and even harder outside of Belgium. Of the few I’ve tried, this one is very similar to the Westmalle Extra.
Appearance: Hazy blond/gold. white head, great retention.
Aroma: Grassy, floral, spicy, notes of biscuit.
Taste: Grain, spice, grassy hops.
Overall Impression: St. Bernardus Extra 4 is a light, crisp Belgian Single. It’s balanced with good flavor. While not “intensely” flavored, it’s a very tasty beer that will satisfy the drinker looking for Belgian flavor Abbey without the alcohol levels of a Tripel or Blond. It’s also a great opportunity to try a beer that hasn’t been brewed in 40 years.
Availability: Limited seasonal release, available where D & V International beers are sold.
Special Thanks to Kevin of Belgian Beer Geek for this excellent beer mail!
If you wish to learn more about St. Bernardus and its relationship with Westvleteren, you can check out my page dedicated to the brewery.