Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Westvleteren to be Commercialized

In the world of the beer geek, Westvleteren is truly a hallowed name.

Based in the the Abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren and founded in 1838, the Westvleteren Brewery (or Brouwerij Westvleteren) is one of the seven Trappist breweries operating today. While they only brew three beers currently, one of their offerings, Westvleteren 12°, is routinely named the best beer in the world. The fabled brew tops both the BeerAdvocate and RateBeer charts and has become a right of passage for many beer lovers.

Up until this point, the monks have only sold their beer on site at the abbey and only sell enough to cover the expenses of the monastery. Demand greatly outpaces supply, but the monks have not budged. As the legend of Westy 12 spread, the monks began to ration the beer, with tighter and tighter limits on how much one could buy. In 2009, the limit became one case per license plate per month for the 12°, with a hard to obtain reservation required. While the quality of the beer is beyond reproach, there is no doubt that all of this scarcity has added to the myth and driven even more demand for the beer.

Last week, a kind Belgian soul that had dutifully been sending bottles of Westy 12 overseas at no profit to himself announced the monks had asked him politely to stop. Rumors began to fly, with some positing that the monks were set to announce commercial sales of their beers. It turns out those rumors were correct, as the monks have announced they will indeed start to sell their beer outside of the abbey for the first time ever.

In an effort to pay for renovations to the abbey, discussions are underway with Belgian warehouse chain Colruyt for the first foray in commercial sales for the brewery. If all goes to plan, Belgian consumers will be able to buy a gift pack containing a mix of Westvleteren Blonde, 8°, and the fabled 12°.

Details are relatively sparse at the moment, with no definite figures on how much beer the monks plan to sell outside the abbey, or how long for. The operator of the brewery has said "we are required to at least temporarily to brew more beer," which gives the impression that the monks aren't planning this as an ongoing venture.

Source: De Morgan (in Dutch)

No comments: