If you have a blog long enough, people will hit you up about all kinds of things: events, guest posts, “affordable marketing”, “long term SEO options”, and a whole bunch of other stuff that you will tend to ignore. However, I recently got an email that I didn’t ignore. It was from Affligem, a Belgian brewery that has apparently been making beer for 950 years, though I had never heard of them. They offered to send me one of their pouring kits free-of-charge. Me being the snob that I am, I am skeptical of any brand of beer that I haven’t heard of, much less one that has enough cash to send free stuff to me for my little dog-and-pony articles. But I’m not so snobby that I’d turn down a free Belgian Blond (or Blonde). Heck, most of the Belgian Blondes I’ve encountered charge by the half-hour. So, I decided to be a complete sell-out and write about their pouring kit. Street cred be damned.
I opened my package to find a large Belgian chalice, an adorable little glass, a wooden serving tray, and a bottle of their Blond. I ignored the fact that had zero verification to see if I was over 21 and decided to watch the video that explains what all this extra stuff was for. As it turns out, one is supposed to pour 90% of the beer into the big glass, then pour the remaining 10% (which has the yeast) into the little baby glass. The drinker can then decide whether to drink the beer without yeast, mix the yeast into the beer, or drink the yeast by itself. Admittedly, this gimmick is a pretty neat idea. You always hear about how you’re supposed to drink the yeast in some beers and leave it out in others, but why not have the option of both? Plus, it seems like it’s a good way to really understand what kind of flavors the yeast adds to bottle-conditioned beers. Sure, it’s not really practical to drink out of two glasses at the same time but who am I to judge? I’m drinking out of two right now (if you consider a flask and a mason jar to both be glasses, that is).
Affligem Blond is 7% ABV, and is classified as a Belgian Pale Ale. It is produced year round, and the company that produces it is owned by Heineken (which is probably why they have such a big budget and why I’ve never heard of it). And after hearing it pronounced 50 times in that video, I now know that it’s “Ah-Fleh-Ghem”, not “Ah-phlegm” like my brain kept wanting to say.
I did the whole shebang and poured the beer and yeast separately, smelled them both, tasted them both, then combined them. Here is my impression of the whole experience
Blond (sans yeast)
The Blond poured a clear deep straw color, almost like a Budweiser that is about twice as dark. It was visibly effervescent and had a rather large white head that left minimal lacing. The aroma was pretty typical of a Belgian Blond; it had a lot of banana and clove, as well as some slight citrus and other sweet spice character. The flavor followed the nose pretty closely, with banana and clove being the dominant flavors. There was some cereal flavors that reminded me of corn flakes. The 7% was very well hidden, and the carbonation level was high and left a prickly feeling on the tongue. Overall, it was kind of watered down and sort of average. Tasty, but average.
The yeast was quite a bit cloudier than the regular beer for obvious reasons. It smelled almost the same, though it was a bit more muted overall and had some nice bread character that was missing from the base beer. The taste was, as you would expect, pretty much the same though it had a bit more bitterness and less citrus. It had a lingering flavor that hung around in the mouth that reminded me of bread dough. The flavors were somewhat muted compared to the regular Blond.
This was pretty surprising – this was quite a bit different than the separated elements. It was similar to the Blond without yeast, though it had a fuller flavor and, oddly enough, a bigger perceived mouthfeel. The strong flavors of the regular Blond were there, and the added bitterness and bread flavors from the yeast added complexity. The mix was by far my favorite version of the Affligem. If you were to try this beer out of the bottle, I would recommend dumping it all in rather than excluding the yeast.
This was a mildly fun learning experience. The whole thing was pretty cute, but I wouldn’t go bang down the doors of your favorite beer shop to get your hands on the pouring kit. I guess it would be cool for a classy beer bar to have one or two of these on hand. Or, maybe you could whip it out at a tasting to show people what kind of flavors are produced by yeast. Or maybe you could show it off to someone you are trying to get in the sack. Or maybe you got it for free in the mail randomly and write a blog post about it. Whatever the case, I don’t think I’ll use it other than this one time. At the very least, I’ll use the little baby yeast glass more than anything else in the kit. It holds just about enough to get a good taste of something at a bottle share. Plus, look how stinkin’ cute it is. It’s adorable! It’s like a glass for fairies or something.
I don’t want it to sound like I’m sitting here bashing Affligem for this. In fact, I think they are doing a great job with their marketing. Almost everything about what they are doing with this pouring kit is pretty impressive. It’s just a little gimmicky, and frankly kind of faux snooty. But really, I guess my point for this whole thing is that I really love getting free stuff, especially beer. So if anyone wants to send me free beer, for the love of God get ahold of me. I might even write a stupid blog post about it.