Although many swear by its rich and complex taste, there’s no doubt that part of the fascination associated with Westvleteren 12 is that it’s so difficult to get a hold of. That shouldn’t take away from its harmonious flavors, of course. It has won numerous awards over the years by experts in the industry. However, that being said, there can be no argument that Westvleteren 12 is one of the most difficult beers to actually taste in the first place.
From the Source
Technically, the only place you can find Westvleteren 12 is from the monks who brew it. Unfortunately, the Trappist monks at Saint Sixtus abbey are in no rush to unload their world famous beer.
Your journey to purchase Westvleteren 12 will begin with a call to the abbey’s “beer line.” There’s no guarantee you’ll get an answer though and it was actually only in recent years that the abbey updated to a switchboard. Before that, their phone line would regularly crash due to all the demand. That should give you some idea of how many people regularly call.
Even if your call is answered, you’re not guaranteed any Westvleteren 12. Instead, you’ll reserve a spot in line on a specific day of the month when the abbey will be open to sell their beer. You’ll only be allowed five cases, however, and can’t buy again more for two months.
If that doesn’t work out, but you’re in town, you can always head across the street to sample a few bottles at the monastery-run café.
The Gray Market
Due to the difficulty of actually buying Westvleteren 12 from the monks who brew it, many end up on the so-called “gray market” where they buy the beer against the abbey’s wishes, but not in a manner that ever ends in prosecution.
Some shops have even begun carrying it, albeit in limited supply. In Belgium, you can find it at de Bier temple, which has locations in both Bruges and Brussels. Place Flagey, a bustling market in Brussels, often has the beer for sale too.
Neither of these locations is a guarantee, but they sell Westvleteren 12 for a reasonable price considering the markup you’ll find elsewhere.
That brings us to your last option for buying Westvleteren 12: going online. There are actually a number of reputable dealers on the Internet that will facilitate a Westvleteren 12 purchase. However, finding someone you can trust to sell the real thing (many beer enthusiasts will trade you too) is only half the battle though.
You’ll also be dealt a significant markup, often times as much as 20x the price you’d find at the abbey. For example, at the Saint Sixtus abbey, a single bottle is about $2.20 USD. It would be hard to find such a bottle for any less than $30 online though and you shouldn’t be too surprised by dealers who expect closer to $80.
While many respected sources claim that Westvleteren 12 is the best beer on the market, its scarcity means very few people can support this claim. However, with a little hard work and dedication, you can enjoy a bottle for yourself.