Jan 10, 2017 by Stephane
Everyone knows the name of our favourite beer is "Westvleteren 12" but sometimes it's labelled as "westvleteren XII". This version of the name just replaces the "12" with the roman numerals, which turns the name in to "Westvleteren XII".
The normal Westvleteren bottles one can find for sale at the abbey don't have any markings on them at all. In fact the bottle is the same as the Westmalle bottle. The latter does have a label and apart from that it says "TRAPPIST" on the glass rim of the bottle.
The bottle of Westvleteren 12 that are normally obtained at the abbey are not labelled as "Westvleteren XII". In other words, the bottles with the roman numerals are "special edition" bottles.
What's the story behind these special edition XII labelled bottles?
Well, these were the bottles that were created for the one time that the monks decided to export the "gift boxes" of Westvleteren to the US and other countries. Around 7760 of these boxes were exported to the US, through the famous Shelton Brothers. Each box contained 6 of the special Westvleteren XII labelled bottles and 2 glasses, also labelled with the XII mark.
Westvleteren beer is rare enough as it is and these XII labelled bottles are even rarer, due to their only one-time availability. It's still possible to find some gift packs for sale and even the empty bottles are being sold to collectors.
The beer that's being sold in these bottles is exactly the same as the beer in the normal, plain bottles. Every now and then there are claims being made, or I receive questions about "non authentic" or "rejected" beer, but as far as I know, there is no such Westvleteren on the market.
The Westvleteren XII markings were probably added to make them commercially a little more attractive and appealing, which was probably totally unnecessary considering the reputation this beer has.
All the Westvleteren XII bottles were sold and exported to collect money for the renovation of the monastery building. Even though the packs were sold at around 85USD each to the USA distributor, I believe that retailers were free to determine their price.
Soon after the bricks with the Westvleteren XII bottles went on sale, they started appearing on ebay where they all sold, despite ebay's "no alcohol" policy. Some people sold the empty boxes (!!) at prices higher than the full boxes and some full boxes, just purchased for 85USD, were being offered at 1000USD.
Hopefully this explains a little why these XII labelled bottles exist. If you missed out on getting your hands on some of this great beer, you can still buy Westvleteren 12 right here.