We came, we saw, we drank beer…

Veni, vidi, vici.  We came, we saw, we conquered.

This is the apt aphorism for last Spring’s impromptu beer run to Sint-Sixtus monastery in Westvleteren—home of the world’s rarest (and tastiest) beer, the Trappist ale Westvleteren 12.

It was amusing, it was epic, it was hilarious and burp-inducing. This is what usually happens when a small band of beer lovin’ grad students (hi, Kookie and Janet!) and a willing Japanese postdoc, all from Germany, who decided to rent a car and cross two country borders (Luxembourg and Belgium), pick up another grad student from Leuven (me!) and drive all the way to a faraway pocket of polderland in West Flanders.

West Flanders' polderlandCOW!

We saw cows along the way.

Since it’s a Trappist abbey, no visitors were allowed inside the premises, except at the beer house (located outside the abbey walls) and the visitors’ center/café “In de Vrede” (Dutch, “in peace”, referring to being “in the shadows of a monastery”).

Instead of narrating everything, I’ll just post photos, with some captions.

Location of all Trappist monasteries producing beer, in Belgium

The abbey in the map!

Inside "In de Vrede" cafe / visitors' center
Simple monks’ fare in the cafe


The abbey gate
The abbey gate
The abbey facade
Beer drive-thru!
Beer drive-thru!

Janet lining up
Lining up to claim the case of beer


The Westvleteren 12 was the beer produced that day. We were lucky!
The beautiful beers! Left, Westvleteren 8 (a sprightlier sister to Westie 12), and the Westvleteren blond (nicely bitter)

But one thing worth noting (aside from their beers, which you can get at the café in degustation boxes) is the café’s signature item—coupe “In de Vrede”, which is a scoop of Westvleteren 12 ice cream (yes, beer ice cream!) with chopped nuts, a tiny merangue and whipped cream, served in a beer goblet with the insignia of the abbey.  Now, before you get weirded out by the idea of beer ice cream, let me assure you—it actually works!  As I’ve reviewed this beer before, the Westvleteren 12 is a heavy-bodied beer, rich with the flavor of roasted nuts and toasted caramel, possibly a hint of vanilla.  The sweet and nutty notes meld well with milk and cream, thus making the idea “beer-flavored ice cream” a real thing.

I scream for beer ice cream!

The only tedious thing about the beer run is that it’s a 2 hour drive. Long, in Belgian standards. But for a degustation box of the rarest beers in the world, and a goblet of that ice cream…the trip’s worth it!



Santé! The PhDJ Girls conquered Westvleteren!

(Photos courtesy of Janet and myself.)