Belgian Beer, Trappist Beer, Rauchbier from Bamberg, Craft Beer from the USA and Canada, and Real Ale from the UK, and other types of Speciality Beer are promoted on this, the White Beer Travels website. But what's in a name, the site's name that is? All is revealed on the Home Page! Schneider Weisse, a well-travelled, classic Wheat/White Beer, brewed in Bavaria by Schneider.  Click on the image to go to their website " In de Vrede" is the St.-Sixtus Monastery's brewery tap, in Westvleteren, Belgium .Click here to go to the "in de Vrede" website
Belgian Beer (including Trappist Beer), German Beer (including Rauchbier), British Real Ale, North American Craft Beer and Speciality Beer and Specialty Beer from around the world, are all covered in this White Beer Travels website This White Beer Travels website has been in operation since March, 2002.  It promotes Speciality/Craft Beer from around the world: Belgian Beer, German Beer, Craft Beer from the USA and Canada, Real Ale from the UK, etc
 
Click here  to reach the "White Beer Travels" Home PageClick here for Speciality Beer and Brewery News.  Also check out the "Archives" for "old" news!Click to find details of Beer Hunts that you can joinClick here to get information on Past Beer Hunts organised by White Beer TravelsClick here for information on what to expect on a typical Beer Hunt organised by White Beer TravelsClick here to see the current White Beer Travels "Pub of the Month". See the "Archives" page for links to the other ones Click here for John White's Beer CV (Curriculum Vitae, Résumé) Click here for past Pubs of the Month, News, etcClick here for downloadable guides to places, breweries and barsClick here for "Links" to other websites. There are many on the other pages of the site, as well!Click here for full details on how to contact White Beer TravelsClick here for information on how the site was built, including acknowledgement of any help receivedClick here for details of the French to English Translation Service offered by White Beer Travels, & for the contact details of organisations that can provide the reverse
Belgian Beer and other great Speciality/Craft Beers, these including Real Ale from the UK and Craft Beers from the USA and Canada, are promoted on this, the White Beer Travels website.  It is a big site, so to get an outline idea of the contents, click here to go to the site's Contents page
  Würzburg, in Germany, is world-renowned for its "Franken" wines. However, White (Wheat) Beers have certainly travelled to the city.  The three different ones shown here are excellent examples. All are brewed in the city's Würzburger Hofbräu Brewery. Click on the glasses to go to the brewery's website, from which the image was pasted
This is a photo taken outside the St.-Sixtus Trappist Monastery's Brewery Tap, In de Vrede, Donkerstraat 13, Westvleteren, Belgium. Click on the photo to go to In de Vrede's website

 

The St.-Sixtus Trappist Monastery, in Westvleteren, in Belgium, produces some of the world's finest beers. It is generally not possible to buy the Westvleteren bieren in beer shops. They are available in the best Speciality Beer bars, simply because someone from the bar has gone to the trouble of personally picking them up from the Monastery by the crate, see below, or by the bottle, in the shop within In de Vrede, see below. This photograph of a "six-pack" of Westvleteren 12o (formerly called ABT), which was taken by John White, in June, 2001, is by the entrance to In de Vrede. In the background can be seen the entrance to the Monastery itself.

 
St.-Sixtus Trappist Monastery's Brewery Tap,
In de Vrede, Donkerstraat 13, Westvleteren, Belgium. tel 057 40 03 77 (bar), 057 40 10 57 (beer availability/reserving in the Monastery), www.indevrede.be (Bookmark) &
www.sintsixtus.be (Monastery) (Bookmark)
GPS: 50.895938o N, 2.722052o E (Car Park Entrance)

The word Mecca is somewhat over-used in many fields, including that of Specialty Beer, but this place is a true Mecca for Speciality Beer; it simply must be visited, but not at least once, but again and again! Such is the quality of the place and its magnificent beers, that it is a regular stop on White Beer Travels Beer Hunts. People who have visited it many times before, never complain when we end up here, again and again.

In de Vrede, the St.-Sixtus Monastery's brewery tap, is only fifty miles (eighty kilometres) from the French channel port of Calais. It is ten kilometres (six miles) North of Belgium's hop capital, Poperinge; directions for getting here from Poperinge and returning from it to Calais are given below. It is opposite the St.-Sixtus Monastery, Donkerstraat 12, Westvleteren. This Monastery was founded in 1831 by monks from the Mont des Cats (Catsberg or Katsberg in Flemish) Monastery (www.abbaye-montdescats.com), 14 kilometres (9 miles) away, across the border in France (near Godewaersvelde, in the Nord Département). St.-Sixtus commenced brewing in 1839. Saint Sixtus was Sixtus II, one of five Popes named Sixtus. He was martyred in the 3rd Century. There is a great deal of very interesting information, including the brewery and the historical and religious aspects of the Monastery on its excellent website, www.sintsixtus.be, which is in Dutch, French and English. The companion White Beer Travels Web page covering the Orval Trappist Monastery and its Brewery (www.orval.be) also covers the history of the Trappist order in some detail. It can be reached by clicking here.

The Trappist religious Order evolved from the Benedictine Order that was founded, in the 6th Century, by St. Benedict of Nursia (c. 480-c. 547), in present-day Italy. Between 530 and 560, St. Benedict is said to have formulated his famous Regula Monachorum, Regula Benedicti, or Rule, although the one now generally quoted from is a revised version produced by a monk from Aniane, in the South of France, also, somewhat confusingly, a St. Benedict (Benoît) (750-821). He codified The Rule into a small missive divided up into seventy-three chapters, annotated with the dates on which each, or a part of each, should be read out in the Chapter House of a Monastery or Cathedral. The famous chapter six, for example, is read out on the 24th of January, the 25th of May, and the 24th of September. In approximately 200 words, it gives the reasoning for the vows of silence, these no longer, in fact, being totally adhered to. Click here to access the text, in English, of all seventy-three chapters of The Rule, this link being from The Order of Saint Benedict's official website, www.osb.org, from where one can access the text of The Rule in other languages.

Fortunately, from a beer lover's point of view, the most important part of the Rule of St. Benedict is still in force, i.e. in chapter forty-eight it states: "You are only really a monk when you live from the work of your hands". Hence, Trappist Monasteries around the world produce, for example, for sale outside the Monasteries: soap, cheese, children's clothes, farm produce, wine, cosmetics, bread, and beer. This rule, as it applies to its brewing of its world famous Trappist Beers, is expressed most interestingly on the official Monastery's website, in a section entitled "Brewing to live", i.e. in words expressed by the Father Abbot, on the occasion of the consecration of the new brewery, in 1989: "As every man we must be able to live. So we have to try to earn our living and let others share in what we have to abstain from. Indeed, we have to live 'from' and 'with' our brewery. But we do not live 'for' our brewery. This must be strange for business people and difficult to understand that we do not exploit our commercial assets as much as we can. We are no brewers. We are monks. We brew beer to be able to afford being monks." (Click here to see this on the Monastery's website.)

This is a scanned photo taken in the beer shop of the Westvleteren Trappist Monastery, in Belgium. Click on it to go to the monastery's website

As already stated, the Westvleteren range of Trappist beers are amongst the world's greatest beers. They are much rarer than those from the other six brewing Trappist monasteries, although all the Westvleteren beers (Westvleteren Blond, Westvleteren 8o and Westvleteren 12o) can be sampled in the café. Sadly, Broeder (Brother) Mattias, a classic Friar Tuck look-alike, who made purchasing beer a most pleasurable experience, passed away in the summer of 1995, at the age of seventy-five. I always like to tell the story of my first visit to St.-Sixtus, in 1991. After Brother Mattias had helped me fill up my car with precious crates of ABT, as Westvleteren 12o was called then, I went to pay for them. At the till, I noticed cartons of "Trappist Tablets", which are yeast tablets and thus meant to be good for you, being full of vitamin B. I thought they would look good on my bar at home, so asked that a carton be added to my purchases. In perfect English, Broeder Mattias looked towards my wife, Joyce, and said: "Don't give your wife any; it will make her too frisky"! The photo, to the left, shows Joyce with Br. Mattias. It was taken by John White, in November, 1993.

 

Westvleteren Blond (5.8%), was launched on the 10th of June, 1999, the date of the official opening of the new In de Vrede, see below. The Blond replaced the 6(6.2%) dark beer. In the first month of 1999, the "world's first Trappist Blond" went on sale in the Achel Monastery (www.achelsekluis.org). Westvleteren Blond is a top-class example of its type, as you would expect from its pedigree.

 

This is a photo taken near the Westvleteren Trappist Monastery, in Belgium. Click on it, to see a larger, higher resolution version of the sign

The above photo was taken by John White, in June, 2001. It displays beer availability and times of opening of the Monastery's drive-in beer sales facility. Click on the photo, to see a larger, higher resolution version of the sign. Note that, from September, 2006, one has to ring the availability telephone number in advance, 057 40 10 57, where you will be given, assuming beer is available, a number, without which it will not be possible to buy beer. You will also have to quote the number on your car's number plate. The idea behind this, is to avoid the massive queues that have developed since the ratebeer story, see below.

Beer availability in the Monastery is shown by a sign outside, as per the one in the photo to the left. On this day, "only" the elusive, world-classic 12(10.2%) was available by the crate, these being low and made of wood, as per the one in the photo below, and the five crates attached to the cursor! With no labels on the bottles, the "Authentic Trappist Product" logo can be found on the side of the crates. In the Monastery, by the 24-bottle crate, 12o is €27, with crate/bottles deposit of €6.50 (€4.10 crate, €2.40 bottles) on top of this. Net prices for the Blond and the 8o are respectively €19 and €23.80 (August, 2005 prices, ex www.sintsixtus.be). All of the beers are usually on sale in the shop in "In de Vrede", see below, where they are more expensive, for example, the 12o is €1.70 a bottle in the shop, versus €1.13 (25.50/24) in the Monastery. Note that, particularly in August, there is a good chance of there being no beer available for sale in the Monastery. This is because of a very high demand in In de Vrede during this peak holiday month; if you come to the Monastery in Winter for beer, there is a much better chance of getting what you want. The Monastery's drive-in beer sales facility is open from 10am to Noon and 2pm to 5pm on Monday to Thursday and Saturday, i.e. it does not open on Friday or Sunday. The sign tells you that it is also closed closed on National Holidays and from the 1st to the 14th of January, and the week following the third Sunday in September. Note that between October and March, it may also shut on Thursdays, in line with In de Vrede, see below, but this is not always the case, but to be sure, it may be best to ring up before making a journey, see also the text to the left re reservation.

 

This is a scan of a Westvleteren 12 crown top.  Its yellow lettering, as well as the 12, denote that it is the 12; the bottle itself has no label. Click on it to go to the monastery's website

The circled "12" declares this, of course, to be Westvleteren 12o. The yellow (geel in Dutch) lettering also declares this, hence it being listed in some bars as Westvleteren Geel. The Blond's lettering is green (groen) and the 8o's is blue (blauw), hence the Westvleteren Groen and Westvleteren Blauw that you may come across. Note that when I first began purchasing Westvleteren 12o in 1991, instead of the circled 12, they had ABT (Abbot) on them, hence the alternative, or rather, former name for this beer: Westvleteren ABT.

Westvleteren beers sold in Belgium do not have labels, but see below; information on them is declared on their crown tops. To the left is a larger than life scan of a Westvleteren 12o crown top. As can be seen, the brewery declare that it has 10.2% Alcohol By Volume (ABV). Note that from around June, 2002, the crown tops displayed the strength just quoted; previously they quoted 11%, then 10.8%, then 10.6%. The Brewer at the time, Brother Filip, told Jef van den Steen, on his visit to gather material for his June, 2003 book on Belgian Trappist Monasteries and their beers (click here for details), that the declared alcohol content on the crown cork had been reduced to 10.2%, not because the beer is less strong, but because new legislation allows a tolerance of error of 1%. By declaring 10.8% on the crown corks, it was felt that this could result in an over estimation of the alcohol content, so it was thought more honest to declare only 10.2%. An alternative explanation is quoted by Chuck Cook, following his December, 2004 visit, i.e. he states that it is because of a change from using Westvleteren yeast to Westmalle yeast; Chuck states that the latter is less suited to producing high-alcohol beers. Note that the date on the crown top, to the left, of 27.11.06 (27th of November, 2006), is its "best-by" date, although it will be great to drink long after then. I purchased this bottle in December, 2003, soon after its bottling date of the 27th of November, 2003, which is exactly three years before the date on the crown top. Click here to see a photo of various crown tops in my collection, dating from 1991, which show this progression from 11% to 10.2%; it can also be seen, see the text to the left, that it was called Westvleteren ABT, in 1991. Note also the alternative, earlier name for Westvleteren 8o, of Westvleteren EXTRA, and the earlier name for Westvleteren 6o, of Westvleteren SPECIAL, i.e. the one replaced by Westvleteren Blond, in 1999. Note that I have seen a 1988 ABT crown cork; this has Cat. S on it, rather than 11%.

This is a thumb of a scan of a label for Westvleteren 12, put on the bottle by its importer into the USA.  Click on it, to see a bigger, higher resolution version of it

 

The label thumb to the left (click on it to see a higher resolution, bigger version) is from a bottle of Westvleteren 12o imported into the USA, where it is illegal to sell beer without labels, although it is known that a number of importers do flaunt the law in this regard with the Westvleteren beers. Note that, as is the norm in the USA, this "unofficial" label on an unofficial, but innocently done import does not declare the beer's strength, although this will be given on the crown top put on at the brewery, in Westvleteren, as above. The importer's name on it, is D & V International Inc., Palm Spring Gardens, Florida (www.specialtybeer.com), which is run by Darius Debski. Many thanks to Glenn Burnett for permission to feature this label on this Web page. It is pasted from his excellent website featuring his beer adventures in Belgium: www.callzia.com.

Note that the monastery is not happy about its beers being purchased at the monastery and then resold, be it in the USA or anywhere else, although I could name a good number of bars in Belgium which offer their beers for sale, and they are even advertised in on-line beer shops based in Belgium. However, the receipts that one gets with your purchase are very clear on this point; in capital letters they have the wording "NIET VERDER VERKOPEN" (Do not resell).

Westvleteren 12o is the highest rated beer in the famous and well-respected ratebeer website, www.ratebeer.com; click here to see the top of the list. In fact, using the Internet Archive website, www.archive.org, one can ascertain that it was ratebeer's top-rated beer in September, 2001, and has been so more or less ever since. However, in August, 2005, its position in ratebeer was stated in an article by Stephen Castle, in the UK national newspaper, The Independent, to be the reason why there was a sudden increase in demand for the beer. This is clearly not so, given how long it has been ratebeer's top-rated beer; click here to see a summary of The Independent's article, or here for it in full, or here to see a scan of the article. There is always extra demand for the beer during the summer holiday period, this being the main reason, in fact, for the shortage of beer for sale. However, this non-story in The Independent, generated much follow-up reporting by Reuters, etc. This included a feature on BBC (Britiah Broadcasting Corporation) Radio 4's "Sunday", a religious news programme, in which Trevor Barnes interviewed Mark Bode, of In de Vrede's Claustrum, and yours truly, John White. Trevor is a well-know broadcaster and author, who specialises in religious topics; his best known book is a biography of Terry Waite (1939-), the Archbishop of Canterbury's envoy, who was held hostage in Beirut for almost five years, Terry Waite: Man with a Mission. The part of the programme in question (duration 5m 33s), which was broadcast on the 21st of August, 2005, can be listened to by clicking here; the preamble is by Edward Stourton. In the broadcast, as Trevor Barnes joins the " ... pilgrims searching for the Holy Ale ... ", I am introduced as: "John White, an expert on Trappist Brewing, and a man who is to beer what Delia Smith is to food." Delia is a celebrity chef, who appears regularly on television, and has numerous books on cooking to her name.

Your cursor is on a low resolution scan of a photo of John White pouring a Westvleteren 12, a world-class beer, brewed in the St.-Sixtus Monastery, in Westvleteren, West Flanders, Belgium. Click on it, to go to the monastery's website

The above photo was taken by Ray Corke of the Grimsby Telegraph, in August, 2005. It is the copyright of Grimsby & Scunthorpe Newspapers Ltd, and is reproduced with their permission. In the photo, John White is at home, in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, England, pouring a Westvleteren 12o.

This broadcast, in turn, resulted in a feature in my local paper, the Grimsby Telegraph (www.thisisgrimsby.co.uk), on the 26th of August, 2005, based on an interview with Kerry Beadling (1980-), which was illustrated with a photo by Ray Corke, a scan of which can be seen to the left. Click here to see the on-line version of the article, or here to see a scan of it. This broadcast was also the subject of a ratebeer Forum. Chuck Cook, see below, who has excellent contacts within the Monastery, issued a very useful clarification of the beer availability situation at Westvleteren, in response to the article in The Independent and those which followed and/or inspired it; it can be seen by clicking here.

Of course, Westvleteren 12o is one of the world's finest beers. This is not just hype, because of its rarity, but simply because it is that good! Quite often, very strong beers are often over sweet and cloying, but not Westvleteren 12. It is dark and Port-like with unmistakable fruit overtones, such as raisin, but it is still obviously a beer. Although there is some sweetness, it is anything but cloying, the sweetness superbly balanced by a marvellous, lingering hop bitterness. Like the very best of wines, it improves with age, the age being discernible from the information on the crown cork, see above. This is a beer that any open-minded wine lover, who professes not to like beer, will surely find top-class.

I have not yet been successful in getting permission for a visit to the brewery, but I will keep on trying! When they refuse, they always write a very pleasant letter, one of which, for example, in 1997, from the then Brewer, Broeder Filip, explained, in response to my query, why Brother Mattias was no longer greeting people trying to buy their great beers.

The current brewer is Brother Jos (Joseph), who is helped out by Brother Joris, the head brewer; three lay workers work under them. Chuck Cook, a correspondent with Celebrator Beer News (www.celebrator.com) was granted a visit, in December, 2004, his excellent report on it appearing in the April/May, 2005 edition of the magazine; it can be seen by clicking here. With regard to the brewing process, hop extract is used for bittering and hop pellets for aroma; the varieties are not declared by the Monastery, but when they grew their own hops, it won prizes for the Fuggles and Hallertau varieties, so perhaps they use these today, from an external supplier. The infusion mash consists of premixed Malt (largely Pale Malt, some Pilsner Malt), supplied by Dingemans in Stabroek, in Antwerp Province, along with sugar, and, for the dark beers, for colour, a small amount of caramel. Primary and secondary fermentation is carried out using yeast from the Westmalle Trappist Brewery (www.trappistwestmalle.be). The St.-Sixtus Brewery's annual production (2004) was 4,750 hectolitres, which, although small compared to Westmalle (120,000 hectolitres, in 2004), is, nevertheless, over 1.4 million bottles (33cl ones, 0.33 litres), i.e. 4,750x100/0.33=1,439,394 (one hectolitre equals 100 litres). Whilst in the arithmetic mode, it is worth bearing in mind, should one be driving, that one glass of Westvleteren 12 (10.2%) provides the same amount of alcohol as over 1½ pints of a normal strength (3.7%) UK beer, i.e. 10.2/3.7x(0.33/0.568)=1.6 pints. (1 pint=0.568 litres.)

In de Vrede's current building is most pleasant and trendy, it is set back from the road; it replaces a rather utilitarian building that was completely demolished in 1999, which was right on the roadside. There is a separate area inside In de Vrede called the Claustrum (latin for Cloister), which is an exhibition area covering the Monastery, including its brewery. On a weekday visit you may wonder why the place is so large, with a car park to match. However, it gets jam-packed on Sundays, the day when the Belgians love to visit the many bars associated with monasteries in their country. It is also very popular, throughout the week, at the Summer holiday times. Note that In de Vrede is sometimes referred to as the Ontmoetingscentrum or O.C. De Vrede, Ontmoetingscentrum meaning "Meeting Place".

The Claustrum has superb wooden décor, but is right up to date with audio-visual displays driven by computer screens. For once, these are not naff. For example, if one clicks on the brewery area of the aerial photograph of the Monastery an interview with the Abbot and the brewer in the brewery is shown on the display's screen and on another larger screen in the room. These are excerpts from a video, which can be purchased. Although this is in Dutch, one gets a good feel for what is quite clearly a very modern brewery, with impressive stainless steel vessels. Note however, that Westvleteren is now the only Trappist brewery to stay with traditional open fermenters, the others having replaced them with cylindro-conical ones. The Claustrum is open from 2pm until 5pm, every day except Friday, and at other times when In de Vrede is not open, see below. Mark Bode, the Claustrum's administrator and Abbey spokesman, is usually on hand to answer any questions.

This is a photo of a display in In de Vrede, the café opposite the Westvleteren Trappist Monastery, Belgium. Click on it for a higher resolution photo of the bottles featured in it

In the bar itself, there is an old bottling machine, with four 75cl labelled bottles attached to it, see the photo to the left, which was taken by John White, in June, 2001; the bottles date from after 1931, i.e. after when commercial brewing commenced, and before 1945, the year when the beers lost their labels. Click on the photo for a higher resolution, more detailed photo of the bottles. Alongside the display are some old corks with the abbey's name on them. A six-pack purchased in the café is also shown. As can be seen, the old bottles have labels, but, as stated above, not today's, i.e. the Monastery's beers are now only sold in Belgium in unlabelled 33cl bottles, with crown tops, see above, as per those in the six-pack. As stated above, some US importers of the beers, put their own labels on them, see the example, above. For a display of old, labelled bottles in another bar, De Bierkamer, in Kluizen (Ertvelde) (www.debierkamer.be), click here.

 

This is a photo featuring food and drink being savoured in St.-Sixtus Trappist Monastery's Brewery Tap, In de Vrede, Westvleteren, in Belgium. Click on the photo to go to In de Vrede's website

In the above photo, which was taken by John White, in July, 2003, are White Beer Travels Beer Hunt regulars, Sylvia Clow (Second Petal) and David Spencer.

In the photo to the left, Sylvia is enjoying a very special Ice Cream, the beer-based Coupe "In de Vrede", see below. Sylvia described it as: "Absolutely superb: Lovely and crunchy; the meringue brings out the yeast taste." David is savouring a Westvleteren 12o, which obviously was superb. In the foreground, what looks like a Rum Baba, is a Mazarinetaart, see below. These are marvellous. Bottom right is a copy of Bob Hendrickx's essential book, 295 Originele Cafés in Vlaanderen, with which one gets a second beer free in places that are featured in it, such as In de Vrede, where one gets the Westvleteren Blond, as per the one on the table. This is also the case with the 2006-2007 edition of Bob's book, 208 Originele Cafés in Oost-Vlaanderen, West-Vlaanderen & Brussel; click here for a White Beer Travels Web page featuring it.

Prices in the bar in August, 2005, are as follows: Blond €2.50; 8o €3; and 12o €3.40. Appelsap (Apple Juice) is €1.60. Snacks available include: Bierworstje (Dry Beer Sausage) at €1.30; Boterham (Open Sandwiches) met (with) Paterskaas (Father's Cheese) and met Gerookte Hesp (Smoked Ham) for €2.60, met Abdijpaté (Abbey Paté) for €3.20, and met Hennepot (Chicken in an Acidic Jelly, the Monastery's Blond Beer being part of the recipe) for €3.60; Croque Monsieurs, a sort of Cheese and Ham Toastie, are €3, or €3.20 when made with the Abbey's Smoked Ham, the "In de Vrede" version (they are €2.10 extra with Groentjes (Uncooked Vegetables)). Dagsoep (Soup of the Day) is €3.60, this being available on cold Winter days. An interesting and excellent dessert is the hot Hommelpaptaart at €2.60. This is literally "Hop Porridge Tart". It is made by "Huis J. Vandecasteele", Ieperstraat 47, Poperinge, tel 057 33 32 89, where it can be sampled in the place's adjoining "Pousse Café" Tea Room. This Frangipane Tart does not contain any hops, although Van Eecke's Poperings Hommelbier (Hop Beer) is used in the recipe; it was originally produced just for Hommelpap Festivals. Appeltaart is €2.30, Mazarinetaart met Ijs (with Ice Cream) is €4.50. The latter is a Sponge Tart named after the Italian born French Statesman, Jules Mazarin (1602-61), who was involved with Louis XIV. The other Tarts can be accompanied by Ice Cream and Slagroom (Whipped, i.e. Sprayed Cream) for €1.30 extra. Ice Cream Coupes are in the range €3.20 to €5, the latter being for the Coupe "In de Vrede", featured in the photo above.

Note that when I first visited In de Vrede, in 1991, there was a notice on the wall with the prices of four beers, one being crossed out and thus not available: Westvleteren 4o; this Blond Beer had not been on public sale since 1983, and by 1999 it was no longer brewed. Note that the first beer brewed in Westvleteren, in 1839 was a 2beer, which, over time, was tweaked to become 4o, via 3.3o. The 4o beer was the one that the monks themselves drank, c.f. those that are still produced at the Belgian Trappist monasteries Westmalle (www.trappistwestmalle.be), Orval (www.orval.be, White Beer Travels Web page) and Chimay (www.chimay.com). The White Beer Travels articles mentioned state where one can sample the Orval and the Chimay beers.

This is a photo taken in St.-Sixtus Trappist Monastery's Brewery Tap, In de Vrede, Donkerstraat 13, Westvleteren, Belgium. Click on the photo to go to In de Vrede's website

In the above photo, John White is with Philip De Backer and his wife Christine Bervoet, who together run In de Vrede. It was taken by customer, Paul Mortier, in December, 2003.

In the shop within In de Vrede, the Blond, the 8o; and the 12o cost respectively €1.20/1.50/1.70 (August, 2005 prices, to which should be added a deposit of €0.10 per bottle). The Abbey Paté (produced by Vantrois in Veurne - Albert I-laan 68, tel 058 31 49 23) and the Paterskaas (Father's Cheese) available in the bar can also be purchased in the shop. Both the bar and the shop accept credit cards, but not the Monastery. In the photo to the left, note the display behind John, Christine and Philip, this being just in front of the shop. It features a map covering Belgium's six Trappist Breweries, a larger-than-life Westvleteren glass, and the "Authentic Trappist Product" logo. John has a glass of Blond in his hand, whilst Christine has a glass of Westvleteren 12o. It appears that Philip does too, but this is a candle, these being on sale in the shop! Christine's genuine 12o was borrowed from the photographer! Note that this photo replaces one of just Philip and John. This came about after Philip suggested that the White Beer Travels website would get more hits if it included a photo of his wife, rather than him!

The cheese available in In de Vrede's bar is made by Belgomilk (www.belgomilk.be), in Moorslede, which is in West Flanders, between Ieper and Roeselare. They also produce Oud-Brugge, Watou Special, Ename and Brigand Cheeses. However, there is another cheese available in the shop, which is actually made by Trappist Nuns, across the border, in France, at the Abbaye de Belval, in Troisvaux. This Abbey's website, www.abbaye-belval.com, gives full details of the cheese, Le Trappiste Bière. Note that it has this name as it is matured using one of the Westvleteren dark beers, probably the 8o. Cheeses from the Abbaye de Belval are on sale in England's most famous upmarket department store, Harrods (www.harrods.com), in London.

In de Vrede is open from 10am until 10pm every day except Friday. Between October and March, it is also shut on Thursdays. In the Winter it shuts at 8pm. It is closed on the 24th and the 25th of December, and usually from the 31st of December to the 16th of January, inclusive or thereabouts, and for the second half of September, and also for the second half of the Easter Break. Note that these times are different to the opening times of the Monastery's beer shop, which are displayed on the beer availability board mentioned above, the times being in the same place.

Close to In de Vrede, is the Dozinghem Military Cemetery. This is on the road between Poperinge and Krombeke, which is joined on the route to Calais given shortly; just after joining the road to Krombeke (named Leeuwerikstraat at this point), there is a sign on the right for the cemetery. Most of the gravestones are for UK soldiers killed in World War One (WWI), but the graves of soldiers from other countries, including Germany, are also to be found here, and there are also some WWII dead buried here as well, i.e. the cemetery's register records 3,174 WWI graves, and seventy-three from WWII. In WWI, there was much carnage, in and around Poperinge and Ieper (Ypres, Wipers to the UK troops). The area is so peaceful now; fittingly, the translation of In de Vrede is "The Peace". St.-Sixtus was just about the only monastic brewery not to have its copper brewing vessels purloined by the Germans in WWI; a number of allied troops were cared for during this time in the Abbey's hospital and grounds. During WWII, the buildings fell into disrepair. although 1940 stands out as the year that the mighty 12o was introduced; there was a consequent reduction in beer output when peace came, but this was also very much due to the Abbot affirming that profits from beer should not be too excessive. To this end, all the outlets owned by the Abbey, with the exception of In de Vrede, were sold, beer wholesalers were no longer supplied, and the brewery was declared to be a VZW, which means "Vereniging zonder winstgevend/winstoogmerk" (ASBL in French, i.e. "Association sans but lucratif), this being an organisation that does not set out to make a profit, a Not-For-Profit Organisation. Since 1945, the Westvleteren beers have not borne labels.

In de Vrede, however, does not derive its name from the peace following the wars. According to a 2003 book on Trappist monasteries by Jef van den Steen, in 1839, i.e. eight years after the foundation of the Abbey, and the same year that brewing commenced, someone got planning permission to build an Inn opposite the Abbey. This someone was Frederic Gheldof, and he called the Inn, "De Vrede" (The Peace), this being the name of a previous Inn of his in the vicinity. In 1867, he sold "De Vrede" to the Abbey, but immediately rented it back, becoming its tenant. In 1884, the Abbot commissioned an upgrade to the Inn which included the addition of four rooms for ladies on the first floor, since the guesthouse in the Abbey, where, for example, their husbands could be staying on a retreat, was forbidden to women. In de Vrede, thus, also became known as "The Ladies' Inn". Many thanks to the Abbey's archivist, Brother Johannes, for searching through the Abbey's archives, in order to provide this information on the rôle of Frederic Gheldof and the name of his Inn.

At one time in England, when many people could not read, pub names were usually preceded by "At the sign of the", for example, "At the sign of The Red Lion", but, today, the latter is always shortened to "The Red Lion". The "In" in "In de Vrede" is the equivalent of "at the sign of", as "À la", "Au" and "Aux" are the French equivalents (three needed, feminine, masculine, plural), and Zum and its variants are the German equivalents. Therefore my translation of "In de Vrede" is "The Peace".

To get to In de Vrede from the centre of Poperinge, leave its main square, the Grote Markt on Doornstraat (signed the N321 to Veurne), the exit just after the Amfora Hotel, Grote Markt 36, and take the quickly reached right (to the right of the "Crystal Palace" Chinese restaurant), onto Veurnestraat. After crossing the Poperinge ring road, ignore the first left sign off this road to the required Abdij St.-Sixtus, a route which, as we have previously found out, is difficult for a coach, i.e. take the second of the signed lefts to the Monastery (Abdij). There is an "entering Westvleteren sign", then a bus stop on the left and then the not-required left; the required left comes soon after a large, yellow farm building on the right. The left taken is a minor road called Pottestraat, for which there is a sign. After a bend to the right, the soon-reached second left is signed to the Abbey; it has the street name on which it stands, Donkerstraat. The Monastery is soon reached. One can park opposite the Monastery, on the left, in the car/coach park for its associated café, In de Vrede.

To go to Calais from St.-Sixtus, continue on past the Monastery. On reaching a T-junction with 't Jagershof pub opposite, turn right in the direction of Krombeke. In Krombeke, turn left in the direction of Roesbrugge and Calais. Note that if one turns right in Krombeke, one very quickly reaches, on the right, the "Nevejan Drankcentrale" (Beer Warehouse), at Graaf van Hoornweg 16 (tel 057 40 00 35). Nevejan is open on Monday to Friday between 8am and noon, and from 1pm until 7pm, and on Saturday between 9am and noon, and from 1pm until 5pm.

After leaving Krombeke, turn right at the T-junction reached in Roesbrugge to join the N308. Soon after the French border is crossed at Oost-Cappel, the road number changing to the D916a. In the soon reached "Les Cinq Chemins" (5 Ways), turn right onto the D947 in the signed direction of Hondschoote and Bray Dunes, the required A16 (E40) motorway being signed from Hondschoote. After the below-sea-level Les Moëres, the A16 (E40) motorway is joined at its junction 36, in the signed direction of Dunkerque and Calais. For the Channel Ferries leave the A16 (E40) at its junction 18. For the Channel Tunnel, leave it at its junction 13.

This is a photo of a Belbus stop outside the St.-Sixtus Trappist Monastery, in Westvleteren, Belgium. Click on it to get more information, in Dutch, on the Belbus system

Alongside the Monastery's beer drive-in is the "St.-Sixtus" Belbus stop, see the photo to the left, which was taken by John White, in July, 2004. Belbus is a minibus service, operated by De Lijn (www.delijn.be), who also operate scheduled bus and tram services throughout Belgian Flanders. Click here for a White Beer Travels Web page giving details of how to use De Lijn's Dutch-language website. Belbuses are booked by phone; the number to ring is 059 56 52 56, this being the number for the whole of the Province of West Flanders; as you can see, the number has changed since the photo was taken. Belbuses must typically be booked at least three hours in advance, and only pick up at the designated stops. When you ring up, you give your name and the name of the start and end stops of your journey. The operators, who speak very good English, will tell you the exact time that you must be at your start stop. Information in Dutch for Belbuses can be obtained by clicking here. This gives Belbus information for West Flanders. For other parts of Belgium, go to the main De Lijn site and use the search facility with the word "Belbus", or click here to just get the Belbus telephone numbers for the rest of Belgian Flanders. Note that the maximum number that can be booked on a Belbus is fourteen.

Interestingly, before I discovered what Belbuses were, I was once in the Palace Hotel (hotelpalace.virtualave.net, excellent Specialty Beer list), in nearby Poperinge, and stated to one of my Beer Hunters that, should he miss the coach to In de Vrede, that he could get a taxi, but the lady behind the bar pointed out that taxis are hard to come by in Poperinge, and that one needs to book the Belbus at least three hours in advance! In July, 2004, I tried out the Belbus system; it proved to be a very efficient service; I asked to be picked up at the stop named St.-Sixtus, to go to Poperinge (for the top-class Speciality Beer bars, Café de la Paix (www.cafedelapaix.be) and the Palace Hotel (hotelpalace.virtualave.net), and for Talbot House (WW1) Museum, www.talbothouse.be) and the Nationaal Hopmuseum). I was asked which stop my group of four required in Poperinge (Railway Station or the main square, the Markt) and was then asked if we wanted to arrange any further buses, which we did. The cost per journey was €1 per person in a group of four. It all went very smoothly; I can highly recommend the Belbus system.

John White (1945-), Your cursor is on an image of John White's e-mail address. Click on it to send an e-mail to John, June, 2002. Updated in May, 2007.

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