I’ve written before of “the reckoning”, the pinpoint-able day in my life when I gave myself unto craft beer. Perhaps the second-most important day in my conversion occurred the next year (1990), while I was traveling in Eastern Europe with my Dad. We stopped at a pub in Budapest, then newly liberated from the godless Communists, and started ordering beers with strange, European-sounding names. The one we settled on, and drank the rest of the evening, was DUVEL. Upon my return home, I raved about it to everyone who’d listen – how complex it was, how it had a “bite” that American beers didn’t have, and how generally warm & flush it made me feel (this was undoubtedly due to the high alcohol, a concept that I was then unfamiliar with in beer, outside of the odd King Cobra or Olde English). For a few years I thought it was a Czech beer, until I learned it was in fact Belgian. This begat interest in Belgian beers, and the rest is history.
I had my first DUVEL in a few years, maybe even in the 21st century, just the other night. I didn’t like it at all. It was about as “macro” a Belgian beer as I’d ever had. Undoubtedly many will point to its enormous mass distribution around the globe, but I’m pretty sure it was a major player 17 years ago when I first had it as well. It’s likely that what knocked me for a loop back then is pretty standard and straightforward now. While it has a real pillowy fluffiness to it, if you can call it that, it is also very pilsner-like, and that spicy “bite” I fell for now tastes really, really off, totally unbecoming of either a pilsner or an ale. I’d have preferred the smoothness of a European pils, but this strange hybrid they’ve got going almost made my eyes water. I know it’s a legendary beer, but I can’t imagine trying DUVEL again anytime soon. There are far too many unconsumed Belgians out there. And yes, I know I’m in a decided minority on this matter. 4/10.