We tasted the Duvel Barrel Aged
One of the benefits of being a journalist and a brewer, albeit an alternative brewer, is that when I am invited to a new beer launch events I review the beer from these two perspectives. The trend now is to create beers which contain different flavours and experiences, so it was with great anticipation that I accepted the invitation from Duvel to the launch of their bourbon barrel aged beer.
Duvel brews a very good beer, a Belgian strong pale ale, with a very high level of consistency of both quality and flavour, which has made it into one of the most powerful Belgian breweries.
For the first time in my life I drank there a draught Duvel, even better than the bottle. Their quality control manager, Dimitri Staelens, explained that Duvel has a patent on their kegging technique to keep the pressure higher than usual. This not only prevents the beer in your glass going a bit stale after 10 to 15 minutes, but it really brings out the flavours.
Duvel was founded in 1871 and is located in Breendonk near Mechelen. It has had its ups and downs over the years; they distributed Tuborg in the 1970s to help with their finances. Michel Moortgat, the CEO of Duvel and the 4th generation to run the business, explained that before 2007 when they launched their first triple hop, Duvel was a one product company. The innovation of the triple hop was the addition of a third hop to the Duvel during fermentation, a process called dry hopping. This adds more flavour and aroma to the beer from the beta acids which otherwise disappear during the boiling process.
The launch took place in the garden of the old depot, at the back of which is a shed which was full of bourbon barrels with either Four Roses or Buffalo Trace seared on them. Each barrel was individually selected for the purpose of the aging.
This new brew pours like any good beer, keeping its head for quite some time. The aromas include toffee, caramel and vanilla emanating from the bourbons. Be careful, you do not initially feel the 11.5% alcohol.
The flavours when tasting are complex, which one expects when aging in bourbon barrels. You can feel that the beer was expertly hopped with Saaz-Saaz and Styrian Goldings, and can enjoy the boozy bourbon influences, with a strong presence of the American oak. I personally prefer French oak barrels for aging blonde beers but, for obvious reasons, they only age bourbons in American oak barrels.
This is not a beer for quaffing down on a hot day, it is to be savoured and sipped more like a wine. It will go well with stronger flavoured cheeses, smoky and gamey meets and even with some fruit desserts. I can also imagine drinking it with a fruity Jamaican cigar after a good meal.
Only 24,000 bottles were produced and the retail price is €24.99, it will most probably become a collector’s item, especially if you have the matching 16.5cl tasting glass.
Oddly enough, the aftertaste an hour later was the hops.