Westvleteren, perhaps one of the most elusive beers to try and enjoy, is tucked far away from the major Belgium cities and not near any public transportation. The beer is not distributed commercially so having one is the ultimate notch on a beer geeks belt. Being already on a Belgium trip I decided to go the extra mile and skip trying the beer in a shop in Brussels by actually visiting the Abbey!
Getting to Westvleteren
Getting to the most coveted beer destination on the planet is not an easy one. Far from any form of public transportation, visiting the Abbey requires some planning beforehand.
To get to Westvleteren, we rented a car from Brussels. It was actually cheaper to rent the car for the weekend then just for the day so keep this in mind when looking for a rental.
The drive from Brussels to Vlteteren, Belgium where the brewery is located was quick and easy taking about an hour and one half. You can easily pair the trip with a half day visit to Brugge if one feels. The first time I visited Westvleteren for a early lunch and Brugge in the late afternoon/evening. The drive itself was pretty as it’s primarily through Belgium country side. I actually enjoyed the drive almost as much as I enjoyed the brewery. It’s great to explore the country side from time to time!
Another way to get there is via bicycle. Take a train from Brussels to Poperinge (time table), and then rent a bike there. I know there are a couple hotels in Poperinge that have cheap daily bike rentals and maps.
The Cafe at Westvleteren
Cafe in de Vrede is open on Saturday’s and Sundays but closed on Fridays and most Thursdays (except in July and August). The best thing is always to check the site (Link) as they close for religious holidays and other odd days.
The cafe keeps getting better and more renovated each time I have visited. There is plenty of outdoor and indoor seating but it does fill up, surprising for such a hard place to reach.
The prices are reasonable and the food was local and really, really good so it would make for a perfect spot for a late lunch. A lot of their food was made with the beer and I thought the grilled ham and cheese sandwich was divine. Oh, yea, and they have good beer too!
The gift shop now sells 6 packs of the 12 for visitors (Something which was only available to people calling for an impossible to get reservation). While pricey (~20 euros a 6 pack), it’s still much cheaper then the beer shops back in Brussels. You are allowed only one per person so bring a friend! It was nice to be able to bring some back to the states with me.
If you do plan on bringing beers back with you, I’d highly recommend packing some electrical tape with you in order to tape the bottle caps on. I unfortunately lost two of my beers due to pressure differences that something as simple as a little electrical tape would have prevented.
The Beer at Westvleteren
The beer at Westvleteren is everything it’s hyped up to be. They serve three beers at the Abbey and all of them are available at In de Vrede:
- Westvleteren Blonde (green cap), 5.8% ABV, introduced on 10 June 1999.
- Westvleteren 8 (blue cap) (formerly Extra), 8% ABV.
- Westvleteren 12 (yellow cap) (formerly Abt), a 10.2% ABV, introduced in 1940.
While the 12 is the reason for their popularity, one should try ALL of the beers while there. They are all really, really good and have unique flavors. I personally thought the 8 was almost worthy of the 12 and one you should definitely try.
My trip to Westvleteren was one to remember. The food was great, the beer was great and they now allow you to bring some home. Hopefully you too will be able to enjoy one of the best beers in the world on your next trip to Belgium!