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Belgian monks sell beer online to beat black market

This group of Trappist monks is tired of profiteers. Image: Getty

It’s spicy, floral and unbelievably strong: Trappist beer is known for its quality, and now its manufacturers are going to new lengths to protect the integrity of the beer and the brand.

The St Sixtus Abbey in Westvleteren, Belgium, is owned by Belgian monks and is one of 14 official Trappist beer producers which make the prized brew.

However, beset by profiteers choosing to on-sell the €45 (AU$73.70) per-crate beer, the monks have decided to move their sales online.

Previously, sales were limited to private customers who would order by phone and collect up to two crates.

But a discovery that the brew was being sold for a much higher price in a Dutch supermarket in 2018 triggered the decision to go digital.

As Brother Godfried told the BBC, the supermarket had managed to stockpile 7,200 bottles and was selling them for €9 a bottle - well above the Abbey’s €1.80.

"It really opened our eyes. It was a sort of wake-up call that the problem was so serious, that a company was able to buy such volumes. It really disturbed us," Brother Godfried said.

Under the new system, buyers will be required to register and supply personal details including their address and number plate.

Additionally, those who wait longest between purchases will be prioritised.

Trappist monks do not profit from their beer and only make as much as is needed to cover costs.

"We have thought long and hard about a good and customer-friendly alternative. Beer sales at the abbey will remain exclusively aimed at private customers," the abbot of St Sixtus Abbey, Brother Manu van Hecke said.

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