Tuesday 12 May 2015

Duvel brewery

After the teeny tiny Gruut brewery the somewhat larger Duvel was the next stop on the Belgian study tour.

They've acquired, and kept running, several other breweries in recent years: La Chouffe, Leifmans, and De Konick in Belgium, and Boulevard in the US. The also own Ommegang in the states, and have a 50% share of Bernard in the Czech republic.

Here's some of their wares on display
The total production of the group is over a million hectolitres a year. Still small enough to make them craft obviously. If only they were American that is, I found on the trip that only American owned breweries meet the Brewers Association definition. This knowledge will at least make discussions about breweries in Britain easier as I can now answer with confidence that none of them are craft.

Craft or not, Duvel is certainly big.

They produce around 700,000 hectolitres a year here, brewing 24/5.

Told you it was big. 

Mostly they produce bottle conditioned beer, which as CAMRA is clearly more internationalist in outlook than the Brewers Association means it qualifies as real ale. So next time a tripel hop comes out the hipster beardy weirdies can step aside and leave it to the socks and sandals beardy weirdies.

Now for some technical stuff: Duvel the beer is brewed with pale malt and glucose, giving a beer of 8.5% ABV but only 5.5 EBC colour. The mash is a simple infusion with the glucose being added post-boil. Brew length is 410 hl. The bitterness is 33 IBU and comes from Saaz and Styrian golding (mostly Celeia) pellets, some added late.

They ferment their ales at 18-21°C, rising to 25-26°C. Apparent attenuation for Duvel is 92-93%, which would explain why it's so drinkable for its strength. Beers are centrifuged, filtered and flash pasteurised before being reseeded (1-2 million cells/ml) and primed (4g glucose/L) before bottling. Flash pasteurising apparently destroys esterases which would otherwise remove some of the fruity flavour. Even though they are going to be bottle conditioned the beers are capped on foam to reduce oxygen pick up.

It was admittedly the Quality Director showing us round, but it was clear that they were obsessed with quality at all stages of production and packaging.

 The place looked gleaming.

Green and brown returned bottles being separated.

And though bottling lines are not my favourite parts of a brewery I have to say that this one was impressive.

Innit good?

After being shown round the brewery we had a beer and cheese tasting session. Though in the past food pairing events have not always impressed me I remembered to stay chilled about the whole thing and just enjoy myself. I still wasn't hugely convinced but it was fun and there was some impressive looking mould.

After that it was lunch and then back on the coach. Intriguingly I did see what looks like it may have been another brewery before the coach had even got moving, though sadly it was too late to ask anyone by this point.


  1. Sorry for nitpicking, the name of the Czech brewery is Bernard

    1. And the American one is Ommegang. (-:

    2. Thank you gentlemen. I do normally look up breweries I mention and link to them but I've got a big backlog of stuff to post about so I'm letting my usual standards slip further.

  2. Whenever you refer to someone younger than yourself who enjoys good beer as a "hipster", I'm reminded of Grampa Simpson yelling at clouds.

  3. Hey Ed. You mentioned a "simple" infusion for the mash. Did you mean "single" infusion? If so, how confident are you, and do you know the mash temperature? I ask because Stan Hieronymus in "Brew Like a Monk" says that Moortgat uses a traditional step mash. Appreciate any light you can shed on this!

    1. Sorry for the delay replying, I've stopped getting emails about comments for some reason.
      Yes, as far as my notes go it's a single temperature infusion mash not a temperature stepped one. Too long ago for me to remember any details I didn't write on the blog I'm afraid, but as they go for high fermentabilty it's likely to be a low mash temp. I'd go for 62°C if I was having a go. Which has given me an idea now...