Today is the last day in our lifetimes that there will ever be a triple date day. That means that the next time there is a date where all three numbers are the same will not be until January 1st 2101 – 01/01/01. Today is also the likely the last day you will be able to purchase the Holy Grail of beers, Westvleteren 12, legally in the US. If the crowds at Total Wine this morning are any indication, that is.
It was wet, rainy, and slightly chilly at 6:00 a.m. when I arrived at the Total Wine in Jacksonville, Fla. But, I was not the first intrepid beer aficionado to arrive. In the pre-dawn hours of what I like to call Westie Day, there were already about 12 in line before me.
Why would anyone stand out in the cold rain in December to buy beer? Because Westvleteren 12 is no ordinary beer; it is, as I mentioned above, the Holy Grail of beer. Add to that fact that it is also one of the rarest beers in the world as well as considered one of the best beers in the world, and you have a recipe for what is one of the biggest events in recent beer history.
The event is so big that it even made it on NPR this morning. According to the story on NPR and And, Mark Bode, the brewery’s Westvleteren, this unprecedented event is not likely to repeat.
“I think it will be the last,” said Bode. And since visitors are not allowed in the Abbey, he is the authority on the monks’ views.
“They say, ‘We are monks, we don’t want to be too commercial. We needed some money to help us buy the new abbey and that’s it,’ ” Bode expounds.
The brew, which is selling for $84.99 a six-pack including two special chalices, was made for export this one time due to a dire need to repair the roof of the Abbey in Belgium. Since monks take a vow of poverty, they do not have cash reserves for the needed repairs and released the brew to finance the repairs.
The regular method of obtaining the brew is, well, arduous at best. Even the most ardent of beer-lovers could get discouraged by the process that requires apostles of the brew to call a special telephone number that may, or may not be answered. If, after multitudes of calls (some report that it can take months to get through to the Abbey) you are lucky enough to get someone on the line, you are told when you can come and line up for beer. But, that does not mean you will get the brew, only that you have the right to stand in line on that specific day. You may find, when you get to the front of the line, that they have sold that day’s allotment of Westies.
The brew is so rare because the monks only produce enough to support the Abbey. That equates to less than 4,000 barrels a year. The monks are adamant that they are not producing beer to make a profit, only to support their day-to-day needs. They also ask all who purchase the beer at the Abbey to sign an affidavit that states the beer will not be resold at a bar or beer shop. This rule is often technically followed by beer sellers in Belgium who will include a “free” bottle of the brew with a beer purchase or shipment of a certain dollar amount.
For the folks standing in the cold rain this morning, the fact that the beer is even available was reason enough to face the elements. Brenden Bledsoe said of the opportunity, “I’m stoked to be one of the few to be able to enjoy one of the world’s finest beers with friends and family during the holidays.”
- Westvleteren 12 to be sold at Jacksonville Total Wine beginning Dec. 12 (sprbrewcrew.wordpress.com)
- A Sign From Above? Needing New Roof, Monks Sell Rare Beer In U.S. (wnyc.org)
- The Beer Nut: Waiting for the elusive Westvleteren 12 (milforddailynews.com)