How a small, unremarkable country came to dominate the world of beermaking
Dec 17th 2011 | Leuven and Westvleteren | from the print edition
THE Trappist Abbey of St Sixtus of Westvleteren has little to offer those wishing to gawp at ecclesiastical architecture. The 19th-century buildings—squat, brick and functional—sit on a quiet country lane amid flat farmland, close to Belgium’s border with France. Yet the vast visitors’ car park is a clue that some people nevertheless consider the abbey worth a trip. For beer lovers, St Sixtus is a place of pilgrimage.The abbey and its most famous brew, Westvleteren 12—a dark, strong ale—have taken first or second place in an annual poll of beer enthusiasts’ favourite tipples by RateBeer.com, a widely trusted reviewing website, for the whole decade that the survey has been running. Yet exactly how the American drinkers who predominate on the site get to knock back a Westvleteren 12 is something of a mystery.
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