For many years, Westvleteren XII beer, produced at the Abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren (Belgium) has been chosen as the world’s best by thousands of experts. This year it was voted the “Best Beer in the World.”1
As a result of the beer’s popularity, demand for this beer has skyrocketed while supply has been steady. Many customers are asking the abbey to increase production.
However, the abbey is unwilling to do it. “For us, life in the abbey comes first, not the brewery,” explained Monk Mark Bode to the newspaper De Morgen. Increased production would disturb the lives of the 30 Trappist monks who lead a life of seclusion, prayer and manual labor.
It is amazing that such a small group of monks can compete with and excel in quality against the world’s biggest breweries. In addition, many micro-breweries try to imitate the abbey’s procedures. But all in vain.
In fact, demand for Westvleteren is so high that stores can’t keep up with demand. The Trappist monks are forced to limit the quantity sold per customer.
The monks follow none of the rules for good marketing. They are not used to giving interviews and the media feel slighted when refused. Nor do the friars advertise their beer. Furthermore, their monastic beer has been sold without a label since 1945.
The abbey recently made an exception to their policy by granting an interview so as to put a stop to rumors about their plans. Monk Mark Bode confirmed to the media that the abbey has no intention of increasing production in spite of rising demand.
“We make beer for a living, but we do not live to make beer,” he clarified. All extra proceeds go to charity. The monks want to produce only enough for the community to go on with their lives of silence, prayer and contemplation.
The monks of Saint Sixtus shrug off the fame justly earned by their beers. Non-monastic visitors to the abbey are generally dissuaded from entering the abbey proper but can obtain information about the abbey and its beers at a visitor’s center.
These are living remnants from the Middle Ages, an epoch when, according to the teaching of Leo XIII, the philosophy of the Gospel permeated institutions, and in which civilization produced fruits—and beers—above all expectations.