From 1945 until 1992, St. Bernardus Brewery had a contract to make some of the most coveted Trappist beers in the world. Given the revered St. Sixtus yeast strain, they produced the Westvleteren catalog of beers. Then in 1992, the Trappist beer requirements tightened, making it so all beers named Trappist had to be physically made inside a monastery.
St. Bernardus Brewery was forced to drop its Trappist label and transform the image of a monk on its label into a private citizen. Their beer recipe however remained the same. Westvleteren moved into the monastery and kept its production at a constant low 60,000 cases a year. As the Westvleteren became more and more popular as more people got into craft beer, they were forced to limit sales from 5 all the way down to 1 case per customer. Westvleteren XII became the hardest to find beer in the world.
Meanwhile St. Bernardus has increased its production while maintaining virtually the exact same recipe as Westvleteren XII. Sometimes the hype is worth chasing, but in the case of Westvleteren, we are blessed with a doppelganger beer that’s just as good and far more accessible. Don’t always believe the hype! Sometimes a Trappist is a Trap!
Written by Neal Yurick