The Secret of Westvleteren’s Success

It was something that the monks at The Abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren, Belgium, had never expected. About ten years ago, RateBeer.com named their dark, quadrupel-style ale, “12”, the best beer in the world. Demand for the beer skyrocketed, and that created a problem for the monks. They brewed beer, but strictly to cover the expenses of running the abbey. They weren’t in the brewing business, and had no intention of doing so.

Westvleteren 12 is still highly regarded—it currently ranks second on RateBeer.com—and it remains hard to find. Annual production is just under 4,000 barrels. The beer’s scarcity is a major factor in its appeal. Not only is it rare, but there are only two places to get it legally: at the abbey’s cafe, or at the abbey’s drive-through pick-up gate, provided you’ve made a reservation at least 60 days in advance—and good luck getting through. The only practical way to get to the abbey is to rent a car; it’s a 90-minute drive, provided you don’t get lost on the country roads leading to it.

A case of Westvleteren 12 sells for 40 euros (about $45), or less than $2 a bottle. Some customers resell it on the black market, and get $50 or more per bottle. The monks discourage this practice, and RateBeer.com polices its user forums and shuts down illicit sales.

Comments are closed.

Powered by WordPress