The Red Devils: bitter in victory or defeat thanks to the USA

Ahead of tonight’s match between the USA and Belgium in the second round of the World Cup in Brazil, I thought what better way to mark this game then by doing a piece on the transatlantic knowledge exchange of hops. This is the first of two pieces I’m doing on hoppy Belgian beers. This piece focusses on the Tripel style with the anti certainly upped in terms of hop usage. A lot has happened since Urtherl Hop-It first burst onto the scene back in 2005.

A popular standard bearer has to be the excellent La Chouffe Houblon Dobbelen IPA Tripel The beer pours a hazy golden colour with lemon and herbs on the nose. It’s a case of initial sweetness meets dry bitterness, thanks to the addition of Tommahwak (houblon being the French word for hops).  There’s a good bitter bite in the huge finish. Good on draught but better in the bottle. Beer lore has it that this beer from the Ardennes took the mantle of the bitterest Belgian beer title away from Orval. Following on from Brasserie d’Achouffe founded back in 1981the beer itself being sold for the first time in 2006, new and old breweries have been pushing the boundaries for beers much as new breweries around the world have been doing for brewing traditions in their countries.

Sometimes it's good to be bitter
Sometimes it’s good to be bitter

Achouffe is part of the Duvel Moorgat collection of breweries, which owns the likes of Ommegang in Cooperstown, New York. It also owns Vedett, a beer known more for the different photos on back of the bottle (making the drinker the star) rather than for a memorable drink. The beer became fashionable in Brussels about a decade ago and so it is surprising that it too has come out with an IPA. Billed as a 6% abv “extra ordinary” IPA, it pours a clear golden colour. It is topped by a fair amount of Belgian lace. There are plenty of tropical fruit notes on the nose. It drinks bitter and fairly sweet with the prerequisite bitter finish. However, it is slightly lacking in the body and makes this beer nothing extraordinary.

Vedette "Extra Ordinary" IPA
Vedett “Extra Ordinary” IPA

Last but not least is a beer for tonight’s match between the US and de Rode Duivels, les Diables Rouges, die Roten Teufel (one mustn’t forget about the small German-speaking area) or to us, simply the Red Devils. Duvel is one of the more instantly recognisable Belgian beers out there and perhaps this has affected the level of respect shown to it. It remains a good benchmark for Belgian strong golden ales. However, to regain some of the interest in Devil beer (Duvel being Flemish for devil), they produced an extremely limited edition triple hop version back in 200. Amarillo was added to the usual hop mix of Czech Saaz and Styrian Goldings. Due to the campaigning of a Belgian beer club, the Lambikstoempers (they collected 17,000 signatures through a Facebook campaign), the beer was brewed once more in 2010. Thankfully by 2012, it was decided to make Tripel Hop an annual limited release but changing the third hop variety used in each edition. Besides Amarillo, versions with Citra© and Sorachi Ace have also been sold.

Sensory overload with Duvel Tripel Hop in a "ballon"
Sensory overload with Duvel Tripel Hop in a “ballon”

Duvel Tripel Hop 2014 features the powerhouse addition of Mosaic. This is a hop that packs in as much of the hop aromas prized in new world hops. There are lashings of citrus, tropical fruits, herbs and pine. However, it’s grapefruit that emerges successfully from the fight with the pear and pepper aroma from the beer’s yeast. The Duvel glass, the “ballon” makes drinking the classic Duvel a real pleasure but this glass comes into its own with Tripel Hop. The collective aroma from the beer becomes pleasurably intoxicating, all the more with the artistry in the glass due to the pour of Duvel. A light golden colour topped with a spectacular head. It initially drinks dry and slightly bitter. Duvel is known for being sublimely effervescent but this version takes it to another level and becomes sherbert-like in the finish. Intriguing for a beer that comes in at 9.5% abv.

Regardless of who wins the match tonight, it’s interesting to know that both countries’ supporters are thankful for the brewing traditions of the other.

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