Trappist Monks Furious After Supermarket Sells Their Beer at Markup

There’s nothing like some angry monks to put the fear of God into you.

By Ethan L. Johns
March 19, 2018

Image: Arterra/UIG via Getty Images

Beers must be produced in a very specific way in order to be labeled “Trappist.” For one, they must be produced within the walls of a Trappist monastery. What’s more, Trappist beers cannot be made for profit; they are brewed to finance the living expenses of the monks and the upkeep costs of the monastery, with the rest of the profits being donated to charity.

Imagine, then, the outrage that came to pass last week after the monks at St. Sixtus Abbey in Westvleteren, Belgium, discovered that their beers were being sold for profit at a location of the Dutch supermarket chain Jan Linders.

A Dutch paper reported on the sales, which involved 7,000 bottles of the Westvleteren 12—a beer that has been praised as the best beer in the world. The supermarket branch was found to be selling bottles of the beer for 9.95 euros ($12.30)—over five times the price normally requested by the monks.

Yes, that’s a cheap beer when purchased directly. But consider this: interested drinkers can only purchase the beer at the monastery, and when they do, they are limited to six bottles at a time, unless they order ahead. The same person is not allowed to but the beer more than once in any 60-day period, according to the New York Times.

A spokesperson from the Abbey denounced the sales, saying that they went "against the ethical standards and values" held by the monks, who never pursue "profit maximization" with their beer.

The Jan Linders chain apologized in a statement, claiming the prices charged were merely a necessity to offset the high cost of purchasing the beer from individual buyers.

While beer may seem like a commodity to some, to others it’s a way of life. And when it comes to Trappist beer, one thing’s for sure: you don’t mess with the monks.

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About Ethan L. Johns

Ethan is the Food News Writer at Genius Kitchen. An expert on the Parisian bistrot, he likes bitters and salted butters, and is no fan of dessert unless it's made with fruit. His hobbies include reading up on the history of borscht and attempting to roll perfect couscous by hand. Twits & Instagram @EthanLJohns