In heaven there is no beer, but…. Belgian Trappists’ brew ranks as world’s best

OXFORD, England — A hearty dark brown beer produced at a Trappist monastery in Belgium has been rated the world’s best brew by an online community of beer lovers.

Coincidentally, the monks are temporarily boosting production of its special brew to pay for renovation work at its western Flanders abbey.

The monks at the Trappist Abbey of St. Sixtus of Westvleteren said they will temporarily make one additional batch per month and offer it at participating supermarkets, a first for the order.

The monks’ Westvleteren 12 brew, with an alcohol content of 10.2 percent, was rated the best in the world by Fulton, Calif.-based Ratebeer, which offers beer connoisseurs the chance to discuss and rate their favorite brew.

A Belgian monk checks a brew kettle in a brewery in southern Belgium. (CNS file photo)

Until now, the Trappists sold their beer only to individuals, never to distributors or retail outlets, directly from the abbey. Customers must call ahead to reserve their purchase, which is limited to two crates of 24 bottles each every 60 days.

The extra income will “finance important works” at the abbey, which dates to 1831, monastery spokesman Mark Bode, told La Croix, France’s Catholic daily newspaper.

In a March 6 report, La Croix said the 30 monks usually produce 100,000 gallons of their popular Westvleteren 12 brand annually. For the short term, the monks have launched a six-pack for supermarket customers. The packaging is inscribed: “I’ve contributed to building a monastery.”

Customers must obtain a voucher and present it a participating store to claim their share of the brew.

Directly from the monastery, a crate of Westvleteren 12 sells for about $51. There is an additional $16 deposit on the bottles and the crate.

The newspaper reported that the monks also were seeking customers in the United States and Canada but would revert to selling the beer only from the monastery once “current stocks are exhausted.”

A commentary on the Ratebeer website describes the Trappist brand as “a vast canvas of intense Belgian yeasts, sweetness, brown sugars, caramel, plum, raisin, Danish breads, malty depth, cereals and gentle hops.” Drinkers habitually “notice a gentle warmth on the throat without even tasting any hint of alcohol,” the website said.

The Trappists also brew Westvleteren 8, which ranks 16th on the Ratebeer list, and Westvleteren Blond, a lighter beer.

The monks’ website cautions that purchases require “a lot of patience as well as a lot of luck.”

“You may often get a busy signal when you call to make a reservation, due to the fact that our beer lines are overburdened. You’re not the only one calling at that moment,” the website said.

The Trappist order, whose 170 monasteries worldwide follow the Cistercian tradition of prayer, penance and silence, is widely noted for its brewing and culinary skills. A beer produced by the Trappist monastery at Rochefort, France, was ranked eighth on Ratebeer’s world list.