Trappist beers excluded, the chances that one finds a world class belgium beer on the beer store shelf are fairly low; the great majotity are, however, good representatives of their style.
Duivels is no exception to this rule.
What initially interested me was the fact that the beer is brewed by Boon, well known for its gueuze beers. For some reason they only list their lambic beers on their website although they acquired the brand in 2003.
The beer has an interesting history: Duivelsbier started life in 1883 and was, therefore, the first devil beer. It was brewed as a strong dark beer for pilgrims passing through the area.
In 1923 Moortgat introduced Duvel, then a similar strong dark beer. (It changed to its familiar golden colour and taste of today in 1965.) There followed years of dispute over the Devil name finally culminating in a victory for Moortgat in 1996 when they managed to register the brand name Duivelsbier.
The original small brewery, Pêtre Frères, could not survive for long after WWII; in 1952 it closed and production was taken over by Van Linden who then confronted Moortgat head on by repackaging the beer in a very similar style to Duvel. Van Linden folded up in 2003 and the brand was taken over by Boon and sold under the name Duivels Bier.
The beer itself has changed; originally it was darker and spontaneously fermented which must have given it a heavier, sour taste. Today the beer is drinkable but not exceptional. It smells a bit yeasty with a hint of grain and has a beige head that slips fairly quickly away.
In taste it’s balanced at first between bitter and sweet (dark chocolate going towards caramel) followed by a dry woody taste and dryish malty follow through. Alc 8% vol. Not world class but I think many a pilgrim would welcome it.