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Only pub selling Westvleteren shut down due to crowds

16:34 03/08/2020

The only establishment in Belgium where you can sit down to a glass of the world-famous Westvleteren beer has closed its doors, for the time being. In De Vrede, the pub across the way from the Sint-Sixtus Abbey, where the beer is brewed, was faced with too many crowds to be able to keep to 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. Staycations have seen the café – the only place legally allowed to sell the Trappist beer outside of the abbey itself – overwhelmed by lines of people wanting to get in.

“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 off the menu, which also includes light meals, or bought in its shop (while supplies last). Anywhere else selling bottles of Westvleteren is doing so illegally.

Vleteren was the source of another eyebrow-raising headline at the weekend, 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. “They’d do better to say how many infected residents there are in each municipality.”

Written by Lisa Bradshaw