Friday Froth: The Devil's Advocate

James Gribbon

"O thou invisible spirit of wine, if thou hast no name to be known by, let us call thee devil."

-William Shakespeare

Every once in a while you have to let the Devil out: take a vacation from civilization and get back to human nature, permit rules made by somebody else to slide by and let your glands do the talking. Sounds fun, doesn't it? Spending all your time trying to be good is just living under the thumb of what you consider to be bad, anyway. Most of us spend enough time crying with the saints - this week it's time to laugh with the sinners. 

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"The Devil can sometimes do a very gentlemanly thing." 

-Robert Louis Stevenson

Albert Moortgat was a second-generation brewer when the first World War brought destruction to the fields of Flanders. Saturn, Satan or the Kaiser - whomever you want to blame - the war also brought English soldiers and English beer. Moortgat, along with a great many others, became enamored of the style, and traveled to the U.K. in search of ingredients. The yeast he found in Scotland has been cultured ever since and is still used today. The world knows the Moortgats' beer by the name Duvel, or Devil.

Since 1871 four generations of the family have perfected the process of making this beer, which includes Pilsner malts, Bohemian hops, local water, two stages of fermentation, and lagering. The Devil's in the details, you know. The pour, and there's no other proper word for it, is golden. It's enough to inspire feelings of greed. The released carbonation mixes with natural proteins left from the brewing process and create a generous head thick enough to hold a toothpick upright and steady. That's not allegory, metaphor or the Devil's forked tongue, either - I actually did it. The aroma will grab you: it's full to bursting with mild hops and big yeast esters. The intense flavor is crisp with those Pilsner malts, that spicy, magical yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae cerevisiae, if you care) and has a wonderful complexity deriving from the myriad and difficult steps of its creation. Duvel is a living beer, undergoing bottle fermentation from the brewery to your grasping hand, which necessitates a thick, heavy bottle to withstand the pressure from the exhalations of the gluttonous yeast. The tulip-shaped glass which is the preferred serving type for many Belgian beers was developed by the third generation of Moortgats in the 1960's to showcase the color of this devilish brew and trap its head and aroma. Leave the yeast sediment in the bottle and see where that glass takes you.

"Thank God! You're finally fighting your demons!"

"My demons and I are closer than ever! Next year we're visiting every major league ball park."

-Homer Simpson, to Ned Flanders

Avery Brewing, in Boulder, Colorado keeps their demons close, too. In fact, they created a special series they call the Demons of Ale. This unholy triumvirate is made up of The Beast grand cru, Mephistopheles stout (oh, how I looked for this one), and Samael's Oak-Aged ale. This last is named for the only fallen angel to remain in God's employ: Samael, the angel of death. "Sweet release" might not be a bad nickname for this brew, as the caramelly turbinado sugar in its manufacture absolutely dominates. Samael could be easily confused with a cask ale, as it is aged over a bed of American oak chips which impart a pleasant tannin sharpness that cuts the cloying sweetness and adds aroma. Thick, swimming with bottled yeast, and high in alcohol, this copper ale, like death, don't have no mercy. Tread carefully.  

"Don't you know there ain't no Devil? It's just God when he's drunk."

-Tom Waits 

Hops are the original Ambien. A chemical called amylene hydrate is released from the hop flower and has been used as a natural sedative for centuries - good news for insomniacs, bad news for hop growers paying pickers to not sleep on the job. Our ancestors didn't know so much about chemical compounds, so they'd search through the hop field and exclaim "Here he is! The hop devil got him," when the snoozing employee was finally located. Hops, we might say, can be overwhelming. For those of us in the "too much is not enough" set, there is Hop Devil from Victory Brewing.

Hop Devil pours a deep amber, the color of maple syrup, with a thin head and a pungent, earthy hop aroma with sweet malt overtones. The first sip is remarkable for the contrast between the smoothness of its mouth feel and the big bitterness of the hops. The deep malt profile comes through without subtlety, but strikes a beautiful harmonic balance with the strong hop character. I thoroughly enjoy this beer, and the guys at Victory seem to enjoy making it. 

Cut loose from your bonds, share an impish grin with a stranger, but...

"Do not be dismayed to learn there is a bit of the devil in you. There is a bit of the devil in us all."

-Arthur Byron Cover