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Beer Reviews


Brouwerij Moortgat

Style: Belgian Strong Ale

Eddie’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (World class.)

For (probably not) the last time, it’s pronounced DOO-vl.

That’s corrupted Flemish for the Devil, and also for the first highlighted brew in our international month celebration. And I don’t see any reason to not start out at the top. Duvel is brewed by the family-run Moortgat brewery in Belgium. Although the brewery dates back to 1871, the Duvel we know today was first brewed in 1970. It is the pinnacle of an evolution of beers brewed as a way to compete with the immensely popular light-colored pilsners of post-war Europe. The brewing process is hideously complex, involving a triple fermentation with two different yeast strains, and the recipe is no less exacting: Malts created for Duvel are kilned especially for Moortgat’s specifications, and the boil has three hop additions of Saaz and a specialized type of Styrian Goldings. In his book The Brewmaster’s Table, Garret Oliver says the Moortgat brewery may be the most technologically advanced in the world, which makes sense considering the freakishly intricate brewing method.

Although in color and body Duvel resembles a light lager, it is indeed an ale, and is one of the few Belgian brews that drinkers are encouraged to quaff tongue-numbingly cold … or at warmer cellar temperatures. Both serving techniques will reveal the details of the Devil in different ways, but both will be enjoyable.

All things being equal, I prefer my brews colder than warmer. So I pour the Duvel closer to freezing than cellar temp. It’s a light straw color underneath a massive pile of snow-white foam. Nothing wrong here, though: the Moortgats purposefully highly carbonate it to provide a stunning presentation in the glass. Despite the fact it’s bottle conditioned, Duvel is only barely cloudy, being an otherwise bright light gold.

The nose is citrusy esters and spicy hops, with waves of Belgian ale yeastiness—a surprisingly big, intense bouquet. The body is treacherously light—especially considering its ABV is in the 9 percent range—with a hard, assertive mouthfeel. Stinging carbonation introduces the first sip, although that dissipates pretty quickly after the first couple of quaffs. Next comes a big mouthful of orange and apricot fruitiness, intricately intertwined with biscuity malt and bready yeastiness. The sip then does a stunning 180, finishing amazingly dry with an almost gunshot-like punctation of spicy earthiness, thanks to the one-two punch of the Saaz and Styrian Goldings hops.

Imagine one of the Midwest’s best beers, Bell’s Oberon, slightly lighter and more drinkable, but still jacked up and more complex. There is no such thing as a perfect beer, but Duvel comes awful damn close. Smooth and complex. Easy drinking enough for even the most novice of the unitiated, but more than elaborate and intriguing enough to keep the hardest-core beer dork interested. If you’ve never had it, you owe it to your palate to seek out the Devil.

Reviewed by Eddie Glick on February 3, 2009.
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