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The Tippling Point | Waging war can be thirsty work

Started by battle-weary-knights-turned-monks, caught in the crosshairs of a war in the 1100s, and scarred again by the World Wars, Affligem abbey has a history of rising from the ashes.

May 09, 2021 / 09:32 AM IST
Affligem today; in 1074, six battle-weary knights set up an abbey here that is the source of Affligem beers.

Affligem today; in 1074, six battle-weary knights set up an abbey here that is the source of Affligem beers.

We have read enough of war-fatigued men walking away from the battlefield, shaking their heads, bitten by the bug of remorse. Asoka the Great and that notorious battle of Kalinga come to our mind first. But how many of you have ever come across the story of warriors who were tired of shedding blood, and deliberated on the feasibility of making some good beer instead? Isn't that gross!

manu-remakant-logo-the-tippling-point-logo1-R-258x258No, no, no, sorry, I missed some major links, they didn't go straight to making beer, but went to set up an abbey instead. But, you know, one thing leads to another, in those days, abbeys were an excuse for making good quality beer, as they could not function without the revenue from selling the heady stuff.

It was 1074 AD.

People still believed that our flat planet was doing the tough job of holding up the centre of the Universe. It was at that time that a group of six Belgian knights were wandering around the Continent seeking redemption from all those atrocities they committed with their blades. Now they wanted to atone for their sins, they wanted to be monks!

Soon they set up their abbey in Affligem, a Belgian municipality northwest of Brussels. Ten years later, the knights-turned-monks turned their attention to the inevitable liquid.

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Affligem Blond, Affligem Tripel, Affligem Dubbel some of the greatest varieties of beer were thus born during the Middle Ages.

But soon misfortunes struck.

In 1129, a huge fire at the abbey almost reduced it to cinders. A revival could have been possible had it not been for a war that broke out between Flanders and Brabant. Affligem was caught in the crossfire and once again the abbey was razed to the ground. But is it not true that an abbey is not set up in stones or at any place, but on the hearts of its monks? But even those hearts were spared when in 1580, the monks of Affligem abbey were sentenced to exile, thanks to the passage of the troops of William of Orange along Affligem.

But again, somehow, under the able leadership of a young surviving monk, Affligem abbey and brewery teetered back to life. It was once again thrown into turmoil during the World Wars. In dire need of copper, the German troops dismantled Affligem's brewery, halting its production. By then the abbey had already learned how to revive itself, even from ashes.

In 1950, the monks of Affligem created the Formula Antiqua Renovata - a modern adaptation of the historical recipe.

Today, if you look closely at a bottle of Affligem beer, you could see a date - 1074- the year when the abbey was founded by a group of battle-weary knights. Going by the recipe, you could make sure, what you are drinking is almost similar to what people experienced a 1,000 years ago.

The brewery, situated in Opwijk, brings out a range of beers now.

Affligem uses pale malt and caramelised malt as ingredients to lend colours that range from amber to chestnut.

A word of warning: You could see the sediment of yeast at the bottom. Usually they serve a second glass to which you can pour the yeast out. You could toss that away. But wait! Look around. You could catch people dipping their beaks into the glass of yeast too.

Well, it is after all your poison, drink it your way! Cheers!
Manu Remakant is a freelance writer who also runs a video blog — A Cup of Kavitha — introducing world poetry to Malayalis. The views expressed here are personal.

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