A very happy beery family
Saturday 13 March 2021
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Duvel, a name absolutely synonymous with traditional Belgian beer, is this year celebrating its 150th birthday, with four generations of brewing expertise underpinning a growing family of brands ranging from La Chouffe to California’s Firestone Walker, and even London’s Jarr Kombucha. Many of its original recipes are still being brewed, having entered the canon of Belgian brewing heritage, but it also continues to innovate within beer and beyond.
The brewery’s Laurens Nies says: “Today’s Duvel has all this experience and fans who love our classic beers, but also new state-of-the-art technology to help ensure our brewing is consistently the highest quality. For example, we still use the same strain of Scottish yeast, and still use the same water source – as you know, the biggest part of beer is water.”
This could easily be marketing spiel, except Duvel has a track record of putting its values into action. Unlike many other breweries that have acquired smaller brands along the way, Duvel has kept production in its original locations, rather than centralising it for the sake of cost efficiency.
“One of the reasons for Duvel’s success is that we always put quality over cost,” says Laurens. “It’s a big part of who we are – we’re always looking for perfection. With Duvel beer, the brewing process takes 90 days. Could we cut some corners and do it much faster? Yes. But 90 days is what it takes to get the beer to the perfect level.
“And that’s why everyone who works here is so passionate about what we’re creating, about their jobs. That’s true for every brewery in our family, from the brewers themselves, but also to the marketing people and salespeople. If there’s one thing that defines our shared culture, it’s that pride and passion.”
While the Duvel brand itself is understandably closely protected, in terms of introducing wild new styles, the company’s Belgian sites now have a dedicated pilot kit for brewers to flex their creative muscles and hone their skills.
“We’re definitely not just sitting back – it’s very important to us that we’re pioneers. So the new microbrewery is just like a little kindergarten, a playground for brewers to experiment. And we’ve already had some great beers come out of this, and it really will help us harness innovation that exists within our company. For example, last year we launched a new Vedett which is a Mexican tropical lager,” Laurens says.
In this month’s box, we have Vedett IPA, a distinctly Belgian take on an American IPA, with clovey yeast notes alongside citrus, mango and a long bitter finish. In a distinctive stubby bottle, it’s a good cross-over beer for lovers of modern craft to move into Belgian styles.
“For me, I really like this beer,” says Laurens enthusiastically. “It’s a bit heavier than the blonde, and for the UK drinker I think the hoppier, slightly higher ABV profile really hits a sweet spot. And it’s that beautiful copper colour like an old west coast IPA. I’m hoping it’s a big hit with Beer52 members.”
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