Affligem Blonde

1 09 2011

 Affligem Blonde is a classic example of an authentic Belgian Abbey beer. Brewed since the 12th century and now produced by Affligem Brewery under licence from the Benedictine monks.

 I first came across Afligem in Belgoes in London when I had several bottles to accompany a very nice, relaxed lunch last Summer.

 Now any regular readers, I assume I have at least one, will know that I am rather partial to a nice Belgian beer and Affligem certainly ticks that box.

 I wouldn’t say it is the best Abbey beer that I have ever had but it is far from being the worst and with a fairly middle of the road abv, 6.70 %, is great for those Summer afternoon sessions in the back garden.

So lets have a look  shall we?

The beer pours with a decent off white head, about 3 or 4 fingers, which last well and creates a nice contrast with the clear, golden body of the ale.

As is usual with Belgian beers there are plenty of aromas vying for your attention; there are strong hints of  tropical fruit, cinnamon, there is a light hoppiness that comes through along with with some floral elements and a big punch of spicy yeast… all in all so far so good!

Flavours are well balanced and light across the board, you can pick up pretty much everything that was present in the nose along with some green apples and what tasted surprisingly like coriander.

The beer has a great mouthfeel to it with a some really nice tight carbonation, not unlike a Champagne.  Affligem starts slightly sweet and finishes on a nice dry note that is really quite refreshing.

I find that Affligem has a slightly cleaner taste to it than a lot of the heavier Belgian beers and this coupled with it’s relatively low abv mean that whilst it isn’t one of the stand out Belgians it is a very capable example and is actually better suited to being consumed in larger volumes.

4/5





Duvel double pack

17 07 2011

A few weeks back I wrote about the Maredsous and Chimay triple packs that have recently reappeared in our local off licence.

Well hot on their tasty little heels is a new arrival; the Duvel double pack with glass goblet…

 

The glass is great… odd as it sounds to say that it really is, anyone who hasn’t tried Duvel from one of these chalices/goblets is really missing out, the flavours open up a lot and a beer that is already great becomes truly excellent -you can read my review of Duvel here.

The price on this was particularly good, I paid €6.25 which seems like a little bit of a steal when you work out that each bottle of Duvel by itself is €3.80 and that last time the goblets were in stock they wanted a whopping €7.50 for them





Chimay triple pack with Chalice

29 06 2011

Yesterday I wrote at some length about the Maredsous taster packs that you can pick up; well hot on its heels we have another 3 pack this time from the Chimay brewery and they have packaged their beers with this rather fetching chalice:

As already mentioned there are 3 bottles included in the pack all are 33cl in size and there is one each of the Chimay Red – 7%  Tripel  – 8% and Bleue – 9%.

Like the Maredsous pack this would make a great gift for a beer fan or would serve as an excellent introduction to Trappist beers.

In our local off licence the price is €9.99 and represents a saving of €6.48 over buying the beers and the glass separately, not to be sniffed at in these recessionary times.





Maredsous taster pack with glass

28 06 2011

Being the kind chap that I am I thought I would bring to your attention an offer I stumbled upon in my local off licence the other night.

They are selling a “Taster pack” of 3 bottles of Maredsous packaged with an attractive branded glass.

Now personally I am a sucker for beer related glassware and can regularly be seen poncing around with my oversized Chimay chalice or some other piece of promotional tat but fancy glasses aside these packs represent both great value for money and a great introduction for anyone not familiar with Maredsous.

The pack contains 3 x 33cl bottles, one each of the Blond – 6%, Bruin – 8% and Tripel – 10% all of which are great examples of Abbey beers and are cracking beers in their own rights.

I also mentioned that these packs are often good value for money; in my particular off licence each individual bottle of beer would set you back  €2.80 and glasses – when they have them, are normally a fiver so that would be a grand total of €13.40. 

Now this taster pack is selling here at €9.99  so that is a massive saving of €3.41 or in real terms the difference between me going home with 3 bottles of Maredsous and a glass or me going home with  3 bottles of Maredsous, a glass, a bottle of Fullers 1845 and a packet of scampi fries.

Not that I advocate the eating of scampi fries.





Hoegaarden Witbier 4.9%

9 06 2011

It has been a while since my last beer review but rest assured I haven’t been resting on my laurels sipping water, far from it, in fact I have been quaffing a ridiculous number of beers covering the whole spectrum; the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

So without further ado I give you today’s offering:

Hoegaarden may not be the most adventurous or hard to find of the beers I have/will reviewed but it a far cry from most of the mass-produced tat you are likely to find being pumped out down your local and as such is well deserving of my time.

Hoegaarden is a Belgian Witbier  that has been around in one guise or another for a damn long time…it has been brewed in the village of Hoegaarden since 1445  to be precise.

The modern incarnation of this venerable beer came about in 1965 when Belgian milkman Pierre Celis recreated the traditional recipe in his hayloft following the closure of the last commercial brewery in Hoegaarden some ten years previous.

Now what a recipe it is;  water, yeast, wheat, hops, coriander and dried Curaçao orange peel.  Not quite what you get in your dull old Heineken!

Now as the sharp-eyed amongst you might have spotted from the picture this is a slightly cloudy pale beer with a good-sized white head that lasts reasonably well with plenty of lacing.

The aroma of the beer is great there are hints of citrus, freshly mown grass, a slight hint of yeastiness rather like freshly  baked bread  and a hunt of spice… a good start.

On drinking the beer there is a big burst of flavour right up front, cloves, coriander and citrus pretty much explode into your taste buds with a background fruitiness not dissimilar to banana and a slight touch of pepper.

This really is a great tasting beer and as much as there are a lot of seemingly strong flavours they are balance out well and there isn’t anything that ever threatens to overwhelm.

In short a really, really good beer.

4.5





Duvel

3 12 2010

 So as to prove that I’m not some xenophobic “little Englander” I have decided to turn my attentions to the unsuspecting nation of Belgium.

 In particular I have in my sights their very good, indeed often excellent, selection of beers. I am starting with Duvel for no other reason than my own personal love of the stuff, even if too many bottles do result in the mother of all headaches.

 So where to begin, well Duvel is as I say a Belgian beer but it took its original inspiration from English ale of all things.

After WW1 English ales were getting fairly popular in Belgium and Moortgat decided to get in on the act so off they popped to Scotland and got their hands on some yeast and the rest is history…

I have seen Duvel listed as a Belgian Strong Pale Ale and this is probably the closest you will get to pinning a label on it, one thing is for certain at 8.5% it sure is strong, I have known more than one person snort at the diminutive 330ml bottle and knock it back only to find that it has knocked them out for the count – there is a reason it is called the Devil after all.

The aroma of Duvel is rather interesting you get strong citrus notes, some cider like apple, a bit of hay/grass and a strong clean alcohol element that comes through.

Normally I couldn’t give a rat’s arse about the branded glasses that breweries knock out seeing them as a nice little collectible but nothing more, not so this time. 

To really enjoy Duvel at it’s best you need to get your hands on the correct glass, it is the perfect size for starters allowing you to pour the whole bottle in with ample room for the impressive frothy white head; not only that the embossed D on the base of the glass helps create effervescence which aids that head in sticking around. As if that wasn’t enough of a reason the rounded glass helps fully release the flavour and aroma of the beer.

In terms of looks the beer is a lovely clear golden colour that could almost be mistaken for a lager, the carbonation is clearly visible (aided by that aforementioned D) and the pure white head stands tall and lasts throughout with impressive lacing.

The taste of Duvel is to die for; the malt is clean and crisp and lasts from beginning to end, the alcohol is warming and combines with the bitterness of the hops to give a refreshing dry finish that leaves you begging for another sip. There  are hints of pepper and a really pleasant earthiness that are present throughout along with the same citrus notes that you can pick up in the aroma.

There really isn’t a single thing that I can fault about Duvel and trust me I can normally pick holes in anything and everything, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is the absolute best beer in the world but it damn close

5/5





Belgo Centraal

14 05 2010

I am still trying to work through my slightly incoherent notes from my recent trip back home to London, this isn’t proving to be the easiest task as a lot of my latter notes are affected by the copious amounts of beer that were being consumed.

However I did stumble across one sheet of paper on which I had simply written the word Belgos and drawn and very amateurish trappist monk getting chased by a mussel.

This childish drawing was actually surpsingly helpful as notes go, it encapsulates a lot of what Belgo is about.

Mussels, Belgium and Beer – lots of beer,  absurd amounts of beer.

Let me start at the beginning, Belgo is a chain of Belgian restaurants with several locations  throughout the capital, Centraal is on Earlham Street in Covent Garden and is just over the road from Neal’s Yard.

You walk into the restaurant at ground level and it is a little bit like entering an industrial inspired nightclub, lots of steel walk ways and warning stips lead you towards a greeter who announces your arrival and how many guests there are through a large walky talky.

If you look down and to your right you are actually over the kitchen and can see a brigade of chefs beavering away busily.

The dining area is downstairs and the first thing you notice is that all of the serving and bar staff are dressed like trappist monks…

The star of the show in terms of food has to be the moule et frites, they do several different selections of mussles however for me it has to be the classic Moule Mariniere, you can even get a 1 kilo pot of mussels for a very reasonable 12 quid!

The rest of the food is also excellent with wild boar sausages with stoemp another favourite of mine.

But of course I don’t just come here for the food, Belgo has one of if not the best beer list of more or less any restaurant in London.

Whilst they might not have my usual choice of cask ale this is one occasional where I just don’t care!

There are proper lagers, there are blonde beers, there are wheat beers, there are a range of fruit beers to die for, there are trappist beers, there are abbey beers, they even have the mighty 11.5%  Deus Brut des Flandres at a whopping £32.95 for a 75cl bottle.

It’s a little bit like dying and finding out that heaven has great beer on tap and a never ending supply of mussels.

It isn’t the worlds greatest or poshest restaurant, hell it doesnt even come close but the food is very good (reasonable too) and the beers are to die for.

If you like food and beer then visit.





Welcome to the world…of Warcraft

24 03 2010

Well after a two year break away from the digital crack that is WOW it looks like I am headed straight back into the most popular MMORPG known to man.

My reasons for leaving WOW in the first place are numerous; from the packs of annoying 12 year olds playing with Mum and Dad’s Mastercard through to the annoying gits corpse camping everywhere they can in order to gank noobs. To cut a long story short I vowed never to return and promptly threw myself into LOTRO (Lord of the Rings Online) with great gusto.

But times change and people change; my High Elf Guardian is now level 65, Moria has been thoroughly stomped into submission and Mirkwood has been torn a new one, in short I’m bored.

The Kinship that I helped start has matured to a point whereby it doesn’t need the constant fussing and maintenance anymore, the endless stream of new players looking for someone to run them through instances or join their group to help twink them has dried up to the occasional trickle.

So like an addict looking for his next fix I have been trying out everything and anything I can get my hands on; Baldurs Gate I & II, Never Winter Nights, Oblivion, Fable II and Spellforce I&II all have been chewed up and spat out again as I try to find something to fill the bottomless RPG void in my life. Likewise I have dabbled with some harder stuff; Perfect World International , Age of Conan and Dungeons and Dragons online, but none of them have managed to hold my attention for more than a few fleeting hours.

So what is it about WOW that sets it apart from the competition, there are certainly other games that are very enjoyable and equally immersive;  LOTRO is one game that springs instantly to mind.

I guess there are as many views on why WOW is top dog as there are players, but for me I think it isn’t one big thing that sets it apart, it’s a collection of many smaller things.

I think that unlike many other MMOs that are out there WOW has got the mix just right, for the avid PVPer there are whole servers set aside where you gank people to your hearts content, for the more player that doesn’t always want to be risking certain (virtual) death at the hands of a superhuman  Korean there are still designated places where you can melt faces and for those of us that would rather not vanquish our fellow players there is insane amounts of PVE content that mean you need never set foot in an area or battleground.

The classes are well worked out and by this stage in the game they all  feel more or less “right” there isn’t anyone class that is desperately in need of being tweaked to make it more powerful or toned down to make things fairer on everyone else, if I compare this to other games it is a vastly different situation; for a long while in LOTRO the Hunter class was basically a death dealing demon from the skies, yes it was squishy if you got in close, verrry squishy but that didn’t matter, the mobs were dead before they realised they were in a fight.

Sure it was corrected eventually but in the meanwhile things just felt a tad unbalanced, no slight on Turbine; they have done a fine job of turning the works of Tolkien into a very playable MMO, but at the same time I can’t imagine Blizzard taking as long to react, too many people would complain.

Maybe this brings me to the key point here, WOW is quite simply huge, not just in terms of the amount of content (which is monsterous) or the areas there are to explore (which are vast) but also in terms of the sheer number of players; last time I looked there are over 12 million of the buggers, to put this into context that more people then there are in Belgium (WOW is more exciting than Belgium as well).

When you have that many players all paying there monthly fees you are talking about a lot of pounds, shillings and pence each month, if you DON’T stay on top of your game you are shafted, if keeping 12 million people happy means that you take just an extra little bit of care with things, or pay just that extra 5% extra attention to detail, than that is a small price to pay! Plus when 12 million people talk you have to listen.

If you are running a MMO and have an in game population of say 300,000 if you do something that 2% of people don’t like you get 6000 complaints, if you dont act on that you might lose half of those people that complained so you might lose 3000 people.If Blizzard manage to piss of 2% of their in game population thats 240, 000 disgruntled customers, thats a figure that some games would bend over backwards to have as their entire subscription base.

So maybe thats why WOW is the best, maybe not at everything all of the time, but certainly overall.

They are the best because they have to be, 12 million payments of $14,99 a month say they have to be.

As for me going back maybe the biggest factor is that my girlfriend has finally said I can…








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