Edmontonians flock to liquor store for rare, pricey, Belgium beer
Published Friday, December 14, 2012 5:10PM MST
Last Updated Monday, December 17, 2012 10:56AM MST
Edmontonians are flocking to a north Edmonton liquor store in search of a rare – and pricey – beer.
The Westvleteren ale is brewed exclusively by monks at the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus in Belgium and has been touted as the best beer in the world.
“It’s a very special beer. It’s strong, dark ale, it’s very complex, almost like a wine,” said David Middleton, manager of Sherbrooke Liquor.
Until recently, was only available at the doorstep of the abbey.
“The monks have a principle in their beliefs that they should only produce what they need so it’s been very rare,” Middleton said.
“Previously it had only been available at the monastery. You had to register your license plate and you could only phone from a certain number each time. You had to go to the monastery and pick up a small quantity and you couldn’t go back again with that license plate or using that phone number for three months.”
But because the Belgium monks needed to renovate their monastery, they decided to sell their supply worldwide to raise funds for renovations.
“They needed significant renovations so they made a supply available to the world, of this particular brand because this is the one that has been touted as the best beer in the world by various other independent beer reviewers,” Middleton said.
And when Sherbrooke Liquor heard that the Westvleteren was going up for sale beyond the monastery doors, Middleton said they had to get their hands on it.
“We bought a lot. Approximately five per cent of the world’s supply outside of the monastery came to this store,” Middleton said.
The store has had the ale in stock since the summer. Some other local liquor stores also carry the brand but none have as much as Sherbrooke does.
The beer was only just released in Ontario on Wednesday. There, one store sold out of the product in just four minutes. That recent buzz means more Edmontonians are hearing about Westvleteren.
“We’ve had a lot of calls from Ontario asking if we can ship it to them, but we’re not allowed to,” Middleton said.
Similar cases of the beer selling out are also being reported in the United States.
“My son who lives in Kansas City said they’re virtually unavailable in the United States,” said customer Ron Barauskas.
But the ale doesn’t come cheap.
Westvleteren sells at $80 for a six-pack, which comes out to more than $13 a bottle.
That doesn’t appear to be stopping customers though, Middleton says people were waiting in line for the store to open Friday morning, so they could get their hands on the beer and one man even bought 15 cases – at a cost of $1,200.
With files from Laura Lowe