There is a centuries old tradition of monks brewing beer in Belgium. Some of these beers are commercially marketed and shippped to the United States on a regular basis. The 21 monks of the St. Sixtus Abbey use their brewing skills to sustain their existence and donate whatever is left over to charity. They brew their ales in limited quantities and the amount they make hasn't changed since 1946. As The Father Abbott says "We are not brewers we are monks. We brew beer to be able to afford being monks."
The beer has only been available at the Abbey since the first batch. People are allowed to come once every 60 days to buy one case and there is no gaurantee you will get one on every trip. When the Abbey was in need of a major renovation, the money wasn't available. The monks decided to turn to their valued beer to renovate and restore their historic home. After much deliberation it was agreed that they would release limited quantities of the beer for worldwide distribution for the first and only time in the Abbey's history.
Needless to say, the beer world was a buzz at the prospect of this beer's availability. Valley beer lovers were thrilled to learn that Vintage Estates in Boardman was one of the few stores selected to receive any. Store owners Phill and Sandy Reda were thrilled. "They asked us how many cases we wanted and we took all they offered", said Phill with a smile.
Demand for the beer was so high and the opporunity so unique that the Reda's decided to hold a lottery to determine who could buy the beer. People literally lined up around the building just for a chance to acquire some. In the end, 150 tickets were issued and only 76 lucky winners got to take home a set of six beers with two authentic glasses from the Abbey.
One lucky winner was Rafael Jensen who drove 10 1/2 hours from Virginia Beach for a shot at the esteemed ales. His girlfirend Rachel Kapadia lives in Ashland and the two were a glow that they were able to get the beer. Rafael's ticket was the very last one pulled in the lottery. He said he learned about Vintage Estates through the webiste Beer Advocate. "Not a singles store in Virginia or Pennsylvania got any of the beer. When I heard VE had some I decided to make the trip." When asked if it was worth it a huge smile appeared on his face and the answer was an emphatic "Yes!"
Perhaps the greatest thing about the event was that it benefited the local charity Making Kids Count. There is no doubt that this brought a smile to the faces of the monks at the St. Sixtus Abbey.