Thursday, July 17, 2008

Postcard van West Vlaanderen

Cheers, from the Sint-Sixtusabdij van Westvleteren. Now considered by many alcoholic authorities as the best beer on the planet, the monks recently got with the program a little and realized they could make a bit more money from their most famous product -- though, after eating what seemed like two pounds of it, I can testify that their paté is just as much reason to visit.

The pick-up site looks like a drive-thru, but it is far less convenient than one might think. To get a crate of 24, and you're only ever allowed one crate p/month, you have to call months in advance to make a reservation. Actually, you make a reservation for a reservation, because you have to wait several days or weeks for a return call, indicating when you should come by and what will be available. Even then, when your appointed day arrives they may not even have the exact variety you were dead set on drinking -- choices being, the 'blond', the '8' and the '12', all of which, I can attest, are exquisite and worth all manner of hardship to acquire. Upon receiving your share of that which can only be called happiness, use it wisely, the monks then make you promise not to re-sell it, which of course you do with haste. Or, so it seems anyway. In Brussels, I saw a crate of 24 being sold near the Grand Market, for nearly seven euro a bottle.

Or, you can do like me, visit the abbey around lunch, enjoy a meal with two '12's and one '8', two pounds of paté and fresh bread, one heaping helping of ice cream made with their beer, and then stumble around the 7 km walking-path whilst belchy and bloated. Soon thereafter, I found the skies darkened by clouds and night, my sense of consciousness fading, stinking of beer, cheese, and the marijuana one inevitably happens upon during such events, listening to the Saxophone Summit and Wayne Shorter Quartet at the Gent Jazz Festival.

It was, I suppose, like any other day in Belgium. But a special one all the same. I will miss my second home.