People Are Selling Trappist Beer for Five Times the Price — These Monks Aren't Having It

Multiple schemes involving the resale of Trappist beer at sky-high prices have forced a centuries-old Belgian monastery to take action.

Crates of Westvleteren beer at the Saint-Sixtus abbey

Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP via Getty Images

Some of the world’s highest-quality beers are a product of monasteries in Europe. Brewed by Trappist monks (cloistered monks belonging to a Catholic religious order), Trappist beer is produced by traditional methods using natural ingredients and classified by strict guidelines. These small-batch beers are made using an infusion brew method, thus the rarity and demand of these beers has spawned a resale industry with inflated prices, particularly in Belgium and the Netherlands.

In a practice dating back to the Middle Ages, monks brewed beer to feed their local communities. Now, Trappist monks sell their beers to fund charitable and religious causes. Only 10 breweries currently meet the International Trappist Association’s strict criteria, which involves the following:

  • Brewing must occur within the walls of a Trappist monastery
  • Brewing must be done by, or under the supervision of, Trappist monks
  • Brewing should adhere to the monastic way of life, using only natural ingredients
  • Brewing is not for profit

The Westvleteren Abbey, also known as the “Trappist Abbey,” in the Belgian Province of West Flanders decided to take a stand when they discovered their beers, available on site for €2 per bottle, were being sold by unauthorized retailers for more than €10 per bottle. “These usurious practises are diametrically opposed to the values of the community,” the Abbey stated to local reporters. “The brothers want as many people as possible to enjoy their Trappist beers at a normal, fair price.”

The Trappist Westvleteren are known for unfiltered and unpasteurized beers, all of which undergo a secondary fermentation in the bottle, and are some of the rarest Trappist Beers to come by. To prevent the resale issue, the brothers of the Abbey will sell the three beers — Blond, 8, and 12 — to independent Dutch liquor stores for a year-long trial period. The Abbey’s beers will also be distributed across the Netherlands by an importer.

This trial marks a big change at an interesting time for Trappist Beer, as its future becomes increasingly uncertain with far fewer people opting to become monks. On a similar note, earlier this year, the monks who make the liqueur Chartreuse announced that, despite demand, they would not be increasing production.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles