In my opinion the Westvleteren 12 is one of the five or so best beers in existence. It is also the highest-rated beer on ratebeer.com. There are some interesting stories about the distribution of Westvleteren. While it's true that only individuals can get the beer at the abbey, bottles manage to circulate around the world. A local store says that only about fifty stores in the world carry Westvleteren. The beer-drinking world is indebted to teams of people who go to the abbey individually and bring back the beer for labeling and distribution. The monks don't have a price for their beer. Instead an individual gives a donation to the abbey and the monks give what they feel is appropriate. Considering the fact that bottles of Westvleteren cost, in general, less than $10, they are clearly a steal!
When I visited Brussels the only beer I couldn't find was Westvleteren, and the citizens there clearly consider it in the highest regard. I happened to find a bottle of Westvleteren 12 in my upscale grocery store in Berkeley (Whole Foods Market), not knowing anything about it--just buying it because it was the most expensive one and I thought I'd try "the best." It changed my life. Now i'm a beer afficionado. While I think I like a few beers better--Westmalle dubbel for instance--Westvleteren will always be special to me.