Famous pub serving Westvleteren forced to shut due to crowds

Summary

In De Vrede in Vleteren had to close its doors as staycationing Belgians were showing up in force

No beer for you

The only establishment in Belgium authorised to sell the world-famous Westvleteren Trappist beer outside of the abbey itself has temporarily closed its doors. In De Vrede, the eatery across the way from the Sint-Sixtus Abbey, where the beer is brewed, was faced with too many crowds to be able to respect coronavirus measures.

While the café is a Mecca for beer enthusiasts across the globe, it’s Belgians who are making the pilgrimage to the Westhoek location this summer. In De Vrede is the only place in the world authorised by the Trappist monks who brew Westvleteren to serve it by the glass, and staycations have seen it overwhelmed by crowds of people wanting to get a table.

“At one point there were 700 people here,” Vleteren mayor Stephan Mourisse (LVP) told VRT. “That’s impossible to deal with.” In De Vrede is shut until at least 12 August and possibly longer, he said.

Red zone

Westvleteren is considered one of the best beers in the world and can only be ordered directly from the Sint-Sixtus abbey – through an infamously complicated online or telephone procedure – or bought at In De Vrede. The beer can be ordered from the menu, which also includes light meals, or bought in its shop (while supplies last).

Anywhere else selling Westvleteren, whether a shop or a pub, is breaking the abbey’s sales policy (and, without fail, charging upwards of five times more than the authorised outlets).

Vleteren was the source of another eyebrow-raising headline recently, as it became a Covid-19 red zone, despite having just two confirmed cases of the virus. The infection rate in Belgian municipalities is figured per 100,000 residents. The population of Vleteren is just shy of 3,800, so two cases puts it at 54 infections per 100,000 residents. Anything over 50 is considered a dangerously high rate of infection.

“I’m getting panicky phone calls from people who think that there are 54 infections in our town,” groaned mayor Mourisse. “Authorities would do better to say how many infected residents there are in each municipality.”