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Writing a review of Duvel is a bit like reviewing Guinness; it’s such an iconic beer, reviews are almost pointless. But this is where my analogy breaks down. While Guinness is probably the world’s most well-known stout, it’s not necessarily the best—especially if you are drinking it far from its native Dublin, in, say, New York State. But I digress. What I was getting at is that providing tasting notes on Duvel—quite arguably the standard by which all Belgian-style golden ales could and should be measured—is almost ridiculous. Except that we promised you a series of beers that are, or should be legendary, and Duvel most certainly fits the bill.
†While the Moortgat brewery farm has been in operation since 1871, producing top-fermenting beers that were, apparently, quite good, the classic brew for which they are best known didn’t come into existence until 1918. †The new beer, fermented with yeast cultured from an English ale strain, was at first called Victory Ale, to celebrate the end of the Great War. According to the Duvel Moortgat website, Victory Ale received its new name when a local shoemaker †“exclaimed: This is a real Duvel,” which, of course, means Devil. Since 1923, that is what this delicious golden strong ale has been called.
About the glass: If you get the 750ml bottle—the first size we tried, but not pictured here—the label says things about how it took them 90 days to make the beer, and you should really pour it a certain way, into one of their special Duvel glasses. Since they were the ones who developed the tulip beer glass in the 1960s, “specifically designed to offer a more complete experience of the beer,” etc., etc., I guess it’s only fair that they practically demand you drink the beer out of the right glass. I did find it somewhat amusing, though. But, in deference to the Belgian-ness of the ale, we got a four-pack of affordable, nondescript Belgian beer glasses to drink that first bottle out of.
And then, we joined a home brewing club, where a bunch of the people were carrying around 5 oz. Duvel snifters as their tasting glasses, and I confess, I totally got glass envy. Then Christmas time rolled around, and AJ’s Beer Warehouse—one of the best things about this area—had gift packs of four 330ml (11.2 oz.) bottles along with a full-sized Duvel art glass, at a ridiculously good price. So we got one. The glass pictured here is titled “Gilded Age of Beer” by Jono, who won the *“2012 US Duvel Collection Design Contest.” Oh, did I forget to warn you that we’re also sort of glassware nerds over here? Well, now you know.
Right. Now that I’ve made you wade through a glass story—I promise, it’s the only one I’ve got, for now—let’s get to the actual beer.
Pour/Appearance: (Ben) Golden, perfectly clear (or not depending on your pour). Pours with a beautiful thick head.
(Meagan) Pours a beautiful, clear gold with a fluffy, pillowy head.
Nose: (Ben) Alcohol, apple, peppercorn, yeast.
(Meagan) The nose has that characteristic Belgian yeast tang, which is kind of funny considering their yeast strain was originally an English ale of some type.
Taste: (Ben) Clean, pale malt, Belgian yeast, effervescent clean perfection.
(Meagan) This strong—8.5% ABV—Belgian ale gets 100 from the BeerAdvocate Bros, and pretty darn close to that from everyone else, with good reason. The flavor is light, delicious and surprisingly dry, for all the fruity notes. Simply, Duvel is what other Belgian-style ales wish they were.
Mouthfeel/Body: (Ben) Thin and clean.
Overall: (Ben) Initially I did not expect this level of clean, delicious malty perfection. The peppery bite and light Belgian flavor were nothing at all of what I was used to from farmhouse ales, flemish beers and sours. I’m not a fan of run-of-the-mill sours; if we’re talking Duchesse de Bourgogne or Geuze Boon (or Doug Brainerd’s framboise), then heck yeah, I’ll drink ’em. But generally, I hate sours. This is not one of those.
If you are a noob to real Belgians, this would be a great intro. If you aren’t, but haven’t had this beer, definitely get some. And if you’ve had it before, hopefully this will make you a mite thirsty.
Would I buy it? Oh yes. Many times. AJ’s has a decent price on it, too.
Would I brew it? It’s on the list, but I don’t think I can do this one without a LOT of practice.
*”Duvel Artist Collection Glass: Gilded Age of Beer – Beer Dabbler Store.” The Beer Dabbler Store.
“Duvel | Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat NV | Breendonk-Puurs, Belgium.” BeerAdvocate.
Miller, Jeff. “Duvel, The Big Bottle.” Drinking Made Easy. InZane Entertainment, 15 Jul 2011. Web. 21 Dec. 2014.