World’s Best Beer? The Secret of Westvleteren

Old iron roadsigns in Flanders, with the world famous Sint Sixtus Abbey in the background.

Looking to score some of the “best beer in the world?” Brewed by Belgian Trappist monks at the Abbey of Saint Sixtus, the Westvleteren Brewery is known around the globe for their Westvleteren 12, which is consistently classified as perhaps the best beer in the world.

Why is it rated so highly? Many factors are at work, especially the monks’ esteemed reputation as brewers, which leads to the unmatchable taste and quality of their beer.

According to Ratebeer and Beeradvocate, the Trappist Westvleteren 12 has complex dark flavors of caramel malt, figs and dark fruit — all of which contribute to making it one of the best beers on the planet. If you listen to the more fervent voices, they have some of the best beer in the universe!

But perhaps the main reason Westvleteren is so famous is because their beer is scarce. Really scarce. This beer is not sold in stores and is only sold in small quantities (60,000 cases per year) every week right at the gate of the monastery. It comes from their hands to your trunk!

Buying Westvleteren: a quick how-to guide

Ordering

Prior to 2019, the abbey was famous for its “beer phone,” in which visitors had to call during a certain window of time in order to reach an order-taking monk. The beer phone was legendary for the hundreds of busy signals that would-be buyers faced before they ever got through to place an order. For a full and entertaining account of what that was like, listen to the Westvleteren episode of “Belgian Beer Quest,” a podcast about Belgian beer.


Nowadays, beer buyers must register with the Westvleteren website and hope to make it through a “virtual waiting room” to buy online. It doesn’t have quite the same allure as the old calling system, but it does make life easier on the monks.

The Pick-Up

If you are lucky enough to place an order online, you will receive two cases of the highly coveted beer. No changes are available, and you must sign up for a designated pick-up time. Don’t be late for your order and do not show up with a car that has a different license plate than the one that is tied to your online account, or you will not receive your beer.

You will be asked to pay with your credit card and your receipt will say that you are not allowed to resell your beer (Niet verder verkopen). Also you are not allowed to order beer with that license plate and phone number for the next 60 days. So you better make it last until then!


If all this fails, however, and you find yourself in Belgium one weekend (under ordinary, non-COVID, travel conditions, of course), you can still try the Westvleteren liquid gold. You can order a glass across the street from the brewery at a beautiful café called In de Vrede. If you are lucky, at times you can purchase a 6-pack (per person) from the small gift shop.

To make a really beautiful day in the Belgian countryside when you pick up your beer, you can also take a historic walk in a gorgeous area.

How to Get There

Trappist Westvleteren address is: Donkerstraat 13, 8640 Westvleteren, Belgium

The drive to Westvleteren is approximately 5 hours and 20 minutes west of Wiesbaden, 5 hours and 20 minutes northwest of Kaiserslautern and just over 7 hours northwest of Stuttgart.

Additional Resources

Be sure to listen to Belgian Beer Quest, which covers Belgian beer and has two engaging podcasts about Westvleteren.

Check out The Independent’s article “Monks who make world’s best beer pray for quiet life” to find out how the monks “Make the beer to live but do not live for the beer.”