I'm drinking with an old friend tonight: Affligem Noël. I remember drinking Affligem a lot back in the early 1990s; it was a solid abbey-style beer, and the Noël was a seasonal I looked forward to each year. Then Heineken bought the brand, and distribution/import got iffsy-chancey. Affligem came and went, and it dropped off my radar.
Then a month ago I got an e-mail: Affligem Noël was available from a new importer, Total Beverage Solution (Mount Pleasant, SC). Would I like a sample? Hell yes, I would. (Interesting that it's not coming in through Heineken USA, which makes me wonder if it is still a Heineken brand; I'm working on that.)
So here I am, finishing up a beer that has just gotten better and better as it warms up. 9%, and my lips agree: this is a big boy beer. The nose is full of a pleasantly sweet-tart mix of pit fruit -- plum, sour cherry -- and a dark chocolate background. The beer itself matches that, with an intensely fizzy carbonation that is not unpleasant at all. What surprises me is the degree of attenuation; if you don't like Chimay Red/Blue for their sweet thickness, this is your beer. The Noël has a very light and drinkable body for that 9% ABV, and the fruit really cleans up the end.
Welcome back, Affligem. I guess I didn't realize how much I missed you until you came back.