Giants? I mean the brewers; ABInev and Heineken, the world’s biggest and third biggest, respectively.
Affligem beers are listed as a global brand in Heineken’s portfolio (alongside Heineken, Amstel, Sol and Desperados), whereas Leffe belongs to AbInbev’s international brand list (together with Becks and Hoegaarden; the global brands are American Budweiser; Corona Extra and Stella Artois).
I mention the other brands as a point of reference; all drinkable beers and big sellers but all a long way short of world class.
So, what about the two Belgian Abbey beers? I’ve decided to pitch the blonde versions against each other.
Both beers look good in the glass with a lovely golden amber colour and a reasonable head, which lasted a bit longer on the Leffe.
The Affligem certainly won out on the aroma; yeasty fresh bread up front together with touches of spice banana and honey. Naturally enough similar with Leffe but not so complex and balanced.
The taste only enhanced this initial impression: The Affligem was smooth, soft with very pleasant citrus, honey and banana undertones, these quickly followed by a light bitterness , a hint of peppery spice and vanilla. The finish brought everything perfectly back together without leaving a sweet aftertaste.
The Leffe just couldn’t match up; at the start it was just as smooth but the sweetness seemed to continually win the battle with the other tastes. The same applied to the finish; whereas the Affligem seemed to be heading towards a dryness the Leffe never let go of its residual sweetness.
The alcohol vol. of 6.8% for the Affligem and 6.6% for the Leffe did its job equally well providing a warming but not too strong backbone to the beers.
It’s an easy win for the Affligem; it’s remained true to its type, being unfiltered, which allows the yeast tastes to further develop. It can stand amongst the best, whereas the Leffe is a sanitised (and filtered) version.
If you’re new to Belgian beer you’ll find everything in the Leffe beer and enjoy it; use it as an introduction or look for a bar that sells Heineken; it’s quite likely they’ll also have bottles of Affligem.
Happy beer drinking!