Dutch supermarket flouts Trappist beer re-sale ban

The monks of a Trappist monastery in Belgium are reportedly very upset that a Dutch supermarket is re-selling its beers without permission and for a huge mark-up.

The abbey of Saint-Sixtus in Westvleteren is one of the Low Countries’ renowned Trappist brewing communities and its beer is not only highly sought-after but also tricky to get hold of.

The beer is only sold at the abbey’s shop and a local café and all orders from the shop must be reserved in advance and then picked up in person. The monks even take note of the registration number of the car that will be used to pick up the beer and once a reservation has been made then the same telephone and registration number cannot be used again to place an order for 60 days.

In addition, all beer purchased must be for personal consumption and consumers must agree not to sell the beer on to third parties. In 2011, at a time when it needed funds to renovate its buildings, the abbey did grant permission to a retailer to sell its beer commercially, Belgian wholesaler Colruyt, and then in 2012 Dutch wholesaler Sligro, for the price of €27.50 for six bottles.

However, customers in the Netherlands have recently noticed that supermarket chain Jan Linders, had 300 crates of the abbey’s beer and was selling it for €9.95 a bottle, with only two bottles allowed per customer.

The beer is sold by the abbey in cases of 24 making a case at Jan Linders €238.80; nearly five times the price the abbey sells its most-expensive beer for.

The abbey produces three beers; a blond, a dark 8% beer and dark 10% beer, priced respectively at €35, €40 and €45 per case of 24.

Each case then has an additional deposit of €15 which is redeemable by customers at any time upon return of the case and empty bottles.

The news has caused interest among beer drinkers in the Low Countries because seeing Westvleteren beer in shops is so rare but quite how the chain acquired the bottles in question is not clear because the monks are saying it didn’t come from them.

A spokesman for the abbey brewery told the drinks business that the community was disappointed to see their beer being sold for profit in this way and that it went against the “ethics of the abbey”.

They added that Jan Linders’ commercial activity was entirely without the consent of the monks and they wished for the supermarket to desist.

Gineke Wilms, a spokeswoman for the supermarket told Dutch newspaper De Limburger that the beer had been acquired “thanks to our partners” but did not specify who said partners were. “We see it as a reward for the fact that we have been voted the best specialty beer supermarket in the Netherlands for several years,” she continued.

Jan Linders was not immediately available for comment.

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