What's most remarkable about the Rochefort 10, besides simply how damn good it is, is that this 415-year-old recipe can still startle. Technically called a quadrupel, with 11.3 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) and layer upon layer of flavors combining to render something akin to tawny port, the Rochefort 10 is the beer every Belgian brewmaster tries to imitate – light and spicy despite a wine-level strength (the average beer is about 5 percent ABV) and an astonishing richness.
Since 1595, the monks at the Trappist Abbaye de Notre Dame de Saint Rémy in southern Belgium have lived in silence and risen at 3:15 a.m. to start the day's batches, which involve the simplest ingredients: malt, hops, water, yeast, and Belgian brewing sugars. They produce three styles – dubbed six, eight, and 10, after an old strength indication that now correlates loosely to the number of weeks the brewers age each type – but it's the 10 that is king. Every sip is uniquely delicious: Sometimes you notice its unexpected spritziness, unusual in a mahogany-colored beer; sometimes it's the strange unfurling of flavors, from deep toffee and caramel to bright cherry.
The only way to taste the brew is in a bottle, which at $8 to $10 per 11 ounces is about twice the cost of a standard microbrew. But consider the price of a top-rated whiskey or wine – and then consider that the 10 is beyond mere beer: It's the ultimate affordable luxury. [$8/bottle; portchesterbeer.com]