March 20: The EquiCox. The time of the year when everyone on the planet has the same amount of daylight until the next TV show involving Professor Brian Cox. It is also the eve of the Vernal Equinox* and coincidentally, the first total solar eclipse of 2015. It is no coincidence that this is the day chosen for the UK launch of Duvel Tripel Hop 2015, a special, limited edition beer.
You do wonder if a limited edition beer can ever really be launched. I wonder, anyway, because by the time a special, limited edition beer is written about, it will be just as special but even more limited. But hey, if you get invited to a launch, well, you’re not going to turn it down over a point of semantics, are you?
The Tripel Hop version of this classic, Belgian, golden ale Duvel, has made an annual appearance since 2007, which was two years after physicist Brian Cox first appeared on our TV screens and eight years after the last solar eclipse visible from the UK. I went to the Three Johns pub in Islington for launch night***.
Duvel Tripel Hop: the history
So successful has the ordinary Duvel become that its parent brewery, Moortgat, which in my mind, is Flemish for dead cat, renamed itself Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat**. What makes this Duvel a “Tripel Hop” is the third variety of hop used, one more than the otherwise doubly-hopped “ordinary” version.
According to the press release:
“Duvel Tripel Hop has a different hop every year that will be added in the brewing process as well as being used for dry hopping. For 2015 it is the super exciting Equinox”
Would that it had always been that easy.
When Duvel Tripel Hop came out in 2007, who knows if it was launched. A little poking around reveals that Amarillo was the extra hop variety involved. But back then, brewers’ attitudes to advertising their ingredients wasn’t as open as it is today. And the way the triple nature of the hopping was displayed wasn’t as straightforward as it has been in these two most recent years.
A Duvel Tripel Hop came out yearly until 2011, when it seems to have been withdrawn. It was re-instated a year later, having straightened its act out, not least to be more true to its name. Oh, I don’t know. It just seems a good idea to entice people back for a new vintage. Works for me. And the modern way is to emphasize the hop or a particular hop variety.
Equinox: This year’s model
The crisp, fresh, invigorating flavours of the standard Duvel seem accentuated in the Tripel Hop 2015. There’s an extra spiciness too. Somebody mentions Gewürztraminer, the wine that unquestioned “knowledge” tells you is the one to drink with spicy, oriental food.
Wines from the Gewurztraminer grape have the aroma of lychees, and there is a tropical fruit quality to the aroma of this Duvel Equinox, perhaps even a floral, oriental spiciness. Not the flavour; mind. Tastes nothing like any Gewürztraminer I’ve ever had.
Duvel Tripel Hop is exciting, and the 2015 Equinox is lovely, I’ll enjoy it while I can, and I’ll come back for whatever next year’s Tripel Hop variety is. It’s never going to replace the ordinary Duvel, no, the classic Duvel. But that was never the point. Just like an eclipse, the event dazzles and inspires but ultimately, leaves you with a renewed appreciation of what was so great in the first place. Rather like Brian Cox.
Links and bits
* The vernal equinox in March is only vernal, that is, a spring equinox in the northern hemisphere.
** Despite Moortgat sounding like a one-name brewery, they own a decent portfolio that includes Belgian Maredsous abbey-style beers, and two rather nifty Americans: Brewery Ommegang from New York, but not New York City, and Boulevard Brewing from Kansas City, which isn’t in Kansas.
*** OK, it was not just a Duvel Triple Hop 2015 launch, two Boulevard beers made their UK debuts: Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, an 8.5% zinger of a, well, farmhouse ale, and Single-Wide IPA, which at 5.7% is more English in strength, but tastes very US. Nothing to do with cricket. So, a proper launch, then.
You might, might just find some Tripel Hop 2015 Equinox at Beermerchants.com.