Beers that got us through the winter: Duvel Tripel Hop with Experimental Hop Nr. 291. Duvel Moortgat, Puurs, Belgium.
Date: April 26, 2019
The Story— When we first started to catalog beers in Europe, we rarely returned to a brewery expecting to find new beers. Now it’s the rare brewery that doesn’t give us a new look at least once a year.
Duvel was small enough in our early days so that we spent a wonderful afternoon on the porch of the matriarch of the brewer, Miss Moortgat, admiring her prize roosters and drinking her own stock of cellar aged Duvel at one year. They had only recently given up malting their own barley — there were just enough emerging malt houses that they didn’t have to any more, but it still had the feel of at most a medium sized regional brewery.
It’s now a global player, owning the American funky trio of Ommegang, Boulevard and Firestone-Walker in addition to several breweries that were independent back in the day. They still brew well, though, and these days, they’re an easy-to-root-for David to Leuven’s AB InBev Goliath. Hats off to them for seizing one of the newest and most interesting hops on the market this year and framing a version of their beer around them.
We first encountered the Tripel Hop version of the iconic Duvel Ale in 2012 and have had a few since. It’s very seasonal, and if we’re asleep at the beer store switch, it is gone before we knew it was out. But we found the 2018 and would have jumped on it even if it had not had an intriguing experimental hop. But it is a showcase of sorts for Experimental 291, which may or may not by now have a real name.
Hop Breeding Company (HBC) developed this hop in the Yakima Valley an area that has produced some of the immensely fruity new varieties in the last decade. But HBC291, its current official name, is different, showing some of the terroir, but encompassing the hard-to-describe floral notes of something close to noble German hops as well. Haas’s blog essentially calls it the first truly American noble hop.
The Duvel Tripel Hop’s aroma shows some of this complexity — Softly fruity with some metal, it also encompasses an herbal quality that sets it apart from many of the Yakima palate shakers. This is a bucket list beer for serious beer drinkers. It may not be the “best” beer we tasted this winter, but it is surely one of the very most interesting.
The Beer— The Duvel brewers talk about the black pepper and lavender that shows up in this beer and they’re not mistaken. Stone fruit is also in the mix and it all rides on a full bodied, slightly sweet and a remarkably gentle firm rich gold foundation.
Value — Good, plus. We’d rate it excellent, but we have a hard time claiming that any beer at five bucks for a third liter bottle in a beer store is a “steal.” Still, it’s money you need to spend. Besides at 9.5%, you’re not going to need many.
About these posts: We taste and evaluate over a thousand beers every year. The beers posted here rank in the top quarter of those tastings. Values: “fair” is a good beer at an above market price, “good” is worth the money, “very good” is a bargain, and “excellent” is a steal.Next week we’ll return to visiting fun places to explore beer — and much more–a different destination each week. Our beers of the day will feature beers from this wonderfully wet destinations. For this week, though, we’ll take a quality break and give a shout out to brewers from all over that made the winter a bit warmer. The upside is that some of these beers may be available in a good beer store near you.
A caveat as always: the vast majorities of craft breweries may have a few beers that are usually available, but their most interesting beers are usual season or one-off brews that we may rave about, but you can’t find. Our specific beer descriptions, can tell you what sorts of beers the brewery does well; if you don’t find the exact beer on tap, you’ll probably find something similar.