Out of all the Trappist breweries, the Saint-Sixte Abbey in Westvleteren is the one that applies in the most strict way to the rule of Saint-Benoît. Ora et labora, the monks live their monastic life by following the rythm of work and prayer. Their production of beers allows them to provide for their needs, no more no less. This tradition has been going on since 1839.
Blond, 8 or 12
The Abbey brews three types of Westvleteren beer. Until recently, you could easily recognize them by the absence of label on them. All you had to do was look at the cap: the Blond beer (green cap), the brown extra called Westvleteren 8 (blue cap) and the favorite of the connoisseur, the Westvleteren 12 (golden cap). Since 2015 however, a European law required the abbey to stick labels on their bottles. A part of History has changed.
Exceptional measures for an exceptional beer
The production of beer is foremost reserved to the consumption of the 22 monks of the abbey. What's left is part of a very restrictive sales system put in place by the abbey itself. All three beers are not available at all times, so you might have to be patient before trying the long desired nectar.
There are two official ways to buy Westvleteren.
The first is to go straight to the abbey. To do so, you must first register by phone (070/21.00.45) and give your licence plate. A meeting will then be set, at which point (and only then), will you be able to go throught he drive-in on site. Every buyer will ONLY be able to buy 24 bottles maximum and will not be able to come back for at least 60 days. All the information can be found on their website.
The second possibility is to go to the brasserie "In de Vrede", located in front of the abbey. There, you will be able to enjoy one of the three beers and even buy up to 6 bottles maximum. Beware: it is impossible to make a reservation and your purchases will depend on available stock.
Where to find it in Brussels?
Despite this very restrictive sales system and a limited production, it is possible to find the famous Westvleteren 12 (XII) in Brussels.
In the centre of Brussels where beer shops can be found at every corner, it is possible to find it for 12€ to 18€. At the Biertempel for example, the bottle of 33cl is sold 12€. The XII is sold 14€ at Beer Mania and 18€ at 250 Beers and Beer Planet.
In the various bars and restaurants, the Westvleteren has made itself very discrete. If it is not on the menu, don't hesitate to ask at the bar. You might just have a very good surprise at Moeder Lambic and at the very turistic temple of beer Délirium.
If going to to the center of the city doesn't appeal to you, know that it is also possible to order the famous beer. Biere-speciale.be sells the 33cl bottle for 15€.
Star of beers
The Westvleteren became worldwide famous in 2005 when the American website specialised in beer (ratebeer.com) awarded her the title of best beer in the world. An award that she received again in January 2013. Since then, the Westvleteren 12 has always had more than honorable scores in beer contests around the globe.
The rarity of the famous black bottles grew year by year. Despite the growing demand for it, its production has remained the same, with only 4800 hectoliters of beers brewed each year (1 440 000 bottles of 33 cl). With such a high demand for such a low production, the prices of the XII often goes over 20€ a bottle or even 250€ for the gift boxes.