Six of One and Half a Dozen of the Other…

As most beer aficionados know, “abbey beer” does not designate a style but is a generic term for beers whose brand name refers to an existing or dissolved abbey. Let’s not fool ourselves; there are a whole bunch of abbey beers which fall under the following principle: Pay a fee to the abbey whose name is used, and brew away from any monastic enclosure.

With our beer (or name) of the day, we approach a very special case that merits particular concern: The St. Bernardus abbey does not exist!

Originally, this beer was brewed at the St. Sixtus abbey — known today for brewing the famous Westvleteren. It was then called Sixtus. In 1992, the abbey suspended the operating licence, and Sixtus became St. Bernardus, in reference to a farm situated in Watou (West Flanders, Belgium) and where French monks fleeing anticlericalism had found refuge at the end of the 19th Century.

Thus it is a very laic brewery based in Watou, Brouwerij St. Bernardus, which produces this beer. But — and it’s here that we approach a tipping point — with the same recipe as the Westvleteren beers…

In other words, we have here the official and historical clone of the most admired beer brand in the world.

And so, dear crazy lovers of Westvleteren 8 or 12, who are so sad and even sometimes so desperate at how hard it is to find your Grail, rejoice! Because St. Bernardus is — as its sister — at the top of its art, and deserves the same exaltations.