On my last visit from Chicago, the Brouwerij West labels caught my eye. I bought pretty bottles on the fly with no name recognition or research. Generally, quality and attitude match either. I thought the focus on art would signal similarly high brewing standards: wrong.
Reading the website, the brewer has a particular attitude. As a statement of philosophy, "We make beer in classic belgian style with mostly belgian ingredients. Our beer is dry and refreshing. We make no IPA and have no barrel aging or spices." The lowercase Belgian caught my eye, as well as the "no IPA". From my experience, Belgian brewers show little regard for rules or styles, so the attitude of no spices or barrel aging is odd.
I hoped that moving on would bring some improvement. To the Saison: extra hazy dark yellow with a white head; light pepper and spice in the nose per the style; taste is muddled and dull without much of the nose making it to the tongue. I poured it correctly but there's an odd yeasty twang that that lingers that I'm not thrilled to drink.
Half way through my BW bottles and not impressed so far. Perusing further into the website, the brewery, contrary to branding rules, changes the artwork for a beer over time, expanding the artists used on the labels. Again, I like the concept but only if the beer is as worthy as the concept. So far the beer is lacking compared to the high ideals, but there's two left to try.
The Tripel is a hazy orange to amber with an off white head. Nose has a nice hoppy spice, pepper and lemon, but the taste is again muddled and out of balance. Three is a trend and the brewery has what my wife calls 't IJ Syndrome. When we visited 't IJ (prounounced "et eye") in Amsterdam, my wife noted that all of the beers tasted the same (because of the house yeast). BW also have a house taste, and not to its advantage like 't IJ, which continues with my final bottle, Mor Mor. A quadrupel, Mor Mor has an acidic cherry bite with some dark fruit underneath and a head that was rocky and irregular and went flat quickly with boozy nose. Inelegant and raw, I preferred the blond in spite of quad being a favored style.
I like the art of the Brouwerij West but not impressed by the beer at all. No repeat customer here. When I put the brewery in my database, it appears just before Westvleteren. While I get "Brewery West" for a California brewery, the coincidence seems a bit contrived. Regardless of intent, my overall impression is that the brewery needs to focus more on flavor and less on extraneous details. Unfortunately, my leap of faith wasn't rewarded this time and definitely not worth the couple of days of beer quota to drink them.
Beer friend Al was also on this Chicago trip and bought some of the same Brouwerij West beers. Check out his more positive perspective.