The Third Devil
Duvel would remain unchanged for several more decades, until a final reformulated in the 1960s, intended to counter the influx of pale lagers, while distinguishing Duvel firmly as a unique product.
After World War II, the celebrity of golden lagers forced brewers to reconsider their fate. And an emerging style known as tripel was being brewed by some monastic brewers at this time, so perhaps these strong pale ales had some influence on their secular Belgian brethren. Moortgat daringly reformulated Duvel yet again, this time as a strong pale ale, since gold was the rage and strong ale was their forte.
Producing a strong beer with an ultra-light color is nigh impossible. Jean de Clerck was summoned anew to investigate the process, particularly the malting. Moortgat used house maltings then (they stopped in 1980), according them the ultimate personal touch. Eventually, the brain trust produced the pale, delicate malt that was desired. An intricate fermentation and maturation schedule, employing dextrose (corn sugar) in the kettle and bottle, added strength without color. Duvel was released in its third incarnation in 1970. A style was born and—as imitation is the highest form of flattery—other breweries soon followed suit, often with brand names depicting miscreants, rascals or misbehavior.
The elaborate and personal approach of Moortgat is really no different than many of the world’s first-rate brewers, but the Duvel method itself is unique, a roller coaster ride of warm and cold, of bustle and respite. Recent publications and testimonials from Moortgat have shed some light on the specifics that go into making this incredibly complex brew that appears so unassuming and simplistic.
Duvel is made with French barley, malted by four different maltsters, two each in Belgium and France. The brew is dosed twice with dextrose, from three separate suppliers, once in the kettle and again at bottling. Hops are Bohemian Saaz and Slovenian Styrian Goldings, giving Duvel a fresh floral and delicate, spicy fragrance that expresses both lager and ale characteristics, and a soft bitter foundation. Two-thirds of the hops are added for bittering and the remainder for aroma.
Fermentation and conditioning is attentive and painstaking. The wort (dosed with dextrose) goes from kettle to fermenter and yeast is pitched. Primary fermentation lasts for about seven days, and between 68 and 80° F. The attenuation is high, over 90 percent, to produce a beer of 6.8 percent ABV. The temperature is then crashed to just below freezing and held there for about three weeks. Duvel is then tasted at this “single fermentation” stage by the brewmaster and his entourage to ensure quality.
On the 30th day, it is primed for secondary fermentation by adding fresh yeast and more dextrose, and then immediately bottled. It then spends about 17 days at 72º F to carbonate and warm-condition. This is followed by followed by six weeks at 41º F to cold-condition a second time before being unleashed. Duvel is 90 days in the making from start to finish, and even improves with cellaring well beyond that. The ABV at release is 8.5 percent. The combination of high-attenuation, pilsner malt grist and dextrose give Duvel an exceptionally lithe body and appetizing nature.