A journey to Belgium wouldn’t be complete without two important things, chocolate and beer…preferably not at the same time. One of the most unique breweries is Westvleteren, located inside the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren, not far from Ypres.
The brewery produces three beers one of which, Westervleteren XII, is widely regarded by beer aficionados as “the best beer in the world”. The beers are not brewed for commercial sale and as a consequence the supply is limited with sales occurring from the doors of the monastery on a first-come, first-served basis. Public sales only began in 1931, up until that time the beer was only served to guests of the abbey.
The monastery was founded in 1831 and the brewing commencing in 1838 and have produced beer continuously, even in time times of war, until present day. In-fact Westvleteren is the only brewery who continued to use the copper vessels throughout the war as all other breweries had theirs confiscated to support the German war effort.
The brewery produces 3 beers;
Westvleteren Blonde (green cap) – 5.8% ABV
Westvleteren 8 (blue cap) – 8% ABV
Westvleteren 12 (red cap) – 10.2% ABV
Since 1945 all bottles have been sold without labels so all information is printed on the cap. Originally buyers were limited to 10 crates (of 24 bottles), today however due popularity it has been reduced to one crate per person, per 60 days, per license plate or per phone number. Also beer must be reserved on the “beerphone” beforehand. It is possible to buy the beer in the In De Vrede Café, opposite the abbey
Today the brewery produces 60,000L a year and this value has remained the same since 1946. It is the only Trappist brewery where the monks still do all the brewing including five monks who run the brewing and five more who help with bottling.
Buyers of the beer receive a receipt with “niet verder verkopen” (“do not re-sell”) printed on it. The abbey is very much against the re-sale of their beer as it is an operation to fund the abbey not make profit. Father Abbott stated at the opening of the new brewery;
“we are not brewers, we are monks, we brew beer to be able to afford being monks”