Welcome, one and all, to night 11 of the 13 Beers of Halloween. We’re in the home stretch now, with just a few beers left, but before we arrive at our thrilling conclusion, we need to overcome tonight’s offering-Duvel, a Belgian golden pale ale whose name literally means Devil. I’ve heard a ton of great things about his beer, but I’ve never tried it…until now! (dramatic music). Will we make it through tonight with our souls intact? Will this devil allow us passage, or will he simply set his hell beasts after us? Let’s find out, shall we?
Popping the cork reveals a big, pilsner-ish scent layered atop sweet cherries, oranges, and honey. Bready malts make up a wonderful base, supporting the aromas perfectly. It’s a super crisp, fresh aroma that bursts against the nose with tantalizing mellowness. Letting it sit for a few moments brings out a deeper richness, consisting of roasted and smoky qualities that stop before overwhelming the sweeter notes. As an added bonus, it finishes with a slightly floral, mildly citrusy hop bite that offers only the slightest impact on the aroma. I can already tell this beer is more than just any other brew. Just like a story I was told, long ago…
Once upon a time, there lived a devil. Not the Devil, mind you. Just an average, ordinary, run of the mill devil. He had a wife, a son, a dog, a job, a mortgage, and doctors appointments that he never managed to cancel before the fee was charged. Sure, they were all devils too, and they were technically “evil”, but beyond that, this devil was, as they say, boring.
This particular devil’s name was Hank Devilowski. He came from a long line of Devilowskis, a proud family who could boast such members as Barbara Devilowski, the first female city council president of Devilsburg. And Thomas Devilowski, founder of TD Metalworks, a maker of high quality, evil industrial equipment. There was also Geraldo Devilowski, who was executed for throwing a lawn gnome at the Bride of Satan. The family never talked about Geraldo. Just as they never talked about Hank, until a remarkably average day, when Hank’s life changed forever.
What? You thought this story would be another “horror” tale, with monsters and violence and despair? Oh no, my bag of tricks has no bottom. Anyway, the initial taste of this beer is much like Wychwood’s Wychcraft. Sweet and malty, with a pilsner-like undertone. The major difference with this beer is that it’s almost twice as potent, and makes sure you can taste that increased strength. Big malt flavors arrive at the tongue first, bringing slightly sweet notes of plums and cherries. A golden tang of hops shows up just after the fruit, donating a slight bitterness that fades fairly quickly to allow the malts continued dominance. Underneath everything is a smooth yet potent wave of alcohol, highlighting the warm notes of the beer without leaving an unpleasant alcohol bite. There’s an overlying sweetness that runs through each taste, generated from the bread malts and the fruits, but also enhanced by subtle honey notes. It flows full and smooth over the tongue, staying rich despite the alcohol, and lingering for an eternity as sweet, bready malts.
Hank’s day began as any other day had. He woke up at dawn, readied himself for work (he was the regional vice president of Devillards, an evil department store), kissed his wife goodbye, and left in his 1995 Ford Escort station wagon (Devillards does not pay well). On his way to work, he hit a pothole, which caused him to spill his coffee across his lap and down his legs, burning his toes. Howling with pain, Hank tried, unsuccessfully, to remove his shoes while driving 45 miles per hour down a winding mountain road. As you might believe, such actions are not generally beneficial to life, devil or otherwise, and Hank soon found himself plummeting down the side of the mountain, screaming from both fear and the lingering tingle in his toes.
To Hank, it appeared as if the end had arrived. Too soon was he to be snatched from his mortal coil, to be delivered to that great Hell in the sky. It was during these lamentations when the most remarkable thing happened. As the windshield of his Ford Escort began to crack from reaching terminal velocity, a burst of swirling color appeared in front of him, setting the inside of Hank’s car alight with a thousand dancing colors. Dazed and terrified, Hank could only scream as he, his car, and his burnt toes vanished into the colorful cloud. But, no one would ever have guessed what would happen next.
Poor Hank. Anyway, poured into a snifter, a floral pilsner bloom fills the nose, riding on a wave of bready malts. A mild smokiness accompanies the malts, but they only add a subtle essence to the overall aroma. The bouquet is just like the bottle, except the notes have been opened up a bit more, allowing for a deeper initial aroma that disperses a bit quicker. Visually, it pours a beautiful, clear gold under a huge, frothy white head that lasts forever.
When Hank awoke several hours later, he was surprised to find himself not only alive, but relatively unharmed, save for his tender and coffee stained toes. However, from just one look outside his shattered windows, Hank knew that he had arrived at a place worse than death. Worse than the everlasting torment of butterfly kisses, and ice cream parties, and casual Fridays. Hank had only heard stories of his current surroundings – haunting tales told by elder devils to scare the children. He had never believed such tales, until he witnessed such desolation with his own eyes. He had somehow ended up in a place of magic, and laughter, and…human children. Specifically, Hank had landed in the ball pit of a Chuck E Cheese.
With an anguished cry, he beat his fists against his chest, wailing in hopeless agony until an anthropomorphic mouse and three uniformed humans pulled him from his car and locked him in a broom closet until the authorities arrived. Broken in spirit, lost and cut off from the life he once held so dear, Hank did what any devil would do when faced with such insurmountable tribulations. He took off his shirt, wrapped it around his head in a makeshift bonnet, and cried.
It is at this point in our tale that I must state this warning: any devils with weak dispositions should read no farther! For the plight of Hank Devilowski has merely scratched the surface of its horrible truth!
Yeah, at this point, your guess is as good as mind. I’m pretty sure the story has a mind of its own. But, let’s get back to business, shall we? The poured taste is a combination of bread and roasted malts, creating a rich, full bodied flavor. Mild hints of plums and cherries work in from the sides. A streak of sweetness still swirls through each taste, but it isn’t as concentrated as it was in the bottle, instead providing a more earthy quality once the beer has been poured. The alcohol edge is considerably stronger, making itself known sooner and as a more intense addition, but still refraining from creating an overpowering bite. The tastes end with a mild hoppy bitterness at the back of the mouth, but like the bottle, it doesn’t linger, and gives way to the mouth filling maltiness. Over the tongue, it’s a bit crisper than from the bottle, but it finishes with a smooth creaminess that coats every inch of the mouth. Its aftertaste is a mildly fruity layer of bready malts that remains rich well after you’ve finished drinking.
After the initial realization of his fate, Hank lost hope. In life, in returning home, in seeing his family again. He merely sat, alone in his cold, grey room at the “country jail” for three days, until a stranger appeared at the bars of his door. It was a tall, thin individual, with small feet and long, pale fingers that looked as if they had been broken several times. The stranger wore a hood, preventing Hank from ever seeing a face. However, when the stranger spoke, the voice was deep and rumbling, with a singsong quality that reminded him of his mother. The voice had informed Hank that his arrival in this place had been foretold, and that it was the stranger’s duty to return Hank to his proper home. Suppressing a sob, Hank listened as the stranger told of the horrors and atrocities that lurked around every corner. But there was a path to redemption-a means by which Hank could find the entrance back into his world. On the 11th day, of the 11th month, at the 11th hour, Hank would need to recite a magical incantation while performing the ritual dance of Tep, the mating dance by which young, male devils acquired mates. The incantation, the stranger went on to say, was a series of powerful words: “Did’thep fwaa’ng yomanim bur’th gront duballa budalla”, followed by a repeated slapping of the forehead. This would open up a portal through which Hank would travel back to his world. Without another word, the Stranger disappeared, but not before posting Hank’s bail.
In the end, this is a big flavored, hugely refreshing ale that combines tasty bread malts, fresh fruits, honey and a generous helping of alcohol to create a full bodied, yet wonderfully drinkable beer. Bread malts and fruit sweetness proved the base upon which a slight hoppy crispness and fleeting hints of smoke mingle. Like Wychcraft, it has an unmistakable essence of a pilsner about it, but it goes far beyond, pulling you into the heart and soul of deliciousness. Despite the mouth filling flavors and alcoholic kick, it rolls super smooth and rich over the tongue, lingering as a fruited bread maltiness for quite a while. As always the price is a little steep at $8.50 for a pint and a half. But its wonderful flavor and superbly refreshing drinkability will make you turn the other way when buying an extra bottle or four.
The time had arrived-the 1th day, of the 11th month, at the 11th hour – when Hank found himself atop a secluded hill, twirling and kicking his feet in one of the finest Tep dances ever danced. Around him, the wind began to swirl, a rolling vortex of color that surrounded the dancing devil. As the colors began to mix, Hank knew what he had to do, and began the incantation.
“Did’thep fwaa’ng yomanim!” He cried out into the wind. “Bur’th gront!” The wind swirled faster, cracks of red and blue lightning leaping above him.
“Duballa…budalla!” Uttering the final words, he began to slap his forehead, sweat trickling down his nose.
Thwap, thwap, thwap. He smacked his palm against his head, watching in growing, blissful amazement as a small opening in reality itself began to form in front of him.
Thwap, thwap, thwap. The window grew, allowing Hank a glimpse of the mountain road that had started this entire ordeal.
Thwap, thwap, thwap. Wider and wider the window opened, solidifying along the edges. Unbeknownst to Hank, an animal called a squirrel had somehow made it past the swirling cone of wind, and had proceeded to climb up his leg. In the midst of his gleeful head slapping, he didn’t realize the presence of the intruder until he felt sharp, tiny rodent teeth bite down into his shin.
Thwap, thwap, thw-aaiiiee! Hank tumbled forward, tripping through the window which now showed a strange, alien landscape of green field, blue skies, and black and white, four legged beasts. Devil and squirrel fell through the rift, tumbling into a dimension unknown even to the wisest of Devil scholars. It is only though a mysterious, ancient text that we know of Hank’s story. For it was prophesized that one of us would leave these lands, and face the most trying of ordeals. And then, when the hour of our demise was upon us, he would return as our salvation. It is because of this that we pray to you now, Almighty Hank Rodentshin. Return in your majestic glory, and save us wretched souls. For the end is most certainly nigh…A McDonalds was just built in the center of town, and I have heard tales of a Bennigans, coming soon! Please, O’ great and powerful Hank, save your flock and drive these heathens from our lands! Let us pray.
There we have it, folks! Good ol’ Hank. Anyway, my recommendations for this beer are fall afternoons and summer evenings. A little warmth for the former and an easy-going dose of tasty refreshment for the latter. My horror genre is, of course, something to do with devils, but I’m leaving it pretty vague. Not every devil story needs to be evil, apparently, as Hank Devilowski has shown us. Who knows, maybe Hank will one day end up on the big screen (or a made for TV movie featuring Scott Bakula). Duvel earns itself a Hank approved A.
Lasting Strength: 10/10
Overall: 9.5/10 A