Saturday, January 9, 2010

A-Number One, Top of the Heap

Beer: Duvel
Brewery: Brouwerij Duvel (Belgium)
Type: Blonde Strong Ale or Belgian Pale Ale
ABV: 8.5%

When people find out that I'm big on beer in a geeky sort of way, I often get asked which beer is my favorite. If picking a favorite style is difficult (see my previous post for more ranting), choosing a favorite beer of all time is absolutely impossible. Not only have I not tried the vast majority of the world's beer (have faith; I'm working on it), but even from the ones I have sampled, it's still an impossible project. As soon as I mention one brew, I think of four others that might qualify. At the very best, I can rattle off a few of my highest-rated brews and hope to appease them; thus, the ones that consistently make this list of immediate recall can, I suppose, be named as one of the 'favorites.' I can safely say that this brew, Duvel, is among them.

Indeed, this review can be pretty much summed up in three words: Drink. This. Beer.

I'm serious. You can make fun of Belgium all you want, but by the very virtue of producing this beer, it can be safely said that Belgians have contributed more than their fair share to the progress of humanity. (Kind of like South Africa has with Charlize Theron, or the United States and barbecued pulled pork). I've had Duvel a few times before, but only in a little stubby bottle. Nevertheless, it was one of those few beers out there that elicited a genuine "wow" from every sip. (Aventinus Eisbock was the same way for me) With some Christmas money, I managed to score one of the last Duvel glass-and-bottle gift sets at the LCBO, and thus I can safely say that 2010 has been a good year so far. I LOVE beer gift sets.

The glass itself is called a 'tulip', which, like a wine or brandy snifter, encourages the nose. It also has the effect of producing some of the most incredible head action. I mean, just look at the picture (sorry, it's really dark in the house and I had to adjust the light settings). The head seen there lasted throughout the entire bottle, including two half-glass refills, which of course meant for some of the finest lacing I've ever seen. Thick, sticky and foamy = awesome. The beer is a slightly opaque golden, with continuous visual carbonation. Spectacular appearance.

The nose is subtle, but wonderful. Apple, honey, light hops, and a bit of yeast. Not very strong, but it doesn't have to be. Gets a bit more noticeable as it warms up, but only slightly.

The taste, simply put, is spectacular. Crisp, slightly dry, with notes of apple, pepper, honey, grain and a bit of pear. Maybe a bit of walnut in the back. Very difficult to detect any alcohol, which is good considering it's nearly 9%. The finish is bitter and peppery, but not overly dry. Mouthfeel is slightly higher than average carbonation, and a bit creamy considering there's still about a half-inch of significant head, and this is after about 20 minutes (there's about 2 pints worth in this bottle).

As per drinkability, I can see myself drinking this every day if I had the means. Truly, this is what beer should look and taste like. I may someday discover that perfect beer, the one that will guide me through the tough times and will be buried with me to be consumed in the afterlife. For right now, Duvel will do splendidly. World-class. (Grade: A+)

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