For the devilishly delicious Golden Ale
In 1958, a recipe was developed for a new beer at the Moortgat Brewery in Breendonk, 15 miles (24km) north of Brussels. The strong, dry Golden Ale was “a real devil of a beer” and so took on the name Duvel, meaning “devil” in Brabantian. Today it’s one of the country’s most famous and most-loved beers.
Duvel-Moortgat is a family-owned brewery and the third largest brewery in Belgium—and it’s still in the same small village where the brewery started in 1871. They are also growing rapidly in their current location and buying other breweries, including Firestone-Walker and Boulevard and Ommegang in the US, plus La Chouffe, Vedett, and De Konink in Belgium, so they have a lot of different brands under the family’s stewardship.
Visit to Duvel-Moortgat Photo Gallery
The brewery runs regular tours, which are interesting and detailed, telling you the history of the brewery and focusing primarily on Duvel. Around 25,000 people do this tour every year and you get to see the large, clean brewhouse and then walk around the huge tank farm, with some of the tanks being as big as five-story houses and capable of holding one million bottles’ worth of beer. You know that bit in the Rodenbach entry where I said silver tanks aren’t very interesting? Well, Duvel is the exception. One giant tank containing one million bottles of Duvel is quite something to see and think about—if you personally drank one full case a week, it’d take you 800 years to drink the tank dry.
The brewing of Duvel is deserving of attention because it’s a 90-day process. On day one the beer is brewed. It has a week-long primary fermentation, then three weeks in lagering tanks. From here it’s bottled, then has two weeks in warm maturation, where it develops its famously bright carbonation, and then six weeks in cold maturation to further aid that fine fizz. When it’s sold, it’s ready to drink and tastes better fresh. What makes Duvel stand out for me is its mix of lightness and strength: it’s iridescent gold and, for a beer with an 8.5% ABV, it’s very dry and lean, giving it a non-fatiguing drinkability (its use of sugar in the brewing process aids that terminal attenuation). There are also a lot of hops in the beer—it gets its 32 IBU from aroma hops (Styrian Golding and Saaz). This means the beer is laced with a deep hop flavor and complexity, which lifts the powerful beer with a spicy fruitiness that complements the aromatic banana, pear, and pepper driven out by the yeast, and all with the brisk carbonation keeping it refreshing.
At the end of the tour you get to the Duvel Depot, which is light and modern, yet feels classic—much like the beer itself. It’s smart, clean, and decorated with old brewery memorabilia, plus lots of taps of the Moortgat Family beers (including La Chouffe and Boulevard). The bar is open after tours and has additional hours, but it’s best to check the website to make sure it’s open.
In early 2017, the brewery put Duvel on draft for the first time—it took two years to develop a way to serve this highly carbonated beer on tap. Hopefully this will always be available, as it’s exceptionally good. And if you’re at the Duvel Depot, then also look for Duvel Triple Hop, a 9.5% ABV, bulked-up version of the beer with lots of Citra hops added at the end—it’s got the kind of effortless, delicious drinkability that Double IP As can only dream of.
I think Duvel is one of the best beers in the world. It’s certainly one of my favorites and one that’s always in my fridge. To see where it’s made, to learn about the processes that go into brewing it, just makes me love the beer even more, where each new bottle I open still leaves me in awe of its combination of power and dexterity and lightness. There seems to be a continuous newness about this beer because, no matter how many bottles I drink, I always notice something new and interesting about it.
WHAT: Duvel-Moortgat Brewery
HOW: Brewery tours run every day apart from Sunday. They offer three different options, including one with cheese-tasting. my blog ahead online (www.duvel.com).
WHERE: Breendonk-Dorp 58, 2870 Puurs, Belgium
A vintage sign for Duvel.
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