To commemorate the end of World War I, the Moortgats named their main beer Victory Ale. But during the 1920s, an avid drinker described the beer as “nen echten duvel” (a real devil in Brabantian Dutch) – perhaps in reference to its formidable alcohol content (8.5% ABV) – and the name of the beer was changed to Duvel. It has become the brewery’s flagship beer. Considered by many the definitive version of the Belgian Strong Pale Ale style, Duvel is brewed with Pilsner malt and dextrose, and hopped with Saaz hops and Styrian Goldings, the yeast still stems from the original culture of Scottish yeast bought by Albert Moortgat during a business tour of the U.K. just after World War I.
This beer is a bit of a well-known classic but still nothing is above judgement and so we sit down with open eyes and see if it stands up to its legendary status. We had this in its bottle form and so once we opened the bottle a large amount of gas was released issuing forth the aroma of the beer within. The obvious Belgian aroma is here in spades, yeasts, light malts and light fruits however there are lighter more subtle hints of grass and slight, very slight spiciness. We pour the beer, gently as described by Duvel themselves, to produce a clear golden-yellow beer with a thick white head sitting proudly atop it. This head is slow to dissipate staying with the beer almost entirely throughout the tasting process.
The flavour palate on show here is complex and intricate. Hits of light malts and citrus fruits give you blow and counter-blow of taste sensations. Backed up with yeasty breadiness, caramels and subtle hops there is a cornucopia of flavours going on here but nothing gets muddled. Everything is in its place like a well rehearsed orchestra performing at its absolute best. Grapefruit and spice trade blows expertly and, with the beers slight bitterness interacting too, this beer packs some serious quality of brewing.
Highly gassed, this beer certainly fills the mouth with a creamy luscious feeling beer. It feels luxurious to drink this, never rushed, always refined, you can feel every one of the 90 days taken to brew it sliding down your throat. Incredibly refreshing and with the slight bitter aftertaste its more than a pleasure to have another, although with its hefty 8.5% maybe not too many. The alcohol is well-balanced, never too much or too little but just perfect. Always chill to 5ºC, always pour it into a tulip shaped Duvel glass, always leave the fermenting yeast in the bottle, always enjoy. Always.
You can tell its a quality Belgian from the highly intricate taste of the yeast, something that just doesn’t seem to be replicated anywhere else in the world. I’ve had better Belgian beer, but they were truly, truly, exquisite beers of unbelievable quality, but also price. As a ‘standard’ supermarket shelf beer this is probably in the top handful around.