Belgium 2010 – Westvleteran

We took a day trip from Brugge to a small town called Westvleteran.  It was about an hour long drive to get there, but the drive was pretty impressive.  It took us through the Belgian country side – small farming towns, lots of little villages, the autobahn, etc.  Some of the areas were extremely beautiful.

What is in Westvleteran thought?  Some of the worlds most sought after beer brewed my a small community of Trappist monks.  One of the requirements of being a Trappist monk are making a living from the work of your hands.  Some monasteries make soap, some chocolate, some cheese, and 7 of them make beer.  Some of the best beer in the world.

What was interesting is that in our entire visit to Westvleteran, we didn’t see a single monk.  That is how they prefer it.  Their focus is on seeking God, and living a quiet and peaceful life.  The only produce and sell enough of their beer to support their monestary, and they do not distribute it.  To acquire it, one must make an appointment to pick it up, give them your license plate number, and drive to the monastary to get it.  You are only allowed to purchase it once a month, and you are required to sign an agreement saying that you will not resell it.

Visitors aren’t allowed inside the Abbey, but they do have a building set up just outside of the Abbey where visitors can go Monday-Thursday from 2-5 certain months of the year to try their beer.  We were able to sample all 3 of their beers.  In addition, I had some of the best ham I have had in my life, and some fantastic aged Trappist cheese that they also made.  It was quite an experience to be sitting in the middle of nowhere in Belgium drinking some of the world’s most rare beers, and eating such amazing food.

The beer itself is very good, and I think it is a lot like the monks themselves.  In a lot of ways, I don’t think it aspires to be much.  What it is though, is an extremely well balanced, unoffensive, and quite straight forward beer.  It is however, brewed with an art of perfection, hinting at a process that has been passed down for many years – a craft and passion that has been lost among many of the American macro breweries and frat party lager shops.  Drinking beer of this quality is equally about the experience.  There is something special about having access to a beverage that has so much history and legend behind it, combined with its rarity.  I think these things are no doubt why this is consistently rated as one of the best beers in the world.

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