Add Affligem Blond Ale to the list
I didn't mean to like Affligem Blond. I already have a lengthy list of absolute, “this one is really the one” favorite beers. A list that is utterly dominated by tiny little Belgium. I grabbed a six pack I never heard of, thinking that this unassuming little Belgian surely must be one of their merely decent beers. None of my favorites would be at risk of being knocked down a peg. I was even hoping the next few absolute favorite beers I discover would be from somewhere, anywhere, other than Belgium, just to even things out a bit. I just wanted a nice, quiet, simple beer I could wile away the evening with, and not even think about lists. Unfortunately, Affligem is yet another fabulous Belgian beer. My list has grown by another.
It looks like honey in a glass. Honey with an exceptionally large, dense head. It holds up well, then fades to lacing, just like a great head should. It has a floral aroma, but there are also some cloves and a bit of pepper to spice it up. After it rests, a little apple begins to come out, and you get a touch of the honey that will be even more pronounced in the flavor. Without even tasting it, I knew it was going to be hard not to like this one.
The bottle claims that this beer is originally from an abbey that started serving beer to pilgrims in 1129. These pilgrims obviously didn't have it as bad as I was led to believe. Practice has made it perfect. Affligem Blond is as balanced as beer gets. It is dry, crisp and biting with a touch of lemony citrus underneath. But a big dollop of honey evens everything right out, somehow, without making it overly sweet. The medium body seems lighter because of a heavy dose of carbonation. Just the slightest hint of the 6.8 percent alcohol peeks out, but the beer stays smooth and creamy to the end. With every sip, some other new, faint flavor just barely slips past the tastebuds. This is what a complex beer should taste like. It's not over the top. No flavors are pounding on your tongue. They're not in competition, they flit in and out naturally. You want to keep sipping away to nail down exactly what you're tasting, but the glass is empty before you do.
This beer would be great any time, but it just seems like a perfect spring beer. It has enough backbone to ward off the odd cool draft, but it is a great thirst quencher once things warm up. They go down very easily, and they're interesting enough that you'll want several. But, as good as they are alone, they're even better with food. These blonds will go with anything. From a simple sandwich to the most elaborate meal, Affligem will make everything taste even better. It would be harder to find something that doesn't pair with this beer. Other than cauliflower, which pairs with nothing, not a single example springs to mind.
There is nothing I don't like about Affligem Blond. I don't have a single negative thing to say. It's just quality, and everything a great beer should be. There may be times when the mood just calls for something other than a blond ale. There are even one or two other blonds out there that I would probably still prefer. Not that those are necessarily better, it's just a personal preference. For one thing, Affligem isn't the easiest to find. I'd certainly reach for it more often if it were more readily available. It might not even quite make the top five of my “this is really the one” list of beers. It's very close, though. Affligem is just another outstanding beer from the best beer brewing country on earth. Their greatness is almost boring.