Published September 2005, Volume 26, Number 4
La Fin Du Monde
Playing with the Devil
Duvel resumed its metamorphosis in the 1960s as a market response. Belgium’s traditional ales were losing ground to pale lagers. The brewery determined that it needed a pale brew of their own to keep up with customer demands. Moortgat didn’t give in completely to the trends, choosing to stick with ales rather than introduce a lager, which would have required quite an investment in new equipment. Given the popularity and high quality of their flagship beer, the brain trust made the bold move of redesigning Duvel once again, this time as a golden version to rival the popular lagers.
It is nearly impossible to make a strong beer with a light golden cast, but through much experimentation and the development of an elaborate schedule of mashing, boiling, and fermentation, Moortgat managed to pull it off with generous dosing of dextrose to add strength but not color.
In this process, the wort is divided into two separate fermentation vessels and fermented with a different yeast in each. A dose of dextrose is added prior to the fermentation to raise the original gravity. Any excess sugar in the kettle would contribute color, something that Moortgat was trying to avoid.
Primary fermentation is done with alacrity, and then the beer is transferred to conditioning tanks for secondary fermentation, which is also swift. The temperature is then dropped to near freezing to smooth out the beer and precipitate the yeast. After a month or thereabouts of cold conditioning, Duvel is bottled with yet another dose of dextrose and priming yeast. The third fermentation in the bottle takes two weeks.
Moortgat introduced the modern incarnation of Duvel in 1970. After 50 years of tinkering, Duvel has remained unchanged for thirty-five. It has been emulated extensively in both Belgium and North America since.
K. Florian Klemp is an award-winning homebrewer and general hobbyist who thinks there is no more sublime marriage than that of art and science.
Brewed by the Brouwerij Moortgat, it is the legendary beer of the style and perhaps the most familiar of all Belgian brews. It presents a billowing pearl-white head above a bright gold body and a lusty herbal, spicy and fruity nose. Pear, apple and green grape hints mingle gently with the light, crisp flavor. The hops are perfectly balanced with the mellow malt. Clean, with a suggestion of yeast. A world classic by any standard.
The crowning grace of the Brasserie d’Achouffe in Achouffe, Belgium. A slightly hazy but beautiful burnished gold color, capped by a lacy pillow of a head. The nose is amazingly spicy; pepper and coriander come to mind, along with a bit of orange and hay. A little more sweet malt flavor than some of the others, with all the complexity of the aroma and a faint “farm” character. Very deep, indeed, this beer could be contemplated all night long. The benign gnomes on the label carry with them sprigs of barley and hops.
From the Brouwerij Huyghe in Melle, Belgium. The label, with skipping crocodiles and pink elephants, is as playful as the brew. Off-gold in hue, with trails of bubbles feeding a lingering, creamy and bountiful head. Cantaloupe and apricot are laced with peppery hops in the nose. The flavor is reminiscent of honey and fruit with a bit of wheat-like phenol. The yeast adds a touch of the rural character that one would expect from a Belgian brew. The hops are spicy and firm.
La Fin Du Monde
One of the finest Belgian-style beers outside of Belgium, it is brewed in Chambly, Quebec. Slightly turbid, straw color, with a creamy white head reminiscent of a witbier. The aroma is ripe with peach and apricot, with a light herbal hop nose. Silky-smooth mouthfeel, imminently deceptive in its strength. The flavor shows off a complex mixture of citrus, more fruit, and a zesty spice background. As close to perfection as it gets, and hard to believe that it weighs in at 9.0% ABV.