The Rare Trappist Beer That's Made In A 19th Century Monastery

In Belgium, brewing culture runs far back, with monks crafting beers since the sixth century. Beer provided a method of drinking without worrying about contaminated water, monks devoted their time to crafting brews free of any unwanted bacteria. Their tradition continued through the centuries, with current regulations defining a Trappist brewery as an active monastery, with monks overseeing production and utilizing beer profits for monastic purposes.

Today, six Trappist breweries remain active in Belgium, renowned for their complex and delicious flavors. One of them is Brouwerij De Sint-Sixtusabdij in small Vleteren, Belgium. The 19th-century brewery crafts what's often regarded as the rarest beer in the world, the Westvleteren XII. A Belgian quadruple style, it's a brew known for its flavors as much as its scarcity, regularly topping lists as one of the tastiest globally, too. Expect a gentle sweetness with chocolate and raisin-like notes underpinned by boozy, nutty complexity. For beer fanatics, it's a world-class brew worthy of all the attention.

Westvleteren XII is crafted in small batches in Belgium

The Westvleteren XII hasn't always been associated with rarity, once it was just another delicious beer crafted in the Belgian countryside. The Brouwerij De Sint-Sixtusabdij opened in 1839 and only started pouring beers for sale in 1931. It's the smallest of the Trappists by output volume, with monks crafting beers 70 days a year. Located in a rural part of Belgium, it remained a local favorite until internet beer culture rapidly popularized it in the early 2000s.

Over the years, the brewery grappled with the newfound buzz in varying ways, from over-trafficked phone lines to selling cases at the local cafe. Nowadays, they've brought the distribution model online, with a limited purchase schedule and specific pick-up dates, accompanied by a two-crate per customer limit. They don't sell directly to commercial establishments, so you'll need to trek to Vleteren to sample the beer. On chance, there might be a bottle that's made its way to a small beer shop, perhaps in a Belgian city. While not an easily found popular beer, always keep your eyes peeled for a chance to sample the intriguing brew.