I recently discovered that one of my favourite Belgian beers has its own special pouring ritual – known as the Affligem Ritual.
I love a drink that comes with a bit of pomp and ceremony.
Take Absinthe for example. I once ordered it in the Pigalle area of Paris, and was presented with a beautiful blown glass fountain full of ice water, with tiny taps on the side. Glasses of Absinthe were placed underneath, a slotted spoon was rested on top, then sugarlumps, and you turned on the tap to slowly drip water through the sugar and into the glass.
That’s how you create the perfect Green Fairy and for me, the slow, ritualistic pour made an event of the drink and added to its magic. I had to get my hands on my own absinthe fountain after that.
So needless to say I got pretty excited when I realised a beer I love has its very own unique pouring tradition.
An incredible 1,000 year history
Affligem is a rich and complex beer, as is its fascinating history. Six Belgian knights-turned-monks established a monastic order in 1074 and spent the next decade building an Abbey in Affligem where they brewed beer as it was safer to drink than water.
After a harmonious few centuries, war brought turmoil and the Abbey was twice destroyed and painstakingly rebuilt. But breaking point came with World War II when German troops seized the copper kettles and production froze.
After the war an unprecedented move was made. The coveted recipe, which had been passed from brother to brother, was given to an independent brewer to preserve the brewing tradition. And today it continues to be produced in partnership with a group of monks.
The Affligem Ritual Serve
Affligem is double fermented, so once the beer is brewed, small amounts of sugar and yeast are added and the bottles rest in a warm cellar for a fortnight. That’s when the magic happens and the beautiful complex flavours are born.
When you pour Affligem it’s lovely and crisp and clear, so you give little thought to the yeast that’s clumped on the bottom of the bottle. Why would you?
But the unique ‘Rutual Serve’ forces you to take a fresh look.
Separating body from soul
For this you need not one glass, but two. The elegant Affligem chalice and its little brother, a special yeast glass.
Serving at around 7-8 degrees, you pour 90 per cent of the bottle (the ‘body’) into the main glass and preserve the last 10 per cent. Then you give the bottle a swirl and pour the ‘soul’ of the beer into the tiny yeast glass.
The body looks clear as a bell while the soul is a cloudy gold and the flavour profiles of both are distinctly different.
It’s up to you how you choose to enjoy them once you’ve poured. You can drink the soul before or after the body, or you can even pour the soul back into the body to your taste.
I couldn’t decide so I kept alternating between the two!
There’s a special premium service tray for performing the ritual. Strictly speaking I don’t suppose you need it so long as you have a big glass and a little glass, but it’s beautiful and it adds to the experience.
It comes with three slots, for the bottle in the middle and a glass each side. Each slot is etched with the Affligem logo with the sword of Saint Paul and cross keys of Saint Peter which symbolise the knightly and monastic history.
Whether you enjoy the blond, dubbel or tripel, all are double fermented so you can perform the Affligem Ritual with whichever one you choose.
Why not give it a go and experience this lovely beer with a new perspective? Here’s one of my early attempts in a video below. Enjoy!