Tag Archives: ale

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.


Beer Reviews: Duvel

Duvel Belgian Ale

I realize now that most of my reviews are essentially pleas to those of you mired in the swamps of the MillerCoors and InBev/Anheuser-Busch to TRY SOMETHING ELSE. This review is no different.

From strictly an appearance perspective, Belgian Golden Strong Ales look remarkably similar to the lagers we all know and consume, at least at first glance. Yes, there are some differences, especially in the head and head retention, but for the most part, those who only take a quick look at their beer before drinking are unlikely to notice too big of a difference.

This makes Belgian Golden Strong Ales (BGSA) the perfect beer to use as a first step away from light Lagers and pilsners. BGSA’s are full flavored, bold, dry, and crisp. These are characteristics that MillerCoors & Budweiser love to claim for their beers. Once you have tasted a BGSA, you’ll realize that their claims are, at best, empty promises.

Duvel is the beer that is considered the best example of BGSA and it does not disappoint. When beer fanatics talk of Belgian Beers, Duvel almost always enters the conversation. There is a good reason for this: Duvel is the beer that most wish that Budweiser, Coors, or Millers would be.

I highly recommed this beer. Period.

Appearance: Clear Bright gold, could almost be mistaken for a lager, if it wasn’t for the thick white head that holds retention for quite some time. Unsurprisingly there’s a fair bit of Belgian lace.

Aroma: Strong yeast aroma, with hints of lemon and banana. Good foundation of malt make this a very bold smell.

Taste: Light malt that comes across quite peppery, and a little heat from the higher ABV. Finish is a clear malty taste that seemingly goes on for quite some time. Some beers talk of being liquid bread, Duvel is one of a few that can actually come close to tasting as such.

Mouthfeel: Lively on the tongue with a copious amount of carbonation and a dry aftertaste that compliments rather than annoys.

Drinkability: One of the better benchmark beers out there, this beer is a standard drink for beer fans for good reason. Quite pleasant and memorable. This is a goto beer in the best possible sense.

Rating: A


How much did they Drink?

In Medieval England, quite a lot it seems. More than even I suspected:

Calculations based on the amount of barley used for brewing in Conventry during the 1520s indicate that the average consumption of ale was 17 pints of strong ale a week for every man, woman, and child in the town. Statistics for English consumption of beer late in the seventeenth century indicate an annual consumption per person of 832 pints. To put this figure in context, in 1976 the amount was only 209 pints, one fourth the earlier figure.

Keep in mind that milk and water, beverages that we take for granted, were not options due to various health problems associated with not knowing about pesky things like bacteria. But still…17 pints per week for everyone in the town?

I so enjoy articles such as these.

Technorati Tags: Food and Drink, Beer, Drink+History, Ale, Wine


The Little Beer Primer

As alluded to previously, beer grew in popularity in England and Germany around the Roman age. Primarily due to the fact that growing grapes (for wine) in either Germany or England was a tad difficult at times. The Romans thought beer barbaric, but the outlaying regions of their empire didn’t really give a damn what those high-faloutin’ wine drinkers from Rome thought. Wheat, hops and barley were readily accessible. Grapes were not.

Ales: Ales are pervasive in Britain. Ales were initially beer made without hops (which were not abundant in the Isles), but over the past few centuries, that has now changed. Instead, ales are now distinguised by the “top-fermenting” yeasts that work at near room temperature (50-70F). Ales are often best served warm, as their complexity of flavors come forth better in that environment. Types of “top-fermenting” beers include the following:

Bitters:Bitters are beers which are bitter or very bitter to the taste because of the addition of hops.
Brown Ale:This is a style of beer that’s sweeter, darker, and less bitter than the typical American lager beer.

Pale ales:These golden brown ales are somewhat bitter and fruity.
India Pale Ale (IPA):This is a bitter, full-bodied ale that’s relatively high in alcohol.

Porters:This is a dark beer with a heavy foam and a bitter flavor.
Stouts:This dark beer tastes strongly of malt and hops. Stronger than it’s parent brew, Porter.

Barley wines:Barley wines are golden to amber coloured very strong and heavy top fermented beers with a fruity and malty flavour and a bitterish aftertaste. Those special beers have an alcohol level over 9%.
Alt:Sweetish to very sweet and bitterish beer with often a burnt or roasted flavour.

Lagers:Lagers are brewed with “bottom-fermenting” yeasts at much colder temperatures, 35-50F over long periods of time (months). As lager yeast can survive, metabolize, and reproduce at lower temperatures. The result is a very clean, sparkling beer. Lagers are best served at slightly cooler temperatures than ales, 40-50F. Some of the typs of lager include the following:

Bocks: Bocks are brewed in the fall when barley and hops were at their peak. It was “lagered” all winter and enjoyed in the spring at the beginning of the new brewing season. There are several typs of bocks, including-

Helles Bock – Helles Bock is an amber to light coloured, rather strong, sweety barley beer specially brewed in the spring and the summer. There are three types of Helles Bock, inlcuding Meibok (May Bock), Lentebok (Spring Bock) and Zomerbok (Summer Bock). Traditionally, Meibok was a stronger beer than the standard brew, because it was brewed before the summer and the quality of the beer had to be able to endure the summer temperature rises. The alcohol was used as a preservative. Meibok is amber to light in colour, rather strong, and usually somewhat sweet. Summerbocks are usually lighter and more bitter.

Dunkles Bock – Dunkles Bock, the original German bock-style, refers to a heavy low fermentation beer with a dark colour. There are several sub caetgories of Dunkles Bock, including Herfstbok, Winterbok, Dubbelbok and Tarwebok. The Herfstbok is the traditional German bock-style, the Winterbok is a much stronger and sweeter version, a Tarwebok is a variety where not only barley but also wheat is used to brew the beer. This results in a less heavier, less sticky beer.

Doppelbocks:A doppelbock is a stronger version of the Herfstbok mentioned above.
Märzen/Oktoberfest: A bottom fermented beer with a copper-reddish-brown color traqditionally brewed in March and April, and then stored in refrigeration for several months in order to be consumed at Oktoberfest.

Pilsners:Probably the most widely known in America, Pilsner is a light low fermentation beer with a taste ranging from neutral to bitter. Substyles of pilsener are export, luxe and dry beers.

Taste: Although types of beers will have similar characteristics, they all will have a taste that is unique to themselves. Guinness Stout does not taste like other stouts. A Taddy Porter will not taste like an Elysian Brewery Porter.

In fact, there will be differences in how the beer is served. Draught (Draft) beer will taste different from bottled, which will taste different from canned (which should be your order of preference …draft, bottled, and then…god help you…canned). And if you have a truly artisan brewery, the taste of the brew may vary from keg to keg, depending on when it was brewed and how long it has been tapped. It’s when your local brewery is at this level that they really can start competing with wine as a beverage of choice. When they quality of the barley harvest affects the taste of your beer, each brew becomes it’s own entity. And you can hang out with your wine snob friends and while partaking of your favorite brew, say “While this is a smooth drink, it’s still doesn’t carry the nuttiness of their release last fall.” And your friends will nod their heads, impressed.

And somewhere, the snobs of ancient Rome will be turning in their grave. After all, your still drinking a barbarian drink after all.