It’s rare for me to find a new, or should I say different, Belgian Abbey beer, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a pack of ‘Affligem’ bottles on a recent supermarket trip, Affligem was a new one on me, but a ‘double fermented’ Abbey style beer is always worth investigating.
Affligem Abbey was first founded, or so legend would have it, in the Belgian province of Brabant in 1062; by a group of six disillusioned knights, who later took Benedictine orders, the Abbey was dedicated in 1086.
Over the last nine hundred years the abbey has enjoyed what might be best described as a ‘chequered’ history, being razed in 1580, rebuilt in 1634, dissolved in 1654, sacked in 1796 and restored in 1887.
Traditionally the Abbey brewed ales for the monks’ consumption and sold them to the local population to raise funds for the abbey’s upkeep and, in 1970 the rights to brew the ales were acquired by the brewery in the nearby village of Opwijk. The Opwijk brewery’s brewmaster – Theo Vervloet – bought half the company in 1984 and grew the business until the owners of the other half sold their share to Heineken in 1999. Heineken then, in 2010, acquired Theo Vervloet’s shareholding when he retired, with a commitment that the beers would continue to only be brewed in Belgium until 2031.
Affligem is, to my knowledge, currently the only Abbey beer in Heineken’s stable, and as such they have been working to ‘grow the brand globally’ which is presumably why it appeared in my local supermarket, and why it’s being promoted (by Total Beverage Solutions) in the United States.
Three Affligem brews are currently produced, a blonde and a double, both brewed to 6.8% ABV, and a triple, brewed to 9%. All emphasise their ‘double fermentation’, but from what I can make out, that’s a fancy way of saying ‘bottle conditioned’, but hey, it attracts attention on the shelf.
Ah well. Let’s give it a try.
It pours a pale gold, as befits a blond beer, with a shy, pure white head that leaves fine traces of lace down the glass (this glass, incidentally is a traditional beer ‘chalice’, from ‘La Trappe’, Holland’s only Trappist brewery).
The nose is a classic Belgian Abbey beer, yeasty, bready, with subtle hints of banana, orange-peel and, maybe, bubble gum. But these are only hints, it’s not ‘in your face’ like a Witbeer.
Those hints come through more clearly in the flavour, while still subtle, in this case lurking behind a massive barley-sugar hit that tells you, in no uncertain terms, that you’re drinking something potent and Belgian.
I’ve written in the past of my scepticism regarding Abbey beers, but all in all, this is a good example of the style, and with Heineken’s backing, Affligem could quite easily become a major player in what is, to be honest, a fairly elite sector of the market.
I’ll happily give this three stars.