Belgium is the country where people from all over the world come to sample Belgian beers. Monks who produce beers: a tradition that started early middle ages and it still lives today. On 8th April, I held an online tasting dedicated to our abbey history, with tastings of Orval & Affligem.
We know that people love to hear stories about our special abbeys so we are giving our monks the attention they deserve.
1st Tasting: Affligem – Abbey Beer
A high alcoholic perfume despite of its low alcohol percentage
We started with Affligem Blond: the abbey beer in the portfolio of Alken Maes. The beer is transparent because of its use of a big scale of barley malts. Further, we took a minute to investigate their aromas which we described as yeasty, alcoholic and some fruity notes with the focus on banana perfume. A strong alcoholic aroma despite its 6.8% alcohol, which is considered a easy drinking beer in Belgium. Flavours are outstanding: from bitter notes, peach flavours until sour ending. For our food pairing, we match this sweet ale, with a sweet vanilla praline.
Outstanding to hear that this beer has almost 1000 years of history
Some people know the beer already, but the majority of the online watchers Can we now have a look at the bottle? What stands out, is the date of “1074” on the neck of the bottle. The date refers to the number one abbey in Belgium where brew activities started. There were 8 knights that all became a monk. Deciding to live in an abbey asks to follow an order and a high chance to offer a high hospitality. Affligem chose to follow the St Benedictus order. In that way, they needed to provide food & drinks for their guests, and as the water was full of pollution, brewing beers was the safest solution. From then, brewing became a never-ending passion that is transferred to the next generation.
Germans are again a pioneer in the beer history
Wondering now which abbey was brewing beers before Affligem monastery? After a small research, we end up in Germany Bayern, which is the pioneer region for beer. Weihenstephan Abbey is the answer we’re looking for. The site was claimed as a brewery in 1040.
Fermentation in the bottle declares the quality
Time to analyse the label. It says Fermentation in the bottle: this may be an attribute that will be repeated several times during our tastings, but it’s a huge thing. Without this second fermentation, or better bottle-fermentation, we would not have enough CO2 in our beer and second, it’s a guarantee to have a correctly aging of the beer. To finish, we notice that the bottle only contains 30cl. That’s quite a special way how to gain more profits as we bottle all our Belgian beers in 33cl.
2st Tasting: Orval – Trappist Beer
Sweet, sour and bitter flavour all in one
We were looking forward to that moment, to sample this delicious Orval. In general, this amber beer claims already a high popularity thanks to its distinguished flavour. Let us tell you why!
First, we noticed a bitter aroma as the last brewing step was a dry-hopping, where hops have been added just before bottling. Second, there are some sour notes which you can remark in the back of your mouth. Orval uses yeast which has not been controlled in any lab so this yeast is a 100% organic ingredient. The only region we are producing this yeast is Brussels, so Orval purchases that wild yeast called Bretta Bruxellensis. If this is all too complicated for you to understand, we promise you we explain this more detailed in our tours, if wanted. To enhance the tasting, we matched this beer with a delicious speculoos chocolate of Ghent’s chocolate store Daskalides.
Orval beer: a key of our Belgian beer fame
Yes, also here the abbey is a main thing, as the first sources of brews were in hands of Monks. They followed the Cistercians order, and the incredible news is that this beer is until today in hands of Monks, saying no commercial activities. Following these criteria, titles the beer as a Trappist beer. Affligem receives the title Abbey beer as they are nowadays part of a commercial enterprise.
They launched the beer in 1931 and was the first Trappist beer sold in the entire Belgium. Only a few years later, the famous beer writer Michael Jackson awarded the beer as the best Belgian appetizer he ever drunk: their beer success was born!
Looks like this beer is exclusive!
Yes, is it! It’s not only one of the oldest Belgian beers, but it also became very exclusive. Its distinct flavour declares the popularity of the beer. Aromas of peaches, followed by a sour taste ending with a bitter aftertaste is really different, so we can not even compare this beer with any other! They are not planning to increase their capacity so a lot of bars don’t have the guarantee to be delivered with their beer. But some bars can not live with this situation so Orval needed to take actions to see how to satisfy these clients. But unfortunately, time was over as we were approaching the 1H recording. So we promised our watchers to talk about this Orval shortage in our next session. One more thing that we ask you to prepare: Have you any idea why Orval has two different dates on their label?
Curious to your answer!
See you next week for our next Virtual Tasting!