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S E C T I O N 2 A special section on travel and adventure by local people. ■ February 15, 2012 A LSO INSIDE RE A L E S TAT E 23 |C LA SSI F I E D S Photo by Caitlin Fitzpatrick. Westvleteren beer, made by the St. Sixtus Abbey trappist monks and sold only at the abbey, is rated as the best in the world, according to several beer website and other sources. Can’t make it to Belgium? While the monks at St. Sixtus Abbey sell only enough Westvleteren beer to support themselves and the abbey, a current renovation project has prompted the monks to sell a limited amount of their beer outside the abbey to raise money for the project. A special six-pack of the beer with two Westvleteren glasses was sold in Belgium and will be sold in the U.S. sometime later this year, according to Ryan Williams, a spokesman for the Shelton Brothers importers. In order to try to keep any profits from the sales going to the monks, it will probably be priced at about $85 a six-pack, he said. It should be available in the Bay Area, but details have not been worked out. The Almanac will try to post details as they become available. And if you really can’t wait, the special six-pack and glasses are available on eBay from a British seller asking $213 plus $95 postage. — Barbara Wood 29 By Barbara Wood Special to the Almanac here was one thing my husband, 25-year-old daughter and I agreed we wanted to do on a recent trip to Europe — visit Belgium to try Westvleteren beer, which has been described by several sources as the best beer in the world. Belgian chocolate, Belgian French fries, picturesque cities on canals and rolling green countryside also lured us. We planned the trip, however, around the Westvleteren beer. It was to be found, we had been told, at the St. Sixtus Trappist abbey in Flanders, where it is produced and sold — there and nowhere else. The monks sell the beer nowhere but at the monastery’s visitor’s center. Daughter Caitlin, while spending a year as an au pair in the Netherlands with a lot of time off, had gone to the brewery with a Belgian friend, Katrien De Schepper. Caitlin met Katrien through, a website that matches up travelers with slim resources with hosts who don’t mind sharing their homes and local knowledge. Katrien had taken Caitlin to the area near the border with France to try the monks’ beer. Caitlin thought we would enjoy it as much as she had. We stayed in the nearby town of Watou, at Het Brouwershuis, or The Brewers House, a bed and breakfast on the grounds of a brewery. The B&B had, among other attractions, a refrigerator full of beer in the lounge for guests. We drove from the Netherlands to Watou, stopping in Bruges on the way for a lunch of mussels, Belgian fries and beer at outdoor tables. We spent a few pleasant hours wandering Bruges, enjoying the medieval architecture, canals and chocolatiers. Bruges is well worth a much longer stay. Het Brouwershuis sits on a quiet country lane next to a hops field on the grounds of the St. Bernardus Brewery, which produced beer under license from St. Sixtus until 1992 and now brews under its own name. Our large attic room had plenty of space for the three of us, lovely views out each window, and enough closet space for permanent residents. The beer frig was full of the St. Bernardus beers, with a jar on top for donations. (Back home, if you can find it, St. Bernardus beer sells for around $8 per bottle or $48 for a six-pack.) After a lovely dinner at the charming family-run Het Ovenhuis in Watou, the three of us spent the evening in the glassed-in conservatory attached to the B&B sampling the St. Bernardus beers, which came in dark and light versions of up to 10.5 percent alcohol. It was very good beer. The next morning after a walk in the countryside we headed off to the St. Sixtus guest center, anticipating not only tasting our fill of the Westvleteren beer, but also the cheese and ice cream the monks produce. The abbey, founded in 1831, has been brewing beer since 1838. The monks brew the beer themselves. They do not advertise and sell only enough beer to support the monastery. The beer is sold only in the visitor’s center next door or by the case at the monastery, where the amount sold to each person is strictly regulated and must be arranged in advance by phone on a line that is almost always busy. St. Sixtus is one of seven trappist monasteries, six in Belgium and one in the Netherlands, that brew beer sold to the public. Chimay is one brand that is easy to find locally, others are Rochefort, Westmalle, Achel, Koningshoeven and Orval. There are three Westvleteren beers: Blonde, Dark 8 and Dark 10.8. The brewery’s website describes the blonde, which has 5.8 percent alcohol, as “made with the help of three kinds of hops of the region, (with)... a light and soft taste.” The Dark 8 (the 8 is the alcohol percentage) is described as having “a sweet and fruity aroma with an accent of melon.” The Dark 10.8, which is the most respected of the three, is said to have a “generous, creamy aroma and powerful caramelized and malted taste.” At the guest center, we were surContinued on next page February 15, 2012 N The Almanac N21

The Almanac 02.15.2011 - Section 2

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