Via Steven Taylor, I see that the monks of the Westvleteren abbey–one of only six Belgium Trappist monastery breweries and one of the smallest–have had to cease sales of their beer. It seems that one of their beers was rated over at ratebeer.com as the best beer in the world, and now they have had to cut off sales due to being unable to keep up with the demand.
From Beer Advocate there is a link to a more extensive story in The Independent. The very first paragraph got my mouth watering at the memory of one of my favorite beer-travel experiences, when I visited the monastery’s brewery cafe in 2003:
For more than 160 years the Trappist monks at Saint Sixtus monastery in Flanders have been producing a rich, dark-brown, beer renowned for its exceptional flavour and strength.
Mark Bode, the coordinator of the Westvleteren claustrum, is quoted in The Independent regarding the principle behind the brewery:
It is to produce as much beer as we need to finance the community. We make the beer to live but we do not live for beer.
Now, I have to say that not living for their luscious beer is a bit sad, but these men sure do provide a valuable service to the rest of us–at least when we can get their product.
It was the Westvleteren 12 that was rated “best in the world,” but don’t even think of overlooking the Westvleteren 8. Both are just amazingly complex and delicious (I especially recommend the review by “hobbes2112″ at the “12″ link above). Almost as memorable as the beer is the hop tart that they serve in the cafe. Yes, a hop tart! Also great cheeses (Belgian abbey ale and cheeses, also made by the monks, are a match made in heaven) and sausages.
By the way, Mr. Bode, quoted above, lives in the nearby town of Poperinge, also a wonderful center of brewing, home of the Popering’s Hommelbier (“hommel” means hop, and the beer has one of the spiciest hop characters I know, even if it is not exactly “hoppy” by American hophead standards). There is also a great museum to the cultivation of the hop–visiting it is practically a religious experience–in Poperinge.
I have to say there is something quite refreshing about a world-classic beer that you have to travel for. Better anyway that the beer drinker, rather than the beer, does the travelling!