One question people often ask is, “what is the best beer you have ever tried?” For me, the answer is pretty easy. The best beer I have ever had is Trappist Westvleteren 8 from Sint-Sixtus Abdij in Westvleteren, Belgium. Most people actually tend to prefer the Trappist Westvleteren 12, which is usually even rated as the top beer in the world on http://www.ratebeer.com, but I personally prefer the 8 since it has less of an alcohol taste to it, with most of the other wonderful flavors still present. I love the 12 as well, but the 8 is my top choice. I guess it may also factor in that I am usually driving when I am visiting and need the lower alcohol in order to continue afterwards…
I have been lucky enough to purchase cases of these wonderful beers directly from the Abbey a few years ago, but typically, this is an extremely difficuly task to accomplish these days (see official instructions on the Sint-Sixtus Abbey website) and often requires quite a bit of luck. Since buying from the Abbey is so difficult, and the monks do not allow their beer to be resold by others (and when it is resold by others, it is usually with a very hefty mark-up), how can you manage to get your hands on some for yourself?
It’s easier than you think…as long as you have a way of getting around in Belgium.
Right accross the Donkerstraat from the monestary, there is a cafe called In De Vrede, which is owned by the Sint-Sixtus Abbey. This cafe is the only authorized reseller of Trappist Westvleteren in the world! The primary way to purchase the Trappist Beer here is by the bottle in the cafe, but there is also a small shop at the entrance to the cafe which at time also does sell beer by the bottle or in special collector’s sets for take-away. Due to the limited production of the beers and increasing popularity, and need to keep enough on stock for the cafe, there were no individual bottle sales for take-away available in the store the past few times I visited, however was able to purchase the collector’s sets, which contain 4 beers – 2 blonde (green-cap), 1 8 (blue-cap) and 1 12 (yellow-cap) – along with a Trappist Westvleteren glass and a collector’s box. The shop also sells other products such as the pâté and cheese produced by the monks, gingerbread, and other local products, along with some basic conveniences.
In De Vrede (“In Peace”) is a popular cafe, especially on weekends. The parking lot is usually pretty full, both with cars and bicycles. When the weather cooperates, it can be difficult to find a spot, and both the inside cafe and terrace can be completely full even! The cafe sells some light snacks and sandwiches, ice cream, hot and cold beverages, and of course, the Trappist Westvleteren beers.
I recommend the Portie Paterskaas €2.50, a nice sized slice of the cheese made by the monks, and the Portie Abdijpaté €2.90 which is a similarly sized slice of the monestary’s own pâté, which is actually delicious! The Bierworstje is just a prepackage sausage snack, so I suggest to stick to the pâté and cheese. The sandwiches are ok, but beware the Hennepot if you are not aware of what it is – it’s a slice of small pieces of chicken suspended in gelatin…looks quite disgusting. I’ve never actually tasted it though.
Beer prices in the cafe are €3.20 for a blonde, €3.70 for the 8, and €4.30 for the 12. This is almost 3x what you would pay if you can get them by the case at the monestsary, and almost 2x what it would cost from the store, but being able to buy in either of these sites is not as likely.
The cafe is open every day from 10:00 AM, except for the following times when it is closed:
- Thursdays (From September 1 – July 1)
- 1st half of January
- 2nd half of Easter Holiday
- 2nd half of September
For more information, check them out at http://www.indevrede.be/languagee/index.htm
“In de Vrede”