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Westvleteren Brewery - Wikipedia

The abbey brews about 70 days a year, starting at about 9 a. Five monks work in the brewery, and an additional five help on bottling days. He has had all three of its brews — the 8 and the 12, both dark ales, and the Blond, a 5. He has even tried one that had been aged since Bernardus Abt," he said.


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But [for Westvleteren], when you throw in the taste, A, and B, [the fact] it's brewed by monks, and C, the 'scarcity factor,' that's a lot of it. Beer picked up at the gate must be reserved at least 60 days ahead of time. The "scarcity factor": This is the grail at the center of Westvleteren-mania.

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Not only does Westvleteren produce the least of all the Trappist breweries, but its beer is also the hardest to get. The beer is available at either the abbey's In De Vrede cafe by the glass or by the six-pack, with a limit to two six-packs per person or at the drive-thru pick-up gate with a limit of one case per car, which must be reserved at least 60 days ahead of time over the "beer phone" … but good luck getting through the line, which receives as many as 85, calls an hour.

I went there in December on a day trip from Brussels. The easiest way is to rent a car and drive the hour and a half west to Westvleteren; otherwise you'll have to take a bus to another bus to another bus to another bus — a nine-hour public transit nightmare. But even if you drive, as I did, turning onto barely marked and barely paved country roads, it's hard to find.


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Once you're there, though, it's like arriving at some mythical place. And it's beautiful.

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It is complex and warming, and absolutely delicious. But again, the monks aren't looking to make a profit on the operation.

So why not make more beer? It may cause the beer to lose its appeal, especially if it were made more widely available, Cook said, adding that even so, Westvleteren would "have a great beer and a great reputation regardless. And the abbey is fiercely against it. We are monks.

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We brew beer to be able to afford to be monks," according to a statement from the Father abbot on the abbey's website. If anything, this has only increased demand. Every customer promises not to sell the beer to others. Even more unethical, over the years certain importers even went so far as registering the beers with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau TTB in order to bring them in and turn a profit.


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Ironically, all hell would break loose if a well-known beer from an American brewer was being sold illegally. Refusing any contact is a form of silence too. His non-refusal of contact has only increased the hype, created more demand, raised prices, inflated opinions and teased wanting consumers—most of whom will never get a sip.

Westvleteren is now in the limelight more than ever before.