Beer Reviews

Seeking out the best in malty, hoppy refreshment.

Serious Beer: DeuS, The Champagne of Beers, Plus Our Favorite Beers of 2009

In honor of New Year's Eve, we decided to try the champagne of beers.

No, not Miller High Life.

DeuS is marketed as a top-shelf "divine beverage" somewhere between a beer and a sparkling wine. It's sold in a 750-ml Champagne bottle, at Champagne prices. Brewed in Belgium by Brouwerij Bosteels, DeuS undergoes fermentation and maturation in Belgium, but is then transported to the Champagne region of France, where sugars and yeast are added for refermentation and a long aging, and a temporary cap is put on.

Then, just like Champagne, bottles of DeuS are put into riddling racks, where they are turned daily and gradually tilted toward the ground. This continues for several weeks until eventually they are hanging vertically with the neck of the bottle facing down. This process forces the sediment and yeast to slide toward the neck of the bottle. In order to get rid of this plug, the neck of the bottle is frozen. When the cap is removed, pressure in the bottle forces the yeast and sediment out. As in Champagne, a "dosage" of brewed Deus is added to refill the bottle before corking.

There are rave reviews of DeuS all over the internet, but I had to try it for myself. Would it blow my mind? Is it really "Dom Perignon meets Duvel"? Is it the most festive and romantic beer ever brewed?

It certainly does open with a festive pop and an explosion of foam. Poured into Champagne flutes, it's a light golden color, with very delicate bubbles. My mouth watered.

So how did it taste?

Very dry. Unlike Champagne, there's no fruit in this, and it shows. We were reminded of hay and pine nuts, Earl Gray tea and lavender. It's strongly alcoholic—11.5% ABV, and not really refreshing. DeuS is for sipping contemplatively; it's elegant, with almost chalky minerals and a restrained mossy, peaty flavor. It's a little musty, like a refined Saison. Cocktail drinkers and lovers of brown spirits may find DeuS more appealing than Champagne.

For me, DeuS is not a party beer. It's distracting and fascinating, and it doesn't want to be in the background. As we continued to sip it, we noticed a hint of ginger and bitter almond, as well as a lightly musty yeast flavor. It was nice with a few slices of nutty Italian Parmigiano, and would probably work with other aged cheese as well.

The conclusion? This is about as far from an American IPA as you can get; this isn't a beer for hopheads or many beer lovers I know. It's refined and restrained, well-crafted and elegant, but it's not quite as delicious as I'd hoped.

Tonight, I'd rather be drinking something from the list that follows...

Beers We Loved in 2009

Our Favorite Belgian Dubbels
St. Bernardus Prior 8
Trappiste Rochefort 6
Westmalle Dubbel
Chimay Rouge

Our Favorite Fresh-hopped Beers
Founders Harvest Ale
Chatoe Rogue First Growth Wet Hop Ale
Deschutes Hop Trip
Two Brothers Heavy-Handed IPA

Our Favorite Winter Seasonals
Odell Isolation Ale
Clipper City Heavy Seas Winter Storm
Great Divide Hibernation Ale
Anchor Brewing Our Special Ale
Breckenridge Christmas Ale
Smuttynose Winter Ale
Full Sail Wassail

Our Favorite American Brown Ale
He'Brew Messiah Bold

Our Favorite American Rye Beers
Reunion '08 Organic Red Rye Ale
He'Brew Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A

Our Favorite Oktoberfest Beers
Hacker-Pschorr Originial Oktoberfest
Paulaner Oktoberfest-Märzen

Our Favorite Beer and Food Pairings This Year

Our Favorite Chinese food pairing
Monk's Blood with Tea-Smoked Duck

Our Favorite Thanksgiving Dessert Pairings
Deschutes Abyss with pumpkin pie
Southampton Abbot 12 with Apple, Pumpkin, and Pecan Pie

Our Favorite Beers for Thanksgiving Dinner
Southhampton Bière de Garde
Caldera Brewing's Ashland Amber

Cheers! Have a safe and happy New Year!

About the author: Maggie Hoffman and her team of tasters are always looking for their new favorite beers. Maggie also writes about cooking for Pithy and Cleaver.

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