St. Sixtus Abbey of Westvleteren, a Trappist brewery known for producing the best beer in the world, Westvleteren 12, is dipping a toe into the digital age: Westvleteren 12 will have its own web store launching Tuesday morning, the Guardian reports.
Beer geeks with a passion for Belgian brews will know of the highly-sought-after, almost mythical beer: a Belgian quadrupel ale brewed exclusively by the St. Sixtus Abbey in Vleteren, a farming town in Flanders, Belgium. Such geeks (this author included) will also know of the painstaking process required to get the beer.
Previously, one could touch their lips to a Westvleteren one of two ways, if they were following the rules: by visiting St. Sixtus Abbey and buying a glass at the tourist-friendly Westvleteren Cafe; or by placing an order by phone to pick up the beer by car.
That phone call required reaching the abbey on a hotline that receives as many as 85,000 calls per hour, according to the Guardian. If one were to get through, information required included name, date, time of pickup, and license plate number. Those lucky enough to make such a pilgrimage were limited to a maximum of two crates of the beer, with 24 beers per crate. (In retrospect, this sounds generous compared to today’s IPA releases. But we digress.)
The launch of the online ordering system does not mean one can simply buy the beer online, however. Buyers still have to drive to the brewery to pick up the beer. What’s changing is the infamous, and nearly impossible step of the phone call. The Westvleteren web shop will similarly require customers create a profile with their name, date of birth, address, mobile phone number, email address, and yes, license plate number.
In case you’re thinking the monks finally decided to cash in on their world-famous brew, think again. According to St. Sixtus abbot, Brother Manu van Hecke, the abbey is modernizing to prevent resale and price hikes of its prized beer. As the Guardian reported last year, Dutch supermarket chain Jan Linders was caught selling Westvleteren’s beers — which include Westvleteren Blond, Westvleteren 8, and Westvleteren 12 — without permission, and at about five times the price.
(At the abbey, Westvleteren 12 is sold by the case for €45, or about $50.50. Jan Linders was selling the beer for about €10 or $11 per bottle, which equates to about €240 or $264 per case.)
“The new sales system meets the needs of many Westvleteren enthusiasts,” van Hecke said. “We have thought long and hard about a good and customer-friendly alternative. Beer sales at the abbey will remain exclusively aimed at private customers. The web store is therefore only accessible to consumers, not to professional buyers.”
He continued, “We want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to purchase Trappist Westvleteren at the correct price. Anyone who does not adhere to the sales rules and abuses the system will be denied access to the online store.”
Update: This article originally linked the Westvleteren web shop to westvleterenbeers.com. The correct website is trappistwestvleteren.be.