As far as shady deeds go, ripping off monks has to be high up in the shittiness rankings. That’s exactly what a Dutch supermarket did, though, by reselling bottles of ultrarare beer brewed by monks at the Saint Sixtus Abbey of Westvleteren in West Flanders, Belgium.
Westvleteren beer might not ring a bell to the average Corona drinker, but among beer aficionados, its Belgian dark strong ale—called Westvleteren XII or, affectionately, “Westie 12"— is considered one of the top beers in the world, a sort of bucket-list, drink-it-before-you-die bottle.
Part of that is because it’s really damn tasty: rich, velvety, complex, all the things a true Belgian quadrupel ale should be. (Yes, a very dear friend shared a bottle with me once.) But it’s also sought-after because it’s difficult to obtain: Only monks from that particular abbey produce this brand of beer, and they put limits on how many people can obtain it. Those customers must come to the abbey to pick up their reserved bottles, profits from which go to the monks’ charitable work. Supermarkets don’t sell this beer; distributors don’t sell this beer; bars don’t sell this beer. Just the monks.
So it was distressing to the abbey’s brothers to hear news that Dutch supermarket Jan Linders had been selling the beer at a three-times markup and keeping the profits, The Guardian reports. A 24-bottle case of the prized Westvleteren XII sells for around $55 from the abbey, and purchasers must promise to use it only for personal consumption, not reselling.
“A price of nearly €10 per bottle [about $12 USD] goes against the ethical standards and values that the monks face. Every beer lover knows that the Trappists of Westvleteren do not pursue profit maximization; they only produce as much beer as is necessary to provide for their livelihood. All the profits made go to the abbey charity,” an abbey spokesman told The Guardian.
How exactly the supermarket got its hands on 300 cases of the beer is unclear; a spokesman for Jan Linders supermarkets says the store didn’t actually make much profit because much of the money went to pay back “unidentified suppliers.” There is as yet no information as to whether this is illegal under Dutch law.
But illegal or not, it’s just crappy. Here are a group of a few dozen monks, brewing some of the best beer in the world, for charity, and you’re going to rip them off? The black-market dealer should keep in mind that these dudes might have a direct line to the Big Man Upstairs—remember: karma’s a bitch.