The famous Belgian Trappist beer Westvleteren has proven to be a huge commercial success in the United States as well. The first 15,000 boxes of Westvleteren ever to be sold officially on the American market were all sold in less than a day.
Playing 'hard to get' pays off
Apart from notoriously good (topping many famous worldwide beer lists), Westvleteren is also notoriously hard to get. Usually, the only way to buy the beer is ordering up to three crates by phone (and quite often, waiting hours to even reach the Westvleteren abbey telephonist) and then collecting them at the Abbey gates at a time of the monks' convenience.
For one time however, the Westvleteren brewery has sold 15,000 boxes – consisting of six bottles of Westvleteren 12 and two special glasses – to specialised Massachusetts beer importer Shelton Brothers, who distributed the boxes throughout the US.
Hundreds of dollars per box
Even though the prices were rather high, at 85 dollar (65 euro) per box, the complete stock was sold out in less than a day. Some Americans were genuinely happy to finally get hold of one of the world's best beers, others hurried home to put the offer on eBay, where the boxes reached prices of hundreds of dollars within hours. The normal price for one bottle at the abbey gates is... just over two dollar.
The monks had already seen similar success with their action in Belgium, where almost all 93,000 boxes were also sold out on the first day of offering. Many of those boxes also found their way to the US through eBay, for many times the original price of 25 euro.
Exception to fund reconstruction
Westvleteren's beers are brewed inside an abbey of the Trappist order, according to the rules of the Trappist label. Unlike the other beers under that label (Achel, Chimay, Engelszell, La Trappe, Orval, Rochefort and Westmalle), the Westvleteren abbey usually observes the strict rules of the Trappist order to only produce just enough beer to cover the living expenses of the monks.
The current exception to the normal 'hard to get' rule was deemed necessary after a landslide caused the abbey to be declared unsafe by the fire department. The profit from the boxes will be used for the reconstruction of the abbey: the two special glasses in the box proudly bear the motto "Ad aedificandam abbatiam adiuvi” (“I supported the construction of the abbey”).