Monks speak out

If Westvleteren beers had labels they would read: 'Do not import to the United States'

Oct 3, 2005 - The monks at the abbey of St. Sixtus of Westvleteren have turned to one of America's largest newspaper to make it clear they don't want their coveted beer sold in the United States.


Brother Joris, the monk who oversees brewing at Westvleteren as well as running the library, agreed to be interviewed by USA Today for a story about he monastery brewery so he could to warn Americans against buying illegally imported Westvleteren.

"My message is, people should know that the beer arrives there in a very un-Trappist-like way," he said. "It's the result of a lot of maneuvering in the dark before it actually shows up there.

"I would advise your readers not to ask for or buy Westvleteren," he said. "You do not support the Trappist cause by buying Westvleteren in the United States."

Westvleteren beers received much attention during the summer after Westvleteren 12 was ranked the best beer in the world at and members of media learned how difficult the beer is to get. It is sold only at the brewery's cafe, In de Vrede, across the road from the abbey and at the abbey gate.

On select days the beer is for sale at the gate, cars start lining up at the abbey at 5:15 a.m. The gates open at 10 a.m., and buyers are limited to two cases per car. "Not to be resold" is stamped on the receipts, but customers regularly disregard the monks' wish, and the beer is exported to America and elsewhere.

The bottles do not have labels when they leave the brewery - all the legal information about alcohol content and "a best by" date" are on the crown - and importers in other countries add those before selling the beer. "If we had a label, it would say, 'Do not import to the United States,'" Brother Joris said last winter while giving a tour to the author of Brew Like a Monk.

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