DUVEL – THE DEVIL AND CO.

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Jon and Dan are into beer. No, they are not frat house presidents, Nascar drivers, homeless, or struggling poets, they are true beer cicerones (that’s experts in beer to you and me). And which company would any true beer love work for?

Well, it has to be a Belgian company – country with no purity laws and well over 100,000 varieties of ales – and it has to be something reputable worldwide. Uncork Duvel.

Duvel is good. In fact, it’s so good that world-renowned beer expert Michael Jackson listed it as one of his top five favourite beers. And both Dan Shelley from Maryland and Jon Crowder from Massachusetts are here in the PRD are here in the PRD area to spread the heady and hoppy word of one of Belgium’s best brews.

bottles_glassesThe history of Duvel stems back to 1871 when Flemish Jan Leonard Moortgat founded Moortgat brewery. In 1900 his sons expanded the brewery and by the time 1918 rolled around they’d identified a unique strain of yeast from Scotland. Between the years of 1918-1923 the brothers continued to experiment until the recipe was flawless. By 1960 the third Moortgat generation had even designed an exclusive drinking glass for this unique beer.

Over the years Duvel has gradually become the special, 8.5% golden ale it is today. Initially, however, it was called “Victory Ale” to commemorate the ending of World War I and was actually “like a dark, strong ale.”

Until shoemaker Van De Wouwer changed history when he described the beer as “nen echten Duvel” or “a true Devil” during a tasting. 

The Chinese – slaves to the latest trend – love to import Western culture and are keen to be a part of this new trend of premium beers coming in from Belgium. However, as Jon says, “many don’t fully know how popular the beer is with Belgium having some of the best beers in the world.”

As for the expats, well we’ve gotten past the novelty of having access to mass produced overseas beers like Coors, Budweiser, Carlsberg and Miller. Now tastebuds are refining and beer drinkers are seeking for those breweries that don’t use adjuncts – corn, wheat and barley – to fill out their beer to make it cheaper and more quaffable.

Though in recent months the economy has been sluggish, the Chinese aren’t exactly strapped for cash. Duvel has seen consistent growth since starting in China in 2007. As Jon pointed out, “Like with wine, people have become more knowledgeable and thus there’s a more increased demand. China is one of the fastest growing beer markets in the world.”

The devil is seldom without friends and Duvel is no exception. It’s responsible for producing a whole list of heavyweights – Maredsous (10%), De Koninck Triple D’anvers (8%) and the increasingly popular La Chouffe (8%). 

Vedett can be found in the same factory as Duvel. Vedett, a wit [white] bier, is “very refreshing spiced with coriander, not overly bitter or overly strong and a drink you can really enjoy. It’s sweet and caters to everyone’s palette. As Jon says it’s “right in the middle, everyone is excepting of this flavour. Even the locals love this white beer.”

Yet it’s Vedett Extra White (4.7%) that has become ubiquitous throughout the delta and is in fact their bestseller. The beer that attracts a young demographic is a sponsor of many worldwide music events. In a round about way via French, vedett means “star” and as a marketing ploy fans of the beverage can have a bottle made with a picture of themselves adorning the back. 

Of those that we sampled, Liefmans Fruitesse (4.2%) was the most intriguing. First off, the brewery dates back to 1679 making this year its 334rd birthday. It’s a fruit beer, something which is “very traditionally Belgian and made with raspberry, strawberries, bilberries, cherries.” And “very popular with the Chinese because of its sweet, fruity taste.” It’s also common to serve it on the rocks. Surprisingly, the ice doesn’t dilute the great flavours in anyway – if anything, it helps to accentuate them and makes a really unique and refreshing drink. 

Jon and Dan are keen on the people of and in China to go out and not so much as buy any and all Duvel beers by the bucket load but “sample them, enjoy the different flavours, colours and aromas and appreciate what quality beer tastes like.” Dan is particularly passionate about “educating people that not all something you guzzle.” Cheers.

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