Beer Background
Greene King (Our Heritage, Our Passion. Your IPA)
Vuelio Top 10 Blog 2019 Award
News

Ssh! Trappist monks sell their beer online

Added: Friday, June 14th 2019

Westvleteren

The monks of the Saint-Sixtus Abbey in Westvleteren will organise the sale of their Trappist beers differently. The reservation system by telephone will be abolished and will be replaced by a web store on www.trappistwestvleteren.be. The new system has a number of important advantages for Westvleteren enthusiasts. For example, while stocks last, the consumer will be able to choose freely between the three types of Trappist Westvleteren, with a maximum of two crates per purchase. The monks have a "smart" waiting room built into the web store. As a result, private individuals who have ordered beer a long time ago or have never placed an order are given priority over consumers who ordered Trappist Westvleteren less recently.

Until 2005 it was possible to buy Trappist Westvleteren on set days and hours in the sales centre of the Saint-Sixtus Abbey. Due to the hype that suddenly arose, the demand became much greater than the supply. The monks then switched to reservations via the so-called "beer telephone" in order to introduce a distribution system for the collection of the beer.

This system has worked well, but over time it became increasingly clear that it was time for a better alternative. The beer telephone put a lot of stress on the people in the Abbey, and was a source of discontent for many customers because of the long waiting queues on the phone. For these reasons, the monks developed a more customer-friendly alternative.

“The new sales system meets the needs of many Trappist Westvleteren enthusiasts. We have thought long and hard about a good and customer-friendly alternative. Beer sales at the Abbey will remain exclusively aimed at private customers. The web store is therefore only accessible to consumers, not to professional buyers," stated Brother Manu Van Hecke, abbot of the Saint-Sixtus Abbey. “We want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to purchase Trappist Westvleteren at the correct price. Anyone who does not adhere to the sales rules and abuses the system will be denied access to the online store."

Thanks to the digital waiting room, consumers who placed an order a long time ago will be given priority over those who have recently ordered a Trappist Westvleteren crate.

The online sale also offers benefits for the Abbey. Thanks to the new system, inventory management is now fully integrated and automated. In addition, the traceability of the products based on the lot numbers of the various brews will also be simplified.

In addition to the three beers from Trappist Westvleteren (Blond, 8 and 12), consumers will also be able to buy Trappist Westvleteren glasses and products from other Trappist monasteries online.

Orders can only be collected at the sales centre of the Abbey.

The web application was developed by the digital company DUO. Ingenico ePayments is responsible for the secure payment platform.

For more information regarding the brewery and the beers of the Saint-Sixtus Abbey: www.trappistwestvleteren.be

The History of the Brewery

In 1814 Jan-Baptist Victoor settled as a hermit in the woods of Westvleteren, where monastic communities had already living long before. The history of the Saint-Sixtus Abbey started when some monks of the French abbey Mont-des-Cats joined the hermit in 1831.

Aside their monastic activities the monks also cultivated the fields around the abbey, produced cheese… in order to be self-supportive. Already in the early days beer was brewed in small quantities, not for sale but just for their own consumption. The Saint-Sixtus Abbey’s archive reveals that the first expenses for a brewery were made in June 1838.

In May 1839, the Abbey received a brewer’s licence signed by king Leopold I on April 19, 1839. Most likely a first test brew was produced the same month. In June 1839 the first official brew was produced. The 25,45 Belgian francs paid for the rights of the two brews bear witness to this.

The first brew house was installed in the first monastery, where most likely the forge was located later. In 1849 the monks not only built a new church but also a second monastery.

Around 1860 a vast complex of buildings for amongst others sheds, a guesthouse, barns and a second brewery, was built. It remained however a small domestic brewery for personal use.

Only from 1878 on production increased due to a good turnover of the tavern ‘In de Vrede’. Between 1886 and 1896 a third brew house, fully operational as from 1896, was built.

​On 20 March 1922 the monks started the expansion of the brewery. On 27 October 1927 for the first time steam was used to brew in the modernised, fourth brew house. This brew house was operational till 5 January 1990.

In the early 70’s a couple of adjustments were made to the mill and the brew house. The abbey community bought a malt mill and malt transport was mechanized. The open refrigerated coolship was replaced by a closed wort cooler in 1976.

In 1976 a fermentation room with six open yeast vessels and a laboratory were installed. Fermentation in open yeast vessels, a method that is used very rarely, is essential for the ester profile of the Trappist Westvleteren. A laboratory was built next the fermentation room to follow the brewing process more precisely.

In 1979, a bottling line was put into operation with a capacity of around 12,000 bottles per hour.

Almost a century and a half after the first brew house was put into use, preparations were made for the construction of a fifth brew house. The present brew house was officially put into operation in 1990.

In 1999, on the occasion of the opening of the In De Vrede meeting centre, the dark Westvleteren 6 was replaced by the Westvleteren Blond, a fresher version of the former 6.

A continuous pursuit of quality improvement with respect for tradition and the environment.
The new bottling plant was put into operation in 2013. Since 2014, two brews are made per brewing day. This meant a considerable saving in terms of energy consumption and man-hours.

The lager cellar and the fermentation chamber were modernised and automated, but because the capacity did not change, production also remained unchanged. The production amounts to approximately 6,000 hectolitres annually, spread over 42 brewing days.

In 2016 a new secondary fermentation unit with storage space was built.

The monks also invested in a new, large water treatment plant. Recently, the Abbey also partly supplies its own energy thanks to a large photovoltaic installation on the roof of the water treatment plant.

 

About Trappist Westvleteren

The monks of the Saint-Sixtus only use natural ingredients to brew three Trappist beers: Blond, 8 and 12. These beers each have their own colour, taste and aroma. All beers are unfiltered and not pasteurised, with secondary fermentation in the bottle. All this contributes to the taste and aroma.

Trappist Westvleteren exists in three different types:

  • Trappist Westvleteren Blond                                         5.8 vol.% alc.
  • Trappist Westvleteren 8 (dark)                                    8.0 vol.% alc.
  • Trappist Westvleteren 12 (dark)                               10.2 vol.% alc.

 

Pricelist

The beer prices for 24 bottles (without the deposit for the empty goods) are:

  • Trappist Westvleteren Blond                       € 35
  • Trappist Westvleteren 8                              € 40
  • Trappist Westvleteren 12                            € 45

Trappist Westvleteren is always sold via the website per crate of 24 bottles.