Since I’ve gotten interested in craft beer and familiarized myself with the more hard-to-find offerings out there, one name has consistently popped up amongst the beer geek circles as the most desirable and treasured of them all. I’m talking Westvleteren.
Well, through a stroke of luck and good timing, I am now the proud owner of Westvleteren 12 (quadrupel) and 8 (dubbel). Two of the most rare and sought after beers in the world, thanks in large part to its extraordinarily limited distribution…as in you can’t get it unless you literally call the monks at St. Sixtus ahead of time to make an appointment, drive to their monastery in rural West Flanders, Belgium, and after the proper credentials have been verified humbly take your ration of two cases allotted to each person only once per month.
As you may have guessed, “Westy” has earned a mystique and lore arguably unmatched by any other beer on the face of the Earth. It’s been the #1 ranked beer in the world according to Beer Advocate for countless years running. The Wall Street Journal did a piece on the monastery in 2007, noting that the monks of St. Sixtus still use the same recipe they’ve kept quietly to themselves since the 1830’s. St. Sixtus is the smallest of the seven Trappist beer-producing monasteries, and unlike the others, all of the brewing is solely managed by the monks themselves. They do have a handful of secular employees, but only for bottling and other manual labor. And they don’t look to turn a profit, either. From our friend Wikipedia:
“Whilst the brewery is a business by definition (its purpose is to make money), it does not exist for pure profit motives, and they do no advertising except for a small sign outside the abbey which indicates the daily availability of each beer. 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. During World War II, the brewery stopped supplying wholesalers and since then they only sell to individual buyers in person at the brewery or the visitor’s centre opposite. These methods all go against modern business methods, however as stated by the Father Abbott on the opening of the new brewery, ‘We are no brewers. We are monks. We brew beer to be able to afford being monks.'”
Frankly, I can’t think of a higher calling than that.
So how did I come by said beers? Well, a very generous local Twin Cities beer afficionado agreed to a nice little trade for a handful of hard-to-find offerings that I had in my cellar. While my stock was noticeably depleted from the transaction, I think we both walked away feeling like we got a pretty fair deal. He even threw in a bottle of Troeg’s Nugget Nectar and their Scratch Beer 16. Incredibly nice.
Not sure when I’ll review these. I may just stare at them in awe for the next couple years while they mature.
Huge thanks to Mr. Biniek.