Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Leffe Blond

So I'm standing there in the aisle of one of my local haunts.  Not able to make a decision.  What I'd came for is not in stock, so now I'm in a self imposed dilemma.

Not one to just shrug and reach for an old standby and trudge out of the store.  I go through a decision/rationalization process that can sometimes be lengthy.  It's a complicated process that I can't explain, and won't attempt to in this space right now.  However, after pacing up and down the aisle, and standing in front of each door panel, studying the contents inside intently, doing the mental routine I do, I finally ended up with a six pack of Leffe in my hand.

I paid for the six pack, and got in my car.  I started running through my head my previous impressions of Leffe, and what I was to expect and look forward to as I turned the ignition, backed out of my parking space and headed for home.

Leffe is by definition a Golden Belgian Abbey Ale, and is owned and produced by the conglomeration of InBev.  InBev, love 'em or hate 'em, has an impressive collection of world and craft beers in their brewing portfolio.  Say what you will though, it can't be denied they are introducing more, and better beer brands to the masses.  Some people may sniff their noses at Leffe being a "true" Abbey Ale, but this writer, for one, does not.  Abbey Ales, (not to be confused with Trappist Abbey Ales) are brewed, usually by folks of the non-monastic persuasion, either under license from a monastery, or borrowing the name from either a local religious landmark or monastery.  Some consider Leffe, an easy set of training wheels if you will into the multi-faceted world of Belgian Ales.  A stepping stone or portal into the diversity that is all things Belgian beer.

Upon arrival home, I immediately got about the business of drinking this beer.  For that was the purpose of the trip.  No?  Tearing the foil off the neck, and removing the pop top cap, the beer was poured into one of my favorite tulip glasses.  Is it the proper glass to enjoy a Leffe?  Probably not.  Do I care?  No.  I find it to be an enjoyable experience in that glassware.

The golden ale pours nicely with a beautiful golden color, and a thick chewy head that stays intact for quite some time.  I hate to sound like I'm over thinking a beer with my next statement, but damn.  I enjoy just looking at the color of a Leffe in the glass.  A nice, deep, golden color that is topped off with that high, fluffy, white head.  To me.  It looks like perfection in a glass.

On first taste, I was a little shocked.  My tongue was hit with a strong clove ester than I can remember.  It was so strong, that I actually wondered if the brewery had switched yeast profiles.  With InBev at the helm, it wouldn't surprise me if they sent a team in to "tweak" the brand a bit to either save money, or improve the product.  Each consequent sip of the golden brew seemed to confirm clove ester with a bit of uncharacteristic dryness, and I was a bit disappointed.  I wasn't expecting a Bavarian Hefeweizen in the guise of a Leffe Blond.

Some things aren't as they always seem though.  On the road to Disappointmentville, I was given a slight detour that brought me to Enjoymentville.  As the beer began to warm, and the frothy head dissipated a little, one by one new tastes began to emerge from the brew.  A little soft tone of fruit here, a bit of sugar there.  Occasionally, a little hint of spice would dart out between the sugar and fruity tones, until finally at the bottom of the glass they all seemed to come together in a wonderful meld.  It indeed became, the Leffe that I knew and once liked.  Fearing the 6.6% ABV was clouding my judgment.  I went right ahead, and poured another one.  And by the grace of the beer gods, I was treated to the exact same experience.  After the second, I decided it might be in my best interest to switch to another lighter ABV beer, and save the Leffe's for another time.

Overall, Leffe turned out to be a good experience.  As I pointed out, I don't seem to remember such a strong clove presence, but as the golden ale warmed up, the experience became a very enjoyable one.  I would recommend this beer if you were trying to introduce a friend to new and interesting beers.  It is a good starting point.  Also, this beer, for experienced craft and import drinkers, is a dependable workhorse that gives a decent Belgian Abbey Ale experience.

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