My First Belgian

Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis

When I was in my late teens the beer fridge in our home had pretty much an open-access policy. My Dad was keen that I educated myself on the effects of drink in house rather than unsupervised in a park with the cheapest booze my friends and I could lay our hands on. Of course that did happen, it was as much a drinking rite of passage as sipping my first pint of real ale or first modern American style IPA.

Various beers graced that fridge, mostly the now much derided macro lagers such as Grolsch or Becks but back then I enjoyed them. At seventeen my palate wasn't quite ready or able to decipher the myriad flavours that different beer styles offered. However there was definitely an early fascination in beer, the collection of beer mats and assorted empty bottles in my bedroom was as indicative of my future habits as it was a teenage attempt at impressing my peers. 

I remember quite clearly when Dad brought some bottles of Duvel home from the supermarket. He really played on its high ABV to get me excited and I recall him saying 'be careful when you pour it as it's really lively!'

Pour it into a glass? This was surely madness but this stunted, stubby bottle didn't really work all that well as a drinking vessel and so I did opt for the official Duvel glassware which we just happened to have in the cupboard. Typically, no matter how carefully I poured I ended up with an ice cream mountain of foam and very little beer. After a few impatient minutes I did eventually transfer an adequate amount of beer from the bottle to the glass and I had my first ever taste of Belgian beer.

It was sweet, cloying and alcoholic. There was more going on in that glass than a seventeen year old was prepared for but I was not going to be defeated in front of my father. Besides this was 8.5% and I thought that was really cool. I remember enjoying it or at least saying I did but I'll be honest in saying that back then I really didn't understand it. Still this sparked an early curiosty in Belgian beers, particularly Abbey and Trappist beers. I remember enjoying Chimay Rouge the very first time I tried it and in my early twenties I'd drink Leffe while my mates drank Stella in an effort to impress them. I don't think it really worked. 

It's almost fifteen years since I took my first sip of Duvel. When I first discovered the modern, hop-forward beers that drove my beer love into the realms of pure fanaticism it took a back seat. In my arrogance I didn't have time for this beer any more. It took one sip from a glass of Duvel in a Bruges cafe to draw me back in only this was different. I'd learned how to taste beer now and so the experience was completely different. Delicate effervescence dancing on the tongue unlocking hints of sweetness and a light, almost bread like body that mingled with berry fruit flavoured yeast esters. Duvel is the champagne of beers, it is one of the best beers on the planet. 

In 2007 Duvel Moortgat first brewed Tripel Hop to keep with the trend of increasingly hoppy beer. Every spring they release a new batch, dry hopped with a different variety each year, this years is Mosaic and I love it so much I bought a case. There aren't many beers that drive me to this sort of dedication. Personally I like to think that as I've changed and grown as a beer drinker, Duvel has too but in reality it's been smashing it out of the Abbey since 1871.

The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. This months Session is hosted by Elisa and Breandán from Belgian Smaak