Brother Godfrey is the Prior of the Abbey of Saint Sixtus: “Half our Belgian clients live in the Provinces of East and West Flanders. Other Belgian customers needed to travel from far and wide to collect their order. We want to be able to reach these people more readily.”
In the Spring of 2020 the economic ramifications of the lockdown also affected the abbey folk. “For two months we didn’t sell a single bottle at the abbey gate as non-essential trips were banned. We looked at a whole array of different ways of getting our Trappist beers to the consumer in the event of a second lockdown. This resulted in a pilot project involving home deliveries via a parcel service. At present the service is only available across Belgium” says Brother Godfrey.
Normally bottles of Westvleteren Trappist are packaged in crates made of poplar wood. The brothers were worried these heavy crates would break if they were shipped. Knowing beer drinkers they were also concerned they would not be returned!
“Together with packaging supplier VPK we developed a crate and box made of recyclable cardboard that survived everything we could throw at it. Together they both weigh less than the wooden crate” explains Brother Godfrey.
Because producing the cardboard crates is labour intensive only a limited supply of beer will be delivered to the door. The monks will continue to be sell most of their production in the wooden crates at the abbey gate.
The Trappist beers of Westvleteren are tremendously popular in Belgium and abroad. In 2019 the monks replaced the beer phone that had been operating for nearly a decade and a half by an online ordering system. In order to give as many people as possible a chance to buy Westvleteren the monks included a smart waiting room in their online store. In this way people who have never purchased a crate or only a while ago are prioritised above frequent customers. Each month there are usually two opportunities to get your order in.