It’s always good to take another look at those iconic names in beer. You know the ones, they’re so familiar we tend to take them for granted. A bit like the cornflakes in the breakfast aisle of the supermarket, we often walk past them and head for the coco pops or the muesli with the added fruits and a plethora of different nuts. We’re attracted to the new and shiny beers like magpies, the ones that promise us a voyage into a universe of crazy flavours, but, there's a lot to be said for simplicity and tradition too.
Duvel have been making beer for a long time using just a couple of different hops (Saaz-Saaz & Styrian Golding), their own malted barley and a strain of Scottish yeast that the original owners tracked down in the 1920s. That strain is still used to this day, as is the original recipe, after all, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
But, no matter how good your product is - you still have to move with the times and Duvel was quick to spot this. They noted the move to bigger hops back in 2007, arguably somewhat ahead of the curve, and started a new line with the addition of a third hop. Thus was born the Duvel Tripel Hop, and this version sports the addition of Citra, a US hop no less. So, three hops, and tripel in style too at a whopping 9.5%, but still a delightful golden lemon colour in the glass. Does it work?
It looks like liquid hazy sunshine in the glass with an angelic heavenly white head. The nose is crisp and bright with citrus, tropical fruits, unripe banana and some white pepper spice - it’s got that sulphurous lager like quality; an enticing minerality. Boom - the palate is round and sweet at first with a giant bitter finish and an almost wheat-like profile. It’s staggering to think that it is 9.5%. I mean, there’s obviously some alcohol there, but it’s balanced so well by sweet fruits and bitter hops that the effect is one of overall lightness. Those sweet citrus notes from the nose are there again with unripe bananas and apricots too. It's like a visit to the sweet shop when you were a kid, for a bag of banana lollies and some lemon sherbet - light and zesty, tangy and with a sparkle on the tongue.
You’ve got to admire the Duvel approach to moving with the times. They’ve thought long and hard about it and come to the conclusion that adding another hop will do the trick. Nice. And it's proof that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to keep rolling on. The triple hop works. It balances things out nicely and makes for the big beer that even your hardened “IPA-only” drinkers could enjoy (you know who you are). So, take one home this weekend and rediscover the joys of three simple ingredients in perfect unison… barley, water and hops… just like cornflakes, milk and a dash of sugar, sometimes that’s all you really need.