Open up your wallet for Duvel Tripel Hop
First, a word of warning: Duvel is my everyday, go-to beer. I would drink it anytime with anything or anybody for any reason. If I had to limit myself to one particular beer to drink exclusively from now on, Duvel would be that beer. It's versatile, it's very good, and I like it, a lot. A few months ago, I ventured to my favorite watering hole which happened to be having a beer tasting featuring Duvel/Ommegang. After having a few -- okay, many -- samples of decent brews, the brewery rep pulled out a bottle of Duvel Tripel Hop. I explained that while I loved Duvel, I wasn't a big fan of the over-the-top hopped beers that seem to be all the rage in this country, especially with the neophyte 20-somethings. He said not to worry, and poured a sample, obviously confident of getting a positive reaction.
It pours almost exactly like the classic Duvel, complete with the enormous, billowing white head. But, there's a cloudiness that flattens out the usual sparkling golden color. The aroma, too, is slightly different. The old base is still there, but the addition of some apples and a drop of lemon tamp it down a bit. So far, heresy or not, I must admit the slight changes have been an improvement on my Duvel.
I wasn't won over on the very first sip, however. The flavors seemed to be reversed. There was a bitter and hoppy bite, although certainly not overpowering, all the way through, then it finished with a bit of sweetness. This is normally a very good and sought after combination, I've just grown accustomed to it coming the other way round. This was going to take further study, and that brings us to the major, really only, problem with this beer. Lately, there have been a number of those large 750 ml bottles of beer going well past the usual $10 range. Some have been spotted at double that, and Duvel Tripel Hop is one of these.
I'm all for rare or extremely special beers to be priced accordingly. Duvel -- and I love it like a brother -- did something rather distasteful in my mind in bringing this beer to market. They ran a Facebook page saying they would brew the beer if they got 10,000 fans. Uh-huh. So they've hired a questionable marketing guy, what other kind are there? As long as the beer is good, what do I care? And, it is definitely good. Good enough to warrant charging $20 for roughly a pint and a half? I'm not so sure.
One thing I should definitely clear up for any hop head fiends is that tripel hop does not mean that there are triple the quantity of hops in this beer. They use three hops this time, essentially adding some American Amarillo hops to the mix of the usual Duval offerings of Saaz and Styrian. This is not one of those crazy, tongue-beating beers. It's Duvel with a slice of apple, a bite of pear and a drop of lemon. The hop side is allowed to win this time and stand out front and center, but it's not dominating. The malt is still there, especially at the finish, to bring some semblance of balance.
Some snobs hate the idea that American tastes are influencing the rest of the world's beer making practices. I'm all for it, in general. Germany has begun to loosen up and tentatively try some other ingredients besides hops, barley and water. England is starting to embrace a variety of styles besides stout, lager and bitter, and appreciating an increased attention to quality. Czechs are slowly coming to recognize that a perfect pilsner is great, but there is more out there in the beer world than that. America, in its slap dash, often heavy handed way, has become much more than water-beer-lite nation. Our many fine craft brewers are now influencing the rest of the world. Even Belgium, beer makers to the gods, has begun taking hints from us now. They still do it better, but they are listening.
I can't see regularly paying twice as much for Duvel Tripel Hop as traditional Duvel. If you like Duvel and can find this on sale, and want something a touch different, go for it. You won't be disappointed. If you're looking for over-hopped craziness, pick something else. This is a subtly different, traditional Duvel, with a much disguised 9.5% alcohol content, that would probably bite dangerously harder if anyone could afford more than a bottle of the stuff.