In a time when new beers are released weekly it is easy to forget how good an old faithful can be. This seemed to be everyone’s view when we opened our first bottle of Duvel at the Tripel Hop voting evening. It was a wet and windy Monday night outside the Burlington Arms but inside the function room it was quickly filling up and getting warm. As a crowd of familiar faces grew so did the empty bottles of Duvel Tripel Hop range on our table. We were all brought together to sample the full range of Duvel Tripel Hop beers, then cast our votes for our top 3 favourite years. Since 2008 Duvel have been brewing these limited edition beers which highlight a different third hop in the brewing each edition. It is interesting to see a Belgian brewer experimenting with hops in this way, the country as a whole historically hasn’t had hop forward beers till recently.
We started with a bottle of Duvel so we could use it as a base beer to compare the other beers to. Duvel is such a classic and everyone has a story to go with it. Way back in college in the 2002 we use to drink Duvel often in Southend’s Weatherspoons and The Alex pub, it was a gateway beer for a lot of us and introduced us to Belgian beer.
The first Tripel Hop beer was Amarillo, first brewed in 2008 and again in 2010. I must admit this was my least favourite of the range, I found the beer to be a little harsh and you could really feel the ABV. I couldn’t get past the medicine feel shooting through the middle of the beer. Although I didn’t personally like this beer it has to be said that it was the only one I didn’t like out of all the different Tripel Hop beers.
Second up was the 2012 edition, which uses one of my favourite hops, Citra. I knew I was going to like this before I even got into it, and I wasn’t disappointed. This is a full on Citra bomb! Big citrus flavours complimenting those typical Belgian tastes. It hides the ABV very well and has a really good rounded finish compared to the previous bottle. Possibly the furthest away from the original beer, so it will be interesting to see how the people of Belgian take to this one a second time round, it would appeal more to the British and American market in my opinion.
Next in line is another hop favourite of mine, although not everyone’s as there is a love hate relationship with Sorachi Ace. I love those dill and coconut flavours you get from Sorachi Ace, this 2013 Tripel Hop is a great example of the hop flavours. The finish is so dry, like you’ve just had all the moisture vacuumed out of your mouth by a dentist assistant, this dry finish just leaves you wanting more, sip after sip and at 9.5% that is a very dangerous thing!
2014 saw Duvel brew with the Mosaic hop, now I am pretty sure I have had this a few times before but wasn’t 100% sure on the night. It is big on the tropical citrus fruit aroma and flavours, again a beer that you wouldn’t expect to come out of Belgium. It was ticking a lot of people’s top beer of the night boxes around me, it was a great beer but didn’t beat Citra for me.
Now I was lucky enough to have lots and lots of 2015 Equinox, my missus Dad brought back a crate load of them while away in Belgium last year. I think because I had so much of it before it didn’t stand out like it should have, it is incredibly drinkable and full of those juicy citrus flavours, just like the mosaic version. I can see this beer doing well in the voting.
Finally, there was this year’s beer which uses the new Experimental Hop 291. I had tried this the week before which you can read here. It is good but lined up against the other beers I felt it wasn’t high on the winners list. Real spiky tropical fruit bitter finish, which I found a little unbalanced. I admire their use of a new experimental hop but give me the Citra or Sorachi Ace any time.
All in all it was a great evening and its wonderful to see a brewery like Duvel experiment with the different hops like they have. If you are lucky enough to get your hands of the 6 pack then head over to their voting website to vote for your top three, or even if you have had some before and want to vote anyways then get involved. The winner will be released as a permanent line, it’s just a shame that no super markets have picked up the 6 packs, I would have thought someone like M&S or The Whole Food Store would have been interested. Currently my favourite Citra is winning, there is 25 days left to vote so get tasting and get voting.
I was invited to come try the Duvel Tripel Hop Series for free, however I do not think this effected my opinions or judgement. Thanks to R & R Teamwork for inviting me.