I definitely love the Duvel. If you’re a beer drinker then you will, too, I guarantee it. There is a handful of great beers in the world, and depending on the particular occasion and mood, Duvel is at, or very near, the top.
I only have a single quibble about this strong Belgian ale, and it isn’t even a problem in this instance. I usually prefer the carbonation to be on the light side in my beers. Duvel is highly carbonated. But, it manages to work fine here. For an ale, it is practically champagne-like, with tiny bubbles constantly streaming up the glass. It’ll crackle in your mouth if you sip it right after pouring, so let it rest a minute and it will calm down some.
You’ll want to admire it for a bit after pouring anyway. Duvel pours better than any beer in the world. If you want to see what a perfect head on a beer looks like, this is the gold-standard. Thick, white, foamy and long-lasting. It doesn’t get any better than this. Great, thick chunks will remain floating until the end. There’s yeast in the bottom of the bottle, so if a bit of cloudiness bothers you, be careful and pour slowly near the end. The massive head makes sure that you will anyway. Clear or hazy, Duvel is a bubbly, golden picture of perfection.
The aroma is probably muted by the large head. The smell tends to the sweet side, with some fruit and a little spice, but it’s subtle. The taste could be described as subtle as well, but it’s definitely complex. Nothing in particular leaps to the forefront to dominate, but there are apples, plums and cherries. Maybe pears. Some peppery spice. A touch of lemon. Yeast. The alcohol is evident if you look hard for it, and there’s certainly enough to find at 8.5%. But, none of these things are obvious. None of the individual flavors shout to be heard as you often get in lesser beers. Then it finishes nice and dry, almost like a pilsner. It just tastes like a fabulous beer. Perfectly balanced. It can’t be improved upon.
Although Duvel is a strong ale, the pilsner hops give it a refreshing quality -- usually a job best suited for a lager. This is a good beer anytime. It’ll be equally appropriate in warm weather or cold. I usually consider Duvel a before- or after-dinner drink, but it doesn’t need to be. I think it would be versatile enough to go with most foods, particularly any bold flavored fish or meat dishes. I’d even try it with just a salad, though. It’s not the most available of beers, so you’re probably not going to be able to pick and choose the food pairings anyway. Don’t worry about that. Try it with anything -- or nothing at all; it’ll work.
Just don’t try too many of them at once. Duvel is very drinkable, but strong, and it sneaks up on you quickly. It’s a great beer to just sit around and sip with a group of friends. Or strangers. After a few of these, they won't be strangers long.
By and large, I think Belgians make the best beer in the world. There are at least three or four Belgian beers I drink on a fairly regular basis, but Duvel is the one I have the most often. There really isn’t anything not to like about this beer, and a lot to love. It’s complex without showing off. Strong enough for anybody, but it won’t blow your head off. It’s a good beer for just about any situation except, maybe, a long session. Even though you will be tempted, try to take it slow, and enjoy one of the best beers in the world.