3.3AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 3/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 3/5 OVERALL 13/20
There’s a certain "peer pressure" I often feel when reviewing big-name beers (especially from Belgium). I try to be as impartial as possible when I rate beer and when I deviate from the consensus I can’t help buy feel a little guilty. That’s exactly how I feel now as I write this review of Duvel Belgian Golden Ale, since it’s a beer that is revered among connoisseurs and amateurs alike. Not that I hated it, just that it only satisfied me instead of knocking my socks off.
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
I do not own the official Duvel tulip glass, so I opted for a generic stemmed tulip glass - into which I poured a 11.2oz bottle. Right on cue the beer poured to a shade of mostly clear, extremely bubble, straw yellow color. If it didn’t form a generous, foamy, bright white head I’d say you could mistake it for a generic European pilsner from the complexion alone.
The aroma is surprisingly mild for a Belgian beer. There’s definitely some citrus scents but they are faint. I couldn’t help but notice the slightest bit of a funkiness to the nose, which I’d expect from a saison rather than a Belgian pale ale.
The first sip of Duvel is a like shock therapy for your mouth. This beer is so intense it dances on the tongue like it’s trying to break it. As it crosses the mouth there’s a distinct lemon and lime citrus followed by a dry, almost wheat-like flavor. This is a bottle-conditioned beer so it has that trademark Belgian yeast flavor akin to powder, and it’s somewhat enjoyable.
My problem with this beer is that the flavor simply does not impress me. I did enjoy the citrus notes but found them to be rather mild. I kept waiting for the palette to expand since a beer like this tends to be complex and robust, but it was rather simple. Drank cold it was refreshing, but as it warmed it began to taste something like alcoholic Sprite. Not that it turned me off, as I did enjoy the flavors that were present, I just couldn’t help but wonder if this was all it had to offer.
Belgian beers are not exactly known as the kind of brewskis you can slug straight from the bottle. Duvel is exactly what Belgian beers are known for as far as drinkability. It’s extremely peppery in the mouth and difficult to drink in more than sips. As it settles down the mouthfeel begins to lighten up which makes it more drinkable, but there’s always that peppery kick in the aftertaste until the last drop.
However, this beer does do a good job of masking its 8.5% ABV. There is a slight warming sensation on the finish after the first few swigs, but it fades away quickly. There’s certainly no heat to the palate, nor does this beer overwhelm the drinker quickly (but I wouldn’t session it).
While I’d say Duvel Belgian Golden Ale is an overrated beer, it’s definitely not a bad one. Maybe I just don’t have the taste for it yet even after two years of drinking craft brews. I liked what it had to offer, but I couldn’t help but feel a tad shortchanged. At $6 a bottle I think this beer is a little pricey, but for those who love it that might be a bargain.