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Chicagoist's "Beer of the Week": Leffe Blond Ale

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Mar 28, 2007 4:00PM

2007_03_botw13.jpgRemember last year when you all got your collective tights in a wad over speculation that Goose Island was being bought by Anheuser-Busch? It's nice to have some hometown pride, but in the world of brewing it's also hard to find a major beer company that isn't involved with a craft brewery in some fashion. It could be a stake in the company. It could be the use of a major beer group's distribution network to market and sell their product. But the days of a small brewery sticking with a small distributor are largely a thing of the past.

The Belgian company InBev is the largest beer conglomerate in the world. Brands included among their holdings include Stella Artois, Bass, Beck's, Hoegaarden, LaBatt, Boddingtons, Tennet's, and Leffe. Like previous "BotW" selection Affligem, there was once a time when Leffe was brewed by monks. Unfortunately for the Notre Dame de Leffe abbey, located in Belgium's southern Namur province, the combination of Mother Nature and the French Revolution didn't treat it well. A 1952 agreement between the Leffe abbey and the Lootvoet brewery revived the Leffe brand. 25 years later, Lootvoet was bought out by the Stella Artois brewery in Leuven, where all the Leffe brands have been brewed to this day.

Men of God have always been the quickest to sell out at the sign of a buck, but does that make Leffe any less of a beer because of it? Frankly, we don't care. All we know is that when we drink Leffe blond ale these days, it tastes good. It pours a bright clear golden in color, with a rich, foamy head that maintains its thickness for a long while. If this is poured stright from a refigerated state, the flavor is sharp. As it warms up, you'll pick up tha malt, possibly a little bit of yeast. Eventually, you'll notice, by the lack of cloudiness, that there's no sediment in this beer. The flavor of hops don't kick in until the finish, which is also slightly sour, reminiscent of a lambic.

Overall, Leffe is a study in contradictions. Here is a trappist-style ale brewed by a major brewery conglomerate, possibly cleaned up for the casual drinker, with flavors and tasting notes more associated with some mass produced beers. Compared to other mass-market beers on shelves and back bars, however, we find ourselves drawn to it. Anheuser Busch and Miller both dabble in smaller batches and craft beers, with varying success. It's also no secret that Blue Moon is one of Coors' best-selling brands. We tend to give InBev a pass because of the sheer depth of its name brands and the quality behind most. Leffe blond ale is a great first step into the InBev portfolio, and Chicagoist's "Beer of the Week."