Thursday, 17 January 2008

Westvleteren


The St Sixtus Monestery in De Vrede in Belgium is home to the Westvletern Brewery which according to some produces the world's best beer. While that is undoubtedly bollocks, no matter how good they might be, one thing not in doubt is that they are some of the hardest beers in the world to find. And some of the most sought after. They can only be bought (in theory at least) direct from the brewery, using a complicated and convoluted appointment system, or, by purchase in the cafe opposite.

The beers are a blond, a "10" and a "12" with the 12 being the rarest and at 10.2% abv, the strongest. They are sold by the monks for personal consumption only, though many specialist bars in Belgium offer their beers for sale. The receipts that come with the purchase at the monastery are blunt. In upper case letters they say "NIET VERDER VERKOPEN" (Do not resell). In the USA these bottles change hands and are sold in pubs, illegally for as much as $50 a bottle. I say illegally, as they are not labelled which is illegal in the US and they are neither registered with the local authorities, nor with the all powerful Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. A peculiarly Yankee institution.

Why am I rabbitting on about this I hear you ask? Well at the Foreign Beer Bar of the Winter Ales Festival, we have a small number of each. Sorry Brothers. You now know where to look, but you'd better be quick! The 12, by the way, is a mere £4 per bottle.

PS - Ignore the green bottles. They are intruders. The other 32 are the real McCoy

11 comments:

The Beer Nut said...

Is that another intruder on the lower deck, second from the left? He's not wearing his collar!

How weird about the US label law. How's that phrased? Obviously painted labels are OK. Does the label have to have specific information on it, or could you stick on a blank label and put the information on the cap?

Jeff Frane said...

Labels in the US are controlled by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, but the reality of beer labels is that they're not only controlled at the federal level but at the state. States can have all sorts of weird and stupid laws controlling where beer is sold, the condition it's sold (cold v warm), quantity (only by the case) or the size of the bottle (Florida banned anything but 12 oz bottles, including half-liters, liters etc.)

In Washington State, the importers had to put a sticker over the cartoon characters on beers from De Dolle because they were "marketing for children."

All the beer labels not require all sorts of language warning of the dangers of drink. No way to fit all that on a beer cap.

maeib said...

I always knew things were cheaper in Manchester. At Pigs Ear last month the 12 was £5.50 and the 8 was £5.

The Beer Nut said...

Thanks for that, Jeff. Of course there's also the roll-call of bottle deposits by state on labels printed for the US market: I'd forgotten that.

Tandleman said...

Maeib

It isn't always grim up North!

dgs said...

Regarding this: 'The beers are a blond, a "10" and a "12"' ... close. Blond, 8, and 12 describes the range.
http://www.sintsixtus.be/eng/index2.html has this info, as well as the details of the convoluted ordering system, put in place after legendary traffic jams a couple of summers ago, right when the beer started getting massive hype about "best in the world" and the rest of that load of bollox. It's great beer, yes, but best in the world? Not as long as there's Girardin jonge lambic on at de Koekoek, just south of Asse, it isn't!

Tandleman said...

You are quite right Don. I should know as I sold some of them!

Anonymous said...

Just to put things right, the St. Sixtus Abbey is not in De Vrede but in Westvleteren, a village in the municipality of Vleteren. (Quite logically, there's another village called Oostvleteren as well.) "In de Vrede" is the name of the pub right across the abbey.

Tandleman said...

'tis true!

Paul Garrard said...

They are beers that have so far eluded me. Wish I could have been there.

Andrew Teather said...

The Belgian Belly shop in Chorlton never has any problems finding me a case or two when I phone. Takes a while, but always reliable.