Back in 2000 Heineken bought half of the shares of the brewer, De Smedt, which started operations in 1790. This little brewery was renamed as key to the purchase was De Smedts license to the abbey ales of the monks of Affligem, who trace their history and brewing back to an original founding in 1074 or 1086 by Benedictine monks. Or maybe just 1574.
Anyway, since 1980 in Europe and since 2000 in North America, Affligem beers have floated around the edges of the big brewer's portfolio showing up recently in places - like the LCBO - that you really would not expect to find a range of decent Beligian brews. By the way, they are abbey beers and not trappist as they are no longer in the control of the monks. A neat distinction but do they deserve the same title if neatly slotted in the vest pocket of a macro-national like Heineken? I leave that to you...and you...but not you.
- Triple: Mmmm...nothing like a hot boozey bomb of a triple on a stinking hot summer evening. Did I mention it is stinking hot in these parts these day? Well it is. This beer pours a cloudy orange straw under one of the most attractive rocky mousse heads I have ever seen. On the nose there is candy, alcohol and malt. For a triple, compared to past reviews of the style, this is pretty approachable even if 8.5% due to its malty richness. Here is a handy summary of the style. There is plenty of fruit - cherry, autumn apple and light raisin - as well as burlappy old hop and yeast melding with the heat with a nice little green note at the end. 100% of BAers approve.
- Dubbel: This beer pours a lovely mocha thick foam and rim over chestnut ale. Again, there is that rich burlap mix of aged hop and the sub-spiced yeast that sets the structure for the malt. Like the triple, there is apple but also deeper tastes of dried like fig and date - as well as maybe cranberry with the tang of the yeast. This complexity of fruit befits a dubbel. Come to think of it, tobacco might also be configured in the mind from elements in the fluid. This is a very approachable take on the style but not a sell-out in any respect. 1% of BAers find it not enough, demanding more...as they do...incessantly..
- Blond: Finally the blond which pours a very nice and active clouded mid-straw with a tinge of peach under pin-point white rim and foam. The same signature burlappy old hop imparting a dry mineralliness yet with plenty apple juiciness within a roundness of pale malt and a bit of a kick at 7%. Quite attractive even if as cerebral as many a Belgian brew. More BAers are unhappy - up to a full 3% of thumbs downery types. Dear oh dear. Sure, it is not the be all and end all but something has to be. For me, this is a gateway Belgian. How did you get hooked on these blue cheeses of beer anyway? Gotta start somewhere.