This emblem puts a smile on my face. I knew that I have arrived at the world famous location where you can enjoy a glass of the world's best beer (as rated by Ratebeer). And the only bar where you can enjoy countless amount of Westvleteren beer legally is here at In De Verde because apparently if you managed to secure 2 cases of Westvleteren beer and you resell it, it's considered illegal.
We were surprised that a place like In De Vrede located some 150km away from where we came from is full of people. This place is located at the country side, a place full of farms, horses, cows and donkeys. Roads here are mostly single lane and you'll be lucky if you don't bump into any tractors coming your way. This is also the place where even the Belgians themselves don't understand each other because of the Dutch slang they used. But of course for me, I couldn't tell the difference.
From Left: Westvleteren 12 (10.8%), Westvleteren Blonde (5.8%) & Westvleteren 8 (8%)
The reason why these beers are so highly sought for is due to numerous factors. Firstly the name "Trappist Beer" can only be used if the beer is brewed by Trappist monks in their monastery. There are 6 Trappist Beers from Belgium and these are Achel, Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle and Westvleteren. And among these beers could be bought from supermarkets or drink shops except Westvleteren where you can only call their reservation centre on a certain day (usually Tues & Wed from 9am to 12.15noon) and then drive to Sixtusabdij to collect on the following week according to the collection time agreed.
Sounds easy? It's definitely NOT! The monastery only releases a limited number of cases of Westvleteren beers and sometimes it could be the 8, 12 or blonde according to the schedule given on their website. The first time we called, we were lucky to be able to get through and reserve 2 cases (limited to 2 cases per car). You have to give the car registration number to them and to use the same car for collection. The same telephone number used to call and the same car number used to collect the beers cannot call or buy for the next 60days. And we had to drive 300km in total just for these beers!!! Now that's how precious a Westvleteren beer is!!!
This is the abbey and at the side of this building, there is a place for the cars to pick up the beers which has been reserved the week before. They also have a new building in progress where the bottling facility will be located.
The place where the beers are collected. Cars were queuing up to collect and then to make payment. There are some cars coming all the way from Holland and Sweden too. Look at the crates of Westvleteren 8!! I want all of them....
While Luc went to collect the beer, Thomas and me were sitting in the cafe in front of a little shop where they sell Westvleteren glasses, beers, pate and cheeses. According to the staff, there will be some Westvleteren 12 available in half and hour and we were determined to get some. So we waited, and waited and finally after an hour, we saw a pallet of beers in the shop and we rushed to the scene and soon a long queue started to build up (at these moment, I felt "kiasuism" is needed). We were lucky to be the first few and every person is only allowed to buy 6 bottles (EUR20).
Besides drinking Westvleteren beers, one could also have a snack or a meal here at In De Vrede. I ordered a Croque Monsieur "in de Vrede" with ham, cheese and tomatoes (EUR4.80) while Luc had a Boterham met abdijpate (EUR4.50). They are so delicious and especially the pate!! The price is very cheap and the pate is just heavenly.
This is where you can really enjoy countless of Westvleteren beers (prices range from EUR3.70-4.90) even if you don't get to reserve any through the telephone. However, I would really think twice about driving 150km all the way to this place for a beer and to return home empty handed. My favourite is still the Westvleteren 12 as it is fruity and fresh (due to fresh brew dates) and it doesn't feel like a heavy beer at all even at 10.8% alcohol. This beer can be aged well and to some, it's even better after 10-20 years of cellaring. This is indeed the HOLY GRAIL of beers!
And just 5-10 mins drive from Sixtusabdij is the St Bernadius Watou Brewery which makes absolutely stunning beers as well. There's an interesting story between the Westveleteren and St Bernadius and if you're interested, you can check out this site. One can go on a brewery tour at St Bernadius but a pre-booking has to be made and more details here. We didn't leave the brewery empty handed because we bought a few more of their special edition magnum bottles and then some paraphernalia. It was indeed a fun-filled beer day!
In De Vrede
Tel: +32 (0) 570400377