It doesn’t matter if you’re a bonafide beer geek or budding brew enthusiasts like ourselves; if it’s your first trip to Westvleteren, the road to this trappist brewery of Saint Sixtus Abbey is sure to be paved with everlasting memories. Rated among the world’s best beers, the scarce availability and limited production makes it all the more sought after (in effect, putting into play highway robbery on the black market) and prized to the point where some will travel halfway around the world to get it at the source. And while it’s not difficult to find a Westy nearer to home (I know of a place in Italy), those who meet with success at facing the monk’s rigid reservation system are the only ones who can say been there, done that.
Our Westvleteren story isn’t all that different from many floating around on the internet. There’s a lot of planning involved, much stress and excitement, and a good dose of anxiety up until the day that you finally get to pick up your beer. There’s also the agonizing pain, yes pain! Because when you’re trying to get through to the monk’s insanely busy beer hotline, pressing redial for hours on end, you’ll begin to feel like the whole deal is a pain in the arse. The monk’s website keeps updated information on when to call in to reserve their beer; miss your chance and it’s gone for good. On day one I called roughly 700 times within 4 hours and got nothing but a busy signal. I was so distraught! On day two (and wouldn’t you know, the last opportunity of the week) I got through after about an hour and a half. We got Westys!
This is our adventure in words and images, to the tune of Gilligan’s Island.
Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,
a tale of a beer road trip.
That started from bella Italy,
on a quest for that magical sip.
The magical sip I’m speaking of,
is considered like the Holy Grail.
To buy it is a game of patience and luck
but don’t give up if you fail, just don’t give up if you fail
After hundreds of calls I did get through,
and a voice spoke loud and clear.
The license plate number of your car,
and the day you want to pick up your beer, the day you want to pick up your beer.
We drove up at the appointed time and day,
more anxious than ever before.
When the Westys were loaded up in the car
the monk said 104€, the monk said 104€
The road to Westvleteren had come to an end, we lunched at the cafe next door
with Westy 12…..and Westy 8 as well,
2 sandwiches…..Hennepot* and abbey cheese,
the Coupe In De Vrede**,
a Westy 6 and I’m the happiest chick
here at Saint Sixtus Abbey!
*Hennepot is a cold dish of chicken in gelatin
**Coupe In De Vrede is ice cream made with Westvleteren beer.
I rate this experience as a definite must even if beer isn’t your thing. At In De Vrede (in the peace) there was a steady stream of customers but we didn’t have to wait too long for service and to receive our order. Just take a seat and someone will eventually get to you.
For information on obtaining cases of Westvleteren beer, visit: Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren. Six-packs are available at the cafe’s shop until supply runs out. We look forward to a return trip in a couple of years!