The Twelve Beers of Christmas series continues with a taste of Affligem Noël Christmas Ale, a sweet and spicy Belgian strong ale from a historic brewery. At a potent 9 percent a.b.v., Noël is mighty huge, compared to the more standard-strength domestic winter beers.
Affligem is one of only a few traditional monastic breweries in the province of Flemish Brabant. Monks have lived, worked, and brewed ales there since the 11th century. They're known best for their traditional abbey ales — a relatively light Blond, a pale and deceptively drinkable Tripel, and a dark and malty Dubbel.
Affligem's handsome Noël comes in a corked 750ml bottle and pours thick with copper/amber color and a rich, soft carbonation. The label doesn't admit which dried fruits, herbs, or spices might have been added to the brew, but hints of cinnamon, clove, raisins, walnuts, and ginger blend in the estery aroma. Full-bodied and well-conditioned, this sweet, malty, wine-like ale has hardly any hop flavor or aroma.
I enjoyed a small glass of Noël with a snack of teriyaki beef jerky and crostini on Christmas night. It's so rich and sweet, it could probably serve as a dessert course on its own.