Some have called Westvleteren 12 the best beer in the world. On a recent trip to Brussels I acquired a bottle of this Belgian Abt/Quadrupel as I had to try it. It is lovely, a shining example of the style and one I would happily buy again.
It is strong at 10.2% ABV but it doesn’t taste that alcoholic, it’s sweet, dark and loads of flavour comes through and I enjoyed sipping it leisurely at home. The Westvleteren 12 was introduced in 1940 and since 1945 all bottles have been sold without labels. All of the legally required information is printed on the crown tops, which gives it a lovely unique style and feels like proper moonshine. I will be keeping the bottle and reusing is for home brew.
But here’s the rub… Sales are limited to one crate of 24 bottles every 60 days per person per license plate and phone number. Also, the beer must be reserved on their “beerphone” beforehand. The monks do not sell beer to individuals who drive up to the abbey hoping to purchase beer.
The reason for this is to eliminate commercial reselling, and hence give all visitors a chance to purchase the beer, which I love as a concept and the abbey is actively working to eliminate the illicit sales. The brewery charge €40.00 per 24-bottle crate (excluding bottle/crate deposit of 12 euros). So, €1.66 per bottle, which is brilliant value for such an excellent beer and a price that if anything is slightly low for the quality of this beer.
If however, you turn up in Brussels like I did not knowing this or not able to get to the Brewery, you are resigned to buying ‘black market’ bottles from the endless beer shops around the town. I paid €18, the most expensive beer in the shop! I am glad I tried it and really enjoyed it. But was it worth €18? Absolutely not. There are a wonderful array of beers in Belgium that are as good and in a huge variety of styles that there is no possible way to justify that sort of expense, which is a shame.
“We are not brewers. We are monks. We brew beer to be able to afford being monks.” Father Abbott, Westvleteren Brewery
As with all other Trappist breweries, it does not exist for pure profit motives, and they do no advertising. The monks have repeatedly stated that they only brew enough beer to run the monastery, and will make no more than they need to sell, regardless of demand with the remaining profit going to other philanthropic causes.
Westvleteren Brewery was founded in 1838 at the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus in Vleteren, Belgium, not far from the hop-producing town of Poperinge.
I encourage you to seek out a bottle or two, but beware of the cost and if you can, go straight to the brewery for a case!