Thursday, January 28, 2010

Belgian Beer Review 6: Duvel

Duvel--a return to another old favorite. This bottle was actually the fourth in a Duvel beer/glassware package that my wife and kids gave me at Christmas (prompted by me teaching my 3 yr old to say, "Duvel glasses at the beer store" whenever he was asked what to get Daddy for Christmas). The other three bottles didn't make it to see 2009, but I set one aside for this project.

According to popular lore, Duvel (pronounced "Doov'l" or "DOO-vulh" in Belgium and "Du-velle" in most of the US) has been brewed by the Moortgat family since the early 20th century, originally brewed as a Victory Ale to commemorate the end of WWI. However, when one local shoemaker remarked that it was a true Devil ("nen echten duvel"), the name stuck. Quite the contrast from the heavenly Trappist ales.

Brewery: Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat
Brewery Location: Belgium
Beer: Duvel
BJCP Style:
18D. Belgian Golden Strong Ale
Serving: Bottle

Appearance: As you can see from the photo, an enormous white, bulbous head. The shape of the glass actually contributes, as does the etched "D" at the glass's bottom. The beer itself is golden straw, clear, with tiny carbonation bubbles gliding up the sides of the glass.

Smell: sweet, exotic nose produced from the phenolics given off by the quirky Belgian yeast. Hints of spring and early summer fruits--apples and pears, with some spiciness adding an extra kick. Surprisingly low alcohol in the nose, given the 8.5% abv.

Taste: I've always had trouble nailing down the taste of certain Belgian beers, other than to say, "It tastes like a Belgian." There is a spice character and some of the same fruit characters described in the nose, although I can't isolate a single specific fruit or spice. It's a suggestion that never actually resolves itself into an exemplar of a specific taste. Consulting the BJCP guidelines, which talk of fruits, spice, and alcohol, but again, merely as suggestions of such flavors, I realize I'm not the only one having trouble describing this unique flavor.

Also worth noting some oxidation, with the tell-tale hint of cardboard, in the finish. Although this beer is capable of aging beautifully, this bottle might have been better fresher.

Mouthfeel: Abundant carbonation, as suggested by the huge fluffy cloud of bubbles in the photo. The glassware itself, with the etched "D" inscribed in the bottom the the glass, helps to release the carbonation, heightening the effect.

Drinkability: Duvel has long been a favorite of mine--strong, assertive, yet easy to drink. An attractive beer and the first of the Belgian Golden Strong Ale style. Complex enough for jaded reviewers like myself, yet accessible for the first-timer.

Additionally, Duvel accompanies food very well. I paired it with ham, sweet potatoes and stuffed mushrooms for this tasting, but my favorite pairing actually involves a Duvel-mustard marinade (thanks for Andreea at the Belgian Beers blog for the recipe).

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