beer reviews Belgium bottled beer

Duvel: no dumb blonde


There’s no more illuminating way to taste beers than to try three or four supposedly similar specimens together. When we found ourselves in possession of two notoriously blasphemous Belgian beers (Satan Gold and Judas) we thought it would be fun to drink them along with their evident inspiration, Duvel. The experience gave us a new appreciation for this old favourite.

Satan and Judas look, too all intents and purposes, identical in the glass. They have the same rich golden colour; the same loose, bubbly head.

Satan first. What a let down after the fun and tacky packaging. It smells of pear-drops, nail polish and alcohol. There are some tart apple flavours which might work if they were balanced with bitterness. Sadly, this beer is hardly bitter at all. The stingy hand with the hops is countered by an overgenerous helping of sugar. All in all, a bit like drinking syrup.

Judas is somewhat better, though similar. Sugary: check. Fruitily acidic: check. It tastes, in fact, like stewed rhubarb, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. All in all, not a beer we’ll be hunting down, but definitely drinkable. Unlike Satan, this one didn’t end up down the sink.

And then onto Duvel, which suddenly looks and tastes like what it is — a very sophisticated, well-engineered beer. It’s lighter coloured and lighter bodied than either of its two imitators. The bitterness is refreshing and pronounced. Veritable hops indeed. Whereas Satan and Judas lost their heads almost immediately, Duvel has iceberg-like clots of foam all the way down to the last mouthful.

We have our winner. Just because it’s ubiquitous doesn’t mean Duvel isn’t brilliant.

9 replies on “Duvel: no dumb blonde”

Not had the ‘good’ fortune to try Judas or Satan, but I love Duvel. “Just because it’s ubiquitous doesn’t mean Duvel isn’t brilliant” – very true. Too often the beer world seems to trash the popular or readily available just on those criterion.

Agreed! Duvel is a great beer. It’s always interesting to line up a few comparable beers and drink them together; it’s one of the best ways to really notice the differences, plus it’s good fun!

Unfortunately I have to agree – i’ve picked up Judas on label alone 9im such a label whore) and been reminded how awful (well, unbalanced) some beers can acutally be.

Absolutely diabolical! And I’ll just echo the comments on Duvel’s deliciousness/universality with a personal touch… it’s a great beer to share with a special someone over a home-cooked meal during a romantic “night in.” You look like a hero, even if you just happened to pick it up at the shop around the corner on your way over!

Delia, you sly old dog, you…

Paul — we’re huge fans of Hoegaarden, which accepted wisdom says is rubbish these days. Really? Tastes good to us.

Mark — exactly — the difference between similar beers can be pretty subtle. Koelsch is incredibly delicate, for example.

Plenty of Belgian aficionados turn their noses up at this beer. They just don’t like it, and whether that’s an honest opinion or because Moortgat is very large, I can’t say. But I still enjoy the hell out of this beer in a pinch. “A pinch” here is defined as any one of thousands of Belgian cafés and restaurants that serve a few crap beers plus Duvel.

Joe — it’s probably fair to say that I’d always choose a beer I didn’t know over Duvel if there was such a thing on offer (latent ticker tendencies) but when it’s a choice between Duvel and Stella, you know which one I’m going to go for….

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