These Trappist monks are joining the digital age to combat scheming resellers.

By Mike Pomranz
June 17, 2019
Hulton Deutsch/Getty Images

These days, it seems like the only way to sell beer is to make each brew a once in a lifetime experience drinkers will want to line up down the block for. Beer lovers have become so enamored with the idea of hunting “whales” that we’ve basically seen a “whale-ization” of the industry. But back before every beer became hard to score, the Belgian Trappist ale Westvleteren 12 was one of the earliest “best beer in the world” contenders that garnered additional fervor thanks to its limited production and release. Yet, ironically, at a time where plenty of breweries seem to building such scarcity into their marketing plans, Westvleteren is taking the opposite approach: You can now buy their beer online.

Westvleteren — like all Trappist breweries — is run by monks who sell beer only to support their abbey, in this case, Saint-Sixtus. The monks keep bottles of Westvleteren 12 pretty affordable — just €2.50 (about $2.81) each — have a two case maximum per buyer, and ask buyers not to resell. But thanks to the brew’s reputation, Westvleteren 12 is often resold at exorbitant prices. In 2005, they added a phone reservation system, but discovered people were still gaming the system, including, as Reuters reports, a Dutch supermarket that was able to stockpile 7,200 bottles and sell them at over $11 each. “It really opened our eyes,” Brother Godfried told the news group. “It was a sort of wake-up call that the problem was so serious, that a company was able to buy such volumes. It really disturbed us.”

So the monks have decided to join the digital age: Westvleteren is rolling out a new online reservation system that they believe will be harder to abuse and will also give priority to buyers who have been waiting longer. As an added bonus, for the first time, the brewery will be allowing customers to mix all three of their beers: Westvleteren Blonde, Westvleteren 8, and Westvleteren 12.

The monks hope that the new online system will make it easier for foreigners to buy their beers too — though one thing that hasn’t changed: You still have to go pick up the beers at the abbey in person. But if you happen to be heading to Vleteren, Belgium, you can find the new online beer shop at trappistwestvleteren.be.

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