Brewsday: Affligem trio, guest-starring the Christmas Spirits
Happy Holidays, everyone! We’re seven days closer to Christmas, and it’s right about this time that the season kicks into high gear and everything gets just a little more awesome. The lights are all up, the trees are getting decorated, little kids are filling their lists with an unbelievable array of items they simply cannot live without, and as adults we vicariously share their naked avarice.
But more than that, we can come to appreciate the true miracle of Christmas, steeped in rich traditions and ancient stories, told and re-told through time.
Above: Han Solo and Luke Skywalker re-create the Nativity, starring a Tauntaun as the Virgin Mary. Mmm, traditional.
Me, I love the faux-medieval trappings of Christmas. I just gobble up the choirs, the cathedral concerts and the Middle-Ages art, and most particularly the fantasy that Christmas in the 11th Century was anything remotely close to what it is now. I don’t need a deep investigation of history or an examination of tradition; I just need enablers on my quest for Christmas spirit.
Fortunately, there are scads of them around at this time of year. Because they love me, they are not only become more abundant at Christmas, they invariably come in gift pack form! Not content to peddle their tenuous connections to monasteries or stained-glass-looking labels, they go the extra mile with multiple flavor bundles — and, if you’ve been a very good boy, a novelty goblet!
Such is the case of the Affligem trio (actually a quartet but only featuring three different beers), a thirteen-dollar gift pack featuring the Blond, Dubbel and Tripel flavors.
Three sturdy brews from the Belgian Op-Ale brewery, the Affligem beers don’t come in huge portions, but offer a hearty punch: 7%, 7.5% and 8% alcohol for the Blond, Dubbel and Tripel respectively. Much as I’d like to crash through all these on my own, it’s really time that I admit I need some help.
It’s time to call in… The Christmas Spirits!
Affligem Blonde, as reviewed by The Ghost of Christmas Past
Like, I guess this is supposed to be funny, me having to talk about the Blond just because I bleach my hair from time to time. Because, yeah, that’s cutting-edge comedy. I am the Ghost of Christmas-freaking-Past, okay? The 1990s are at my fingertips, all right? I can just go back there for all the blond jokes I can handle, ‘kay? Thanks.
Anyway, while I’ve got my hair up in this towel, I might as well give this stuff a try. Here, hold my bizarre time-travel silver Christmas hoop and I’ll take a taste.
Okay, so, a few things right off the line, right? Yeah:
- You probably shouldn’t tell me on the label of your beer that it has a “surprisingly clean finish.” You shouldn’t be surprised by your own beer, right? And you probably shouldn’t be so surprised by it that you’re still feeling shock when you write the copy for the label. It’s like saying, “Hey wow, this isn’t nearly as bad as we thought, you know? It’s pretty okay! Enjoy our beer — frankly we were worried about how it would turn out, so thank God for this, right?”
- The label also says that Affligem abbey ale “is being brewed in Belgium according to an old method since 1074.” So like, I popped back to 1074 to see what the method is, and apparently it involves licensing your name to a brewery, and then selling yourself to Heineken when your brand gets strong enough. That is so like monks from the Dark Ages, I can’t even tell you.
- There’s also a neat little picture of a detached hand pouring beer into a goblet, with the advice, “Pour slowly!” It’s such important news that they translate it four times. They totally forgot to add, “Open slowly!” and “Don’t open or pour anywhere near you, because Blond will immediately fizz all over the place and drench your otherwise pristine white ghost dress!” When I am done here, I am going back in time to a) warn myself to read the label and b) haunt the shit out of some Belgians.
(sighs, rolls eyes)
But look, the beer itself is pretty good, okay? Like, when it isn’t foaming all over things it shouldn’t? Yeah, it looks very cool and properly medieval in its glass, all bright and amber and fizzy. Affligem should maybe work on being less surprised by how this beer finishes, though — it might not taste like a 7% beer, but that doesn’t mean it tastes like much at all anyway, you know?
In retrospect I guess it’s easy to be hard on this beer, with its fake-o monk branding and its Heineken bland blondness. But in the end it turned out okay, and it’s Christmas, right? ’tis the season and whatever.
So, you know. Three Ebeneezers, why not.
Affligem Dubbel, as reviewed by The Ghost of Christmas Present
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!
(roaring fire blazes and jolly music plays)
HA HA HA HA! Come! COME! Does my INTENSE EXPRESSION and CONSTANT BELLOWING LAUGHTER upset you? Do not be AFRAID! Your ABJECT HORROR is MISPLACED! For I am the SPIRIT of CHRISTMAS PRESENT!
HA HA HA HA HA HA!
You seek my thoughts on this brew of ANCESTRAL MONKS who are actually the branding of a GIANT BEER CONGLOMERATE? Of course I will help! For I represent the JOY IN ALL HEARTS, and know that in sharing drink we will SPREAD MERRIMENT to all the souls in Christendom! Plus I could REALLY USE A DRINK RIGHT NOW, to be COMPLETELY HONEST WITH YOU. This Christmas is turning out to be SOMETHING OF A BUMMER for SO MANY PEOPLE.
–uh, that is, HA HA HA HA HA! OH AM I JOLLY DON’T YOU FORGET IT! Give me that drink.
HA HA HA HA HA! This– whew, this is certainly something, isn’t it? “FRUITY AROMA and UNIQUE SPICY CHARACTER”, is that what they say? Well, I believe UNIQUE, anyway. I’ll give them that much — that and “DISTINCTIVE AFTERTASTE.” You know what else is distinctive? The SMELL under this HEAVY ROBE! HA HA HA HA HA HA! But that doesn’t mean someone should BOTTLE IT!
I will give DUBBEL BEER this much anyway: It definitely feels as though I am imbibing TWICE THE BEER at ONE TIME, so STRONG is its flavor! Its pleasing color brings THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT to my heart, as though JESUS HIMSELF knew that I was really in the MOOD FOR A DARK BEER TONIGHT. See how the foam PERSISTS! Enjoy the vivid caramel COLOR!
But now, what a CRIPPLING SIN that upon quaffing this brew I am ASSAILED and not WASSAILED! Must all these FRIGGING MICRO-BREWS smell like my wife’s TEA CUPBOARD? Must “SPICY BEER” always equate to “ODDLY FUNKY”! Truly it is a test of even the hardiest HOLIDAY CHEER to behold a beer SO BEAUTIFUL and yet SO DESPICABLE!
And yet! What WARM AND PLEASING spirit comes upon me? Is this thrilling sensation which HEATS MY TUMMY the product of some BIZARRE WITCHCRAFT? Or perhaps the HEFTY ALCOHOL CONTENT? And let’s face it: DO I CARE?
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! NO!
Oh, you FILTHY SINNER, Affligem Dubbel! You are what you are, alas, and that is a SERVICABLE DARK ALE that delivers a HEARTY KICK IN THE BALLS. I cannot spite you, but cannot fully redeem you either!
Three Ebeneezers — THAT OLD SWINE! — for you!
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!
Affligem Tripel, as reviewed by The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
(picks up beer, pours it into the black, indistinct and terrifying void where its indiscernible face surely must be)
(swirls around to face you)
(sweeps its arm up suddenly and with terrible purpose)
(extends its chalk-white, bony hand towards you)
(gives a thumbs-up)
Thank you, terrifying spirits of the holiday season, for taking time out of your eternal scared-straight program to share your thoughts with us! Our souls, palettes and livers are all the better for it!