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.