I'm thinking of going to Belgium for a week's holiday in the autumn and this time take the car from the UK. This would be perfect for stopping by the monks at Westvleteren and buying a case of beer. How long in advance can you/do you need to call them? Given that we'll probably need to book the holiday at least a month before we go, I don't want to miss out by not getting an appointment!
How long in advance do you need to order Westvleteren?
It seems you need to place an order in at least 60 days in advance of the time of pick up at the abbey.
The abbey is located at Brouwerij de Sint-Sixtusabdij van Westvleteren, Donkerstraat 12, 8640 Vleteren, Belgium. But be warned: the abbey is not easy to find. When coming from Brussels, the recommended way of travel is by car, which will take an hour and a half. Traveling by bus is doable, but not recommended. You will find yourself taking connection to connection that could possibly rack up to about a nine-hour journey.
Here’s the tricky part: if you are interested in buying this special beer, it is exclusive to the abbey and is only sold at two official sale points – the abbey and the visitor’s center. In order to get your hands on some of the world’s best beer is truly a delicate process. To acquire some Westvleteren, you must call the ‘beer phone’ and place a reservation 60 days ahead of time. The phone line tends to be busy with 85,000 calls coming in every hour. Once you finally get to talk to an individual at the brewery, you will give your license plate number and set up a date and time in which you can pick up your order drive-thru style.
While these methods may seem extreme, the monks are ultimately striving to eliminate commercial and illegal resales. There should be no pubs or bars supplying Westvleteren, and if they are, that means it’s considered a ‘gray market item.’ If you really can’t wait the 60 days, the abbey also owns a café and visitor’s center called In de Vrede, just across from the brewery, where beer can be bought on the premises to drink right away. - Westvleteren, Belgium's Most Secretive Brewery
Customers are limited to one case per person (per license plate) per 60 days.
The beer phone for the Abbey of Saint Sixtus is (+32) (0)70-21-00-45.
Nota Bene: "The Westvleteren Beer Sale page only mentions that you cannot place another order earlier than 60 days after your previous one. It does not give any information about how long in advance the first order may be made." – Altbier is not Old Beer
To be safer than sorry, I would still place an order in 60 days prior to pick up, unless the first purchase can be verified to be obtained earlier than that!
In addition to Ken's answer, you can also visit the abbey's gift shop at their restaurant. They usually have cardboard sixpacks for sale of one of the three varieties. There is a per person limit of 1 sixpack per day, which may or may not always be perfectly adhered to. The B&B we stayed at last time told us to make a couple of trips to the gift store in different clothes...