Bending Benedictine beer rules

There comes a time in every monk’s life when they have to stand up and be counted – and that’s precisely what happened to the monks at the Abbey of St. Sixtus of Westvleteren, where the foundations of their Abbey were declared structurally unsound. 29 Trappist monks, with an average age of 54, lived at the Abbey, and just like many other Trappist orders, brewing their own extremely special beer – Westvleteren 12 – purely to get by. Benedictine rules, you see. Four of them dealt with the actual brewing, while eleven more were involved in the bottling and labelling process.

They’ve been doing this just to sustain themselves over the years, like in other Trappist monasteries, but since they’ve needed to raise money for repairing the Abbey’s foundations, they’ve been bending the Benedictine rules somewhat and brewing an additional batch every month. Since September 2010, then, the monks have been busy creating 163,000 gift packs of Westvleteren 12 – of which 93,000 were snapped up instantly by Belgian beer lovers. That’s the local gift packs gone, then.

Of course, before those gift packs flew off the shelves, it was possible to buy a bottle or two of Westvleteren 12 but, as befits the nation hosting much of EU bureaucracy, things have never been that straightforward: waltzing into the Abbey waving a handful of euros simply wasn’t going to work – that would have been too easy. The only way to buy some Westvleteren 12 was to set aside a day or so constantly pressing the redial key until you were lucky enough to talk to somebody at the other end of the Abbey’s phone line.

Once you’d got through, you needed to identify yourself with either a license plate number or a phone number, which the monk at the other end of the line noted down. Next, you had to arrange an appointment to drop by and collect however many bottles you’d been allocated – on the understanding that you weren’t going to sell those bottles on to anybody else. And once the Abbey had you identified by your license plate or phone number, you weren’t allowed to come back for more Westvleteren 12 for at least 60 days.

Or you could try your luck tracking down those remaining gift packs for sale outside Belgium – we’re told quite a few of those seventy thousand packs are making their way to Canada. On the other hand, there are hundreds of other fine, complex Belgian beers available for sampling either in Belgium or even from selected outlets here in the UK. Which saves somewhat on airfares, doesn’t it?

Good beer does not always have to be complicated. Belgique’s Belgian cafes exemplify that belief, serving gourmet Belgian cuisine in a warm and welcoming environment. Belgique online delivers this experience, plus Trappist Beers and much more for you to enjoy in your own home.