12 Beers of Christmas – Day 5: Affligem Noël Christmas Ale

Affligem Noël label.On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

A Belgian Christmas beer called Noël from Brouwerij Affligem. Of all the Christmas beers available during the holiday season, the Noël beers happen to be one of my favorites. They have many of the characteristics of Belgian ales I really enjoy, like a complex and layered profile that changes as the beer changes temperature. These beers, in my opinion, are a true joy to drink.

Brouwerij Affligem got its start as the Op-Ale Brewery from Opwijk, Belgium. They were contracted by Affligem Abbey to brew beers under the Affligem Abbey brand. In addition to the Op-Ale and Affligem brands, Brouwerij Affligem also produces Belgian ales under the Postel Abbey brand.

What really surprised me about Brouwerij Affligem was that they’re actually a Heineken company. As a craft beer blogger, I tend to rally against drinking corporate but it would seem an inevitable eventuality that many of the imports I enjoy may end up as just another piece in a super brewery’s portfolio. It wasn’t until after Op-Ale Brewery was taken over by Heineken did they change their name to Brouwerij Affligem. This would also explain the very slick, Flash-based website uncharacteristic of many other Belgian breweries.

NoëlBrouwerij Affligem, 9% ABV

Affligem Noël in a glass.

Brilliantly clear brown-ish red color with a beige/tan head. Soft alcohol aroma, spicy yeasty phenolics remind me of black pepper, with an undiscernable fruit character, almost like a toasty orange peel. Hmm… I’m also getting a little plastic-y aromas. Not good. The flavor is malty, toasty, with some kettle caramelization. There’s a very light plum fruitiness and citrus character as well. Hop bitterness seems to be low/medium-low. Body is medium-low/medium with medium-low carbonation and a slightly dry finish. The alcohol starts to get more noticeable as the beer warms up. – Peter

Brian checking out the color on the Affligem Noël.Pours a large tan head from ample carbonation. Beautiful, deep amber with honey-like highlights. Aroma is quite subtle, yet complex with a clean, Munich-like malt with a distinct nuttiness, but sweeter than a typical German lager. Some light sweet orange peel with hints of cinnamon. Hints of pepper underneath. The orange comes through in the flavor followed by a toasty malt that lasts into the finish. Finishes with hints of cinnamon and light pepper and is semi-dry with a viscosity from the alcohol. Warming and smooth with a prickly carbonation. – Brian

Jason taking notes on the Affligem Noël.

Very clear amberish red color with thin off white/tan head with light lacing and nice carbonation. Slight alcohol aroma with nutty and citrus notes. The flavor is malty caramel with some citrus notes as well as nuttiness and pepper. The alcohol started to become more present as the beer warmed up, but not overly hot. The beer had a dry and clean finish which i really enjoyed. I found these characteristics to be reminiscent of a Lager, and had a lagerish aftertaste, possibly coming from the malt, yet again this wasn’t a negative at all. Overall a very nice beer. – Jason

Affligem Noël in a glass. Check out the color.

I remember having this beer almost a year ago from La Trappe Cafe up in San Francisco. I recall the beer having a bit more complexity then when compared to now. Part of me wants to blame this on Heineken but I should know better. The beer probably did change character but not because Heineken had anything to say about it. Factors such as freshness, transportation, temperature, storage and an increasingly failing memory (on my part. Don’t get old!) have a greater effect on the beer than any merger or acquisition. That being said, this was still an enjoyable beer and I’m still a fan.

If you’ve had this beer, or any of the other Brouwerij Affligem beers, I’d love to hear about it. I’d also be curious to hear about any news regarding when Op-Ale Brewery was assimilated by Heineken. Amazing what a little bit of research can pull up.

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