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Clone Brew: Duvel



Duvel is THE commercial example of a BGSA (Belgian Golden Strong Ale, BJCP Category 18D), and since I’m brewing what’s intended to be a clone I thought I should finally taste the real thing. I racked the beer from primary directly into a keg today, so this seems as good a time as any for a (first) side-by-side. I picked up a four-pack at VBS for $14.76. Talk about a case for homebrewing!

First impression: carbonation is clearly going to be key with this one. Immediately after popping the top foam begins to slowly billow out. That picture is a 20 fl oz pint glass – with 11 fl oz of beer. You can already start to see the world-famous lacing form, as the head slowly settles. The taste, however, is not quite what I was expecting. There’s a little sulphur and not a little funk. The (possibly apocryphal) story is that de Clerck brought Duvel’s yeast back from Edinburgh; if so that would certainly explain the slightly odd ester profile. Scottish ales are fermented, well, in Scotland. Scottish basements, at that, meaning somewhere around 15°C. Belgian breweries, on the other hand, typically ramp up to 25+°C by the end of fermentation. Assuming my little hypothesis is correct, then, Duvel knew enough 80 years ago to preserve the original strain, without allowing it to mutate into something more warm-blooded. Which is very cool.

At any rate, I fermented mine with Wyeast’s limited edition 3864 strain, which is Unibroue’s yeast. I expect that this will wind up being my all-around Belgian strain, since it produces varied results across such a wide temperature range. (The same reason for my long-lived love affair with Nottingham.) The result should be a little more fruity, which I think will turn out to have been the right call. I did most of primary at 20°C, moving to 23°C once fermentation was about 90% done.

I also racked Batch 25 onto this cake, in a last bid to eke out a few more points of attenuation.

Some links to close things out:

Sympathy for the Duvel recipe

My Duvel review at BeerAdvocate

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