The reclusive monks of Saint-Sixtus Abbey in Westvleteren in West Flanders are making their beer, the most sought-after in the world, more readily available.
Until now, obtaining beer from the abbey was a far from straightforward process. Buyers had to ring at a certain time and make an appointment, then go to the abbey in person and pick up an order of a maximum of two crates. All on the understanding that the beer – thought by many to be the best in the world – was for personal consumption, and would not be sold on to third parties.
Consequently, the extreme difficulty in obtaining the beer only served to create a thriving black market, with online sales asking for extortionate prices which beer lovers were only too willing to pay.
Now all of that is to change. The abbey has established a website where customers can go to order their beer – still restricted to two crates. The site gives priority to recent customers and new arrivals, and also offers merchandise such as Westvleteren glasses and products from other Trappist abbeys.
“The new sales system meets the needs of many Westvleteren enthusiasts,” said Brother Manu Van Hecke, abbot of the Saint-Sixtus abbey, in a press release. “We have thought long and hard about a good and customer-friendly alternative. Beer sales at the Abbey will remain exclusively aimed at private customers. The web store is therefore only accessible to consumers, not to professional buyers," stated. “We want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to purchase Trappist Westvleteren at the correct price. Anyone who does not adhere to the sales rules and abuses the system will be denied access to the online store."
The new system allows better inventory management, the abbey said. It also allows lot numbers of particular bottles to be traced should they appear for sale online. Presumably the offending customer can then be noted and refused purchases later.
Customer-friendly as the new ordering process may be, however, anyone wishing to buy their Westvleteren from the source will still have to travel to the abbey in person to pick up their two crates. The web store is only open at particular times, the next one being on 18 June from 10:00 to 11:00.
Sint-Sixtus produces three beers: a blond beer at 5.8% alcohol; a dark beer at 8% and the renowned Westvleteren 12 at 10.2% alcohol. As this article is published, the Westvleteren 12 can be obtained online for around ten euros for a single 33cl bottle, exclusive of shipping.
The Brussels Times