Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Quest for the Holy Beer

Trappist monks are known to have a knack for brewing beer, and when it comes to the monks at the Abbey of St. Sixtus of Westvleteren, they take the crown. The beer is exclusive to the monastery, and can only be bought there. We decided to take the journey to try this world renowned beer, which was no small feat. 

To begin our journey, we had to get there. You have to take a train to Poperinge, Blegium, a tiny city, with two platforms at the train station. You may have to make a connection or two to get there, but with your Go Pass, it will only be 5 euros. Once you get to Poperinge, you can get to the monastery in a few different ways. You can take a cab, or if it is a nice day you can rent a bike. If you go on a Sunday, many bike rental shops are closed, so you may need to have the number for a cab ready. 

Once you reach Westvleteren, you cannot visit the actual abbey or brewery, but you can visit the claustrum to see how the beer is made. Make sure to check in advance to see if they are open when you want to go, since they have season hours. 

Then, the best part, trying the beer. Beside the abbey, there is a visitor center and restaurant and brew house, called "In de Vrede" or "In the shadow of St. Sixtus Abbey". This is the only cafe in the world that serves Westvleteren beer. Fancy huh? There are three beers made by the monks, the Westvleteren Blond 6, Westvleteren 8, and the Westvleteren 12. The 12 is the real show stopper, it is a delicious beer that has won the title of "Best beer in the World" multiple times. They are very strong beers, starting at 5.8%, then 8%, ending with 10.2% alcohol. Even if you are not a beer drinker, I suggest trying a little of each. If you are with a group, order one of each and share if you are not wanting to get too tipsy. Or if you are up for anything, do what we did, and try one of each, plus an extra 12 just for good measure. When you get peckish, try the abbey cheese or pate, both are made at the abbey too, and are delicious! 

While you are there, visit the gift shop, where you can buy 6 packs of the beer to take home or share with friends, or glasses and other souvenirs. 

It is a journey, and does add up, but if you are a beer drinker, it is definitely worth it! It is a once in a lifetime adventure, just make sure you have some good friends with you to enjoy the good drinks, and you can never go wrong!

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