Everyone knows the Trappist monks make awesome beer. In the mid 2000s a little monastery, called Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren, rose to fame when it’s quadruple style 12 was ranked as the best beer in the world by Ratebeer.com. The fame has never left, as they are again on RateBeer’s best of 2015.
There are 10 Trappist monasteries in Belgium and Westveleteren is the smallest, only producing 4,000 barrels a year. In comparison, Kulshan Brewing will produce near 15,000 barrels at full capacity. What is a “Trappist” beer?
Ten trappist beers carry the ATP-label : the beers of Achel, Chimay, La Trappe, Orval, Rochefort, Westvleteren, Westmalle, and the beers of Stift Engelszell (Gregorius and Benno), Zundert (NL) and Spencer (USA).
A “Trappist” has to satisfy a number of strict criteria proper to this logo before it may bear this name:
- The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, either by the monks themselves or under their supervision.
- The brewery must be of secondary importance within the monastery and it should witness to the business practices proper to a monastic way of life
- The brewery is not intended to be a profit-making venture. The income covers the living expenses of the monks and the maintenance of the buildings and grounds. Whatever remains is donated to charity for social work and to help persons in need.
Trappist breweries strictly comply with all health and safety standards as well as consumer information standards. Their advertising and communication is marked by honesty, soberness and a modesty proper to the religious setting in which the beer is brewed.
That ranking drove hordes of new drinkers to the monastery in hopes of drinking the world’s best beer. But the way they run and distribute the beer hasn’t changed. They aren’t trying to meet demand. The monks aren’t interested in producing more to make more. They produce enough to cover only their living expenses.
“We are no brewers. We are monks. We brew beer to be able to afford to be monks.”
They also don’t brew that often.
The abbey brews about 70 days a year, starting at about 9 a.m. and finishing at about 5 p.m. Five monks work in the brewery, and an additional five help on bottling days.
To give you an idea, some craft breweries brew 2-3 times a week. Minimum. You can only get the beer at the abbey. In the abbey’s cafe or in the drive-thru. The drive thru (limit of one case per car) must be reserved 60 days ahead of time over the phone. That phone gets up to 85,000 calls an hour and only about 200 of those get through.
The best beer in the world isn’t that expensive, at only $2 a bottle. On their website they also ask you to commit to not selling the beer.
Every customer agrees not to re-sell the beer to any third party.
So there you have it folks. The world’s best beer, is run by pious monks. They aren’t interested in making a quick buck, so they won’t sell to Anhueser-Busch, but don’t expect them to be on tap in town any time soon either. Have you tried the Saint Sixtus 12 before?