Westvleteren XII, the Belgian beer prepared by the expert hands of 26 monks living in a monastery, is recognized as one of the most exclusive in the world, with prizes in various competitions both in Europe and in the United States.
Entirely handmade by the community of Trappist monks in the grounds of the Abbey of St. Sixtus of Westvleteren, in the region of Vleteren, West Flanders, this drink has become an object of desire and worship for beer lovers, since leading experts have labeled it as one of the best in the world.
The Westvleteren brewery was founded in 1838, when the abbey was only seven years old. The brewing continued through two world wars, which also caused extensive damage to the region of Flanders.
The abbey was fortunate to be the only Trappist brewery in Belgium which managed to keep its copper dishes, which the Nazis used to steal to make weapons.
Currently, Westvleteren produces three types of beer, Westvleteren Blonde, Westvleteren VIII and Westvleteren XII, the most famous and prestigious of all. Westvleteren XII is so coveted, that in order to buy some it is necessary to book in advance and can cost up to $ 75 per unit. Those who have been fortunate enough to try it say it is worth it because it is absolutely wonderful.
The Westvleteren XII is a dark brown color. It has a delicate and persistent foam and aromas of caramelized malt, plum and vanilla. On the palate it is complex, sweet, but also slightly bitter.
Today the factory has three hired workers, but most brewing tasks are performed by the twenty six monks.
The Trappist monks belong to the Cistercian Order and are governed by the maxim: “ora et labora” (pray and work). There are Trappist monasteries in the UK, Africa, India and Japan. The ‘Trappist’ name comes from the name of La Trappe Abbey in Normandy, France, which is the place of the first monks that founded new monasteries throughout Europe.
Almost all Trappist monasteries produce items such as cheese, bread, sweets, clothes and, of course, spirits and beer, as means to support their communities. The Belgian Trappist beers that are still produced in some monasteries are internationally recognized for their rarity and high quality.
You can buy the Westvleteren XII online at the website of the abbey, but you they have to be patient, because with an annual output of only 60,000 bottles, it doesn’t come easy to buy this beer, whose formula remains unchanged since the 1940s.■