It happened by accident.
I was shopping for beer, as I often did while living in Brussels. But instead of handing over a few euros and being on my way, I noticed a strange look in the shop owner’s eyes. He carefully scanned the empty bottle shop before leaning in close.
“I have some beer in the back,” he whispered.
I raised my eyebrows.
“Westvleteren 12,” he said.
I couldn’t believe it. I just stumbled upon the rarest, most coveted beer in the world. With a mere nod, I pulled out another 11 euros and walked away cradling my unlabeled, yellow-capped baby.
Westvleteren 12 is a Trappist ale, brewed by monks at the Saint Sixtus Abbey in western Belgium. Specifically, five monks. Production is extraordinarily low—lower than any other Trappist brewery by far—because the monks only brew as much as they need to maintain their quiet lifestyle. It’s been more or less that way since 1931, which was still nearly a century after the brewery began.
Profit? Notoriety? Being named the world’s best beer time and time again? Those matters are of no concern to the Saint Sixtus Abbey.