Duvel is one of the most ubiquitous Belgian beers across the UK, up there with Leffe. It’s punchy, filled with yeasty, hoppy aromas, and it comes with a firm alcoholic edge. On the face of it, Duvel is great value, but there are better Belgian beers out there if you’re willing to look for them.
Just like last week, I’ve been taken in by a beer with a funky bottle.
Duvel is a staple of UK bottle shops and supermarkets. Packaged in beautiful, short, stubby bottles, it looks a little like a bodybuilder’s trapezius bulging above their shoulders.
It’s probably not normal that this is the first thing I see when looking at Duvel, yet here we are.
Inside the bottle there’s a yellow blonde, cloudy fluid with an enormous, fluffy white head. And I do mean enormous: true to my limited knowledge of Belgian beers, I struggled to pour this without filling at least half the glass with froth.
That froth blocks you from picking up the full aroma at first, but as it fades there’s coriander seed, white pepper, orange zest, and pale, bready malt, much like the alcohol-free German beers we tried during Dry January.
When you taste this beer, the first thing you notice is the strength. Duvel is 8.5% ABV and it makes no secret of that fact. There’s an alcoholic warmth there, but that lets it support an intense citrus zest flavour. There’s also more of that coriander seed and white pepper. It’s a touch soapy, too. The mouthfeel is thick and sticky, a symptom of the massive wheat content.
On the finish there’s more of that booze. You return from that little sojourn into citrus zest to that alcoholic, spicy warmth.
Duvel is readily available in bottle shops, craft beer sites, and supermarkets for in the region of £2.00 – £2.10 per 330ml bottle. At face value, that’s a lot of 8.5% beer for just £2.
The problem is, who is this beer actually for? If you’re really into your Belgian beers, you’ve likely already found another you like more, something less aggressive, where the high alcohol content forms part of a balance with other flavours rather than sitting out baldly on its own.
Where this beer may play a role is for modern IPA fans, who will enjoy that alcoholic edge and the dry, citrus aroma. But even then, a little digging will reward you with a much nicer Belgian beer to try.
But hey, that’s just my opinion. Are you a massive Duvel fan? I’m ready to be convinced of its charms, or open to suggestions on what Belgian beers to try next. Let me know in the comments below.