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.
In my opinion, over the past three years, it has been one of the best holiday beers. I look forward to it every year. It should be on tap at the Blue Ox in early December. Maybe I'll see you there!
Regarding the importation of Affligem, I'm 99% positive that it was coming in via Star Brands until 2007. Star Brands has pretty much been dissolved over the past year with Paulaner creating it's own import company for Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr. From what I can find, Heineken still has a 50% stake in the Affligem brewery also.
Lew, I have it on tap right now at the Hansell bar. That should give you an idea of how much I like the beer.
My other beer on tap? Avec Les Bon Voeux, from Dupont.
Party's at John's house!
Now I need to go seek it out again -- this was an old favorite dating back to the 90s....
FYI I've been seeing it tapped around Philly at a bunch of places. Had a glass at Jose Pistolas last night and it was freaking delicious.
I had never encountered Affligem when I discovered it in France in 2008, but ever since I moved to DC last year, I see it everywhere. I then had the Noel last month in France, but have yet to see it here in the States. It was an amazing beer and would love to find it here. So rare to find a winter beer that's not overwhelming... Loves me some Affligem!
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