Did you know that Trappist Beer is considered to be one of the best tasting beer in the entire world ? It is very rare to acquire but people who have tasted it swear by its deliciousness. Did you also know that Trappist beer gets its name from the monastery where it is brewed? That is right, the most awesome tasting beer in the market is actually made by Trappist monks in remote monasteries (or abbey as they call it) around the world. Westvleteren is consistently voted the best beer in the world and it brewed in an abbey near the border of France. Here is the interesting part, if you are already not blown away by now – you can’t just order the beer and have it delivered to you. You can’t just drive to their abbey and pay for the beer you want. You have to call them at specific times of the week and, if you are lucky, a monk will answer. Then you make the order, which comes with its own restrictions. You have to give your license plate number and be available to come pick up your crate during the appointed time that weekend. You’re limited to one crate per person per car, maximum two per car. And, you can’t buy more than one crate during a 60-day period. You also have to agree not to resell the beer.
It used to be pretty easy to get this beer until recently when they added all these new restrictions due to increased demand. I know what you are thinking. Why are there so many restrictions ? Can they not just brew more ? Why don’t the monks simply increase production ? Well, turns out, they don’t want to. In fact, they really don’t need to. They don’t make the beers to make a profit, so to speak. The Trappist way of living in a monastery is that the abbey must be self-sufficient. So the monks can’t get grants or donations, but they have to make and sell things to make money which would be used to run the abbey. Some abbeys sell soups, some sell jams, but their beers are the most well-known. Although the consumption and with it the demand for their beers have skyrocketed, the monks refuse to brew more because they don’t need the extra cash. Whatever they were making by selling the beers before the increased demand was enough for them to run their abbey and they see no need to make more money by increasing production. Their main job is to serve God and selling beer was just a means for that and they have no plans to spend more time on it than it is sufficiently necessary.
As a result, what is usually used to explicitly increase demand, price and profit – limited production, restricted access and distribution – is used in the monks’ case to cut and curb the demand. This is design done in a particularly interesting and novel way to satisfy the needs of the producers rather than that of the consumers. This also shows how the same principles and ideas can be applied in different context in different ways to achieve a totally different outcome.
Did you like this subject? Did you find it interesting to learn about these odd rituals and behaviors that happen in some corner of the world and understand the reason and background to these rituals? Well, then you need to be listening to 99% Invisible – a public radio podcast produced by Roman Mars available online for free. That’s right, stuff that I mentioned above and much more awesomeness like that is provided to you for free. All you need to do is subscribe and enjoy. You can do it here.
You can do more too. A kickstarter campaign is currently underway to raise funding for season 3 of the podcast. As of this writing, the total donation pledge has smoked the campaign target reaching almost double the amount. But If it can get 5000 backers then the Design Matters Institute will fund them an extra ten thousand dollars. Mr.Mars literally does this entire podcast from his home and he is able to produce amazing radio in public space. Just think of what he and his crack team can do with all this additional cash. So go to Kickstarter link here, and become a backer for this brilliant podcast. You can pledge how much ever you can – as long as you become a backer, you have done your part for the betterment of design geeks world-wide.
In case you have already pledged for the show, I salute you, O’ Enlightened One.
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