Beer Reviews: Duvel Special Edition Tripel Hop

I am a fan of Duvel Golden Ale. So much so, in fact, that the Belgian Ale has now become my default choice at restaurants if I’m not in the mood to explore the many new and untried beers on my to-do list. This fanaticism of mine came to a head at the grocery store, when I saw this bottle for sale. “It’s Duvel!”, I argued to Tara, believing that alone gave me the right of purchasing this nearly $20 750 ml bottle of beer. “Look! It’s a Tripel Hop!”, I said with an authority that was completely baseless. She rolled her eyes and I placed the bottle in out grocery basket.

When I see the phrase “Tripel Hop”, my mind reaches to the American philosophy of hops, which boils down to “the more, the better!” I am not a fan of this approach, and hoped that Duvel had a different approach to the phrase.

They do. The name refers to the three different varieties of hops used in the brew: Saaz from the Czech Republic, Styrian Goldings from Slovenia and Amarillo from the United States. Additionally, the ale is dry-hopped, meaning that the hops primarily used for aroma are added after the wort has cooled but while the beer ferments. The result? A well balanced golden ale, perfect for those who like hops, but don’t want to be beat over the head with them.

Note that this is a special beer, one that is not always made available by the folks at Duvel. It is marketed on a per year basis, similar to that of wine. The version I had was brewed in the spring of 2010.

The review:

Appearance: Pours with a fluffy foam, nearly meringue-like, with the beer itself starting with a champagne coloring until some of the suds subside, leaving a hazy gold, close to, but with not quite the same intensity, as the coloring of a standard Duvel.

Aroma: A nice balance of the floral, yet spicy. Styrian Golding Hops mixed with the malty foundation that Duvel is known for. This isn’t an over-hopped IPA. Here the hops work with the rest of the beer, rather than dominating it.

Taste: Just a hint of initial bitterness, followed by a nice floral/green apple taste on top of the bready malt, and a bit of pepper. A nice, dry finish, not harsh at all. As with the aroma, there’s balance here.

Mouthfeel: It has the thickness of a golden ale, but it works okay here. The carbonation plays on the tongue nicely, and the flavor has enough character to make it feel full bodied.

Rating: An outstanding beer, and one worth seeking out again. It’s a complex beer, flavor-wise, but it’s balanced so well that it seems as the effort to go into this beer was effortless. However, at $20 for a 750ml bottle, it can be pricey. I would buy again, if I had two other people to share the bottle with. At 9.5% ABV, it can pack a punch to the unwary.


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