Monks in a centuries-old Belgian monastery known for producing one of the most sought-after beers in the world, announced this week that they will set up a website sales system in an attempt to thwart unauthorized resellers from making money off their labor.
The Trappist monks at the St. Sixtus Abbey in Westvleteren, Flanders, brew just enough beer at the abbey – around 5,000 barrels annually – to pay for expenses. In recent years, they say they have seen stockpiles of the beer being sold elsewhere at a significant profit.
The new webstore, the monks hope, will thwart the unauthorized resale of Trappist Westvleteren, considered some of the best beer in the world.
“The web store is ... only accessible to consumers, not to professional buyers," Brother Manu van Hecke, the monastery’s abbot, told the Guardian.
"We want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to purchase Trappist Westvleteren at the correct price. Anyone who does not adhere to the sales rules and abuses the system will be denied access to the online store.”
Since 2005, fans of the beer have had to order it by phone then go to the abbey, home to 19 monks, to pick up the maximum two crates per person.
Trappist Westvleteren sells for around 45 Euros a crate – or about $2 a bottle.
The beer, which the monks at the abbey have been brewing since 1839, has been limited to private customers. However, in recent years the monks have seen the beer used in promotions and sold for exorbitant prices.
The website grew out of the monks’ frustration over a supermarket marketing stunt that offered 7,200 bottles of the abbey's beer for around 9 Euros a bottle.
"It really opened our eyes. It was a sort of wake-up call that the problem was so serious, that a company was able to buy such volumes. It really disturbed us," one of the monks, Brother Godfried, told Reuters.
The new system, which went live on Tuesday, allows buyers to register to buy the beer. Potential buyers can still purchase only two crates every 60 days and they must pick up the beer at the abbey.
Buyers must register, providing name, address and car license plate numbers. The monks say they will check the license plates when customers come to pick up the beer.