A Day at Duvel

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Supply Chain applies to a myriad of industries, from third party logistics to humanitarian aid to fast moving consumer goods. On Friday, February 19, several GSCM students visited one of our most beloved companies, Duvel. Having consumed a large amount of their offerings, we needed to check out their production facilities. For a true product comparison, we drank ABInBev’s Jupilers on the train.

The tour started with a short advertising film with a brief history of the company and an overview of the products. Duvel has acquired a number of brands, such as Belgium’s De Koninck, Liefmans and D’Achouffe as well as the American Boulevard, Ommegang and Firestone Walker breweries. 100% of Duvel production is done in this location, as well as the bottling and distribution of De Koninck and Liefmans.

After the film and all of our corporate strategy questions, we were walked through the fermentation process. We were shown the basic ingredients of the beer- hops, malt, yeast and water. The malt is made by allowing grains, usually barely, to germinate and then roasting them. Different grain profiles as well as roasting length will change the flavor and color of the beer. The ‘mash-in’ process is when grains are steeped in water, almost like a tea, and then the grain is removed leaving behind the ‘wort’ which is sugar water. The heat enables enzymes to convert the starches into sugars. At Duvel, the leftover grain is then sold to farms for fertilizer. The wort is boiled to remove any contaminants and depending on the flavor profile, hops are added in. Hops added at the beginning of the boil are ‘bittering hops’, towards the end they are ‘flavor hops’ and then at the absolute last second are ‘aromatic hops.’ Duvel offers a Tripel Hop which has 3 hop varietals, and every year the last hop is changed for a different flavor profile. The hopped wort is then chilled quickly and yeast is added. Over the next few days, the yeast eats the sugars and then excretes alcohol and CO2. Duvel’s beers are bottle conditioned which means that they are carbonated while in the bottle through natural means.

Yes, it is that easy to make your own alcohol. It’s amazing that Prohibition lasted 13 years in America.

Bottling Facility
Bottling Facility

We saw the giant fermentation tanks and then were directed towards the bottling line. We watched recycled bottles being cleaned, new bottles being labeled and the bottles filled with that sweet, sweet nectar of the gods. Clearly, we needed to have a taste after watching the magic. The tour comes with 2 free drinks and a gift which we gladly accepted. In the tasting room, we learned the correct way to pour a Duvel and the reason why you may have been given a full glass with a little left in the bottle. Apparently, the yeast will aid in digestion so adding the trub will cloud the beer and settle your stomach, which some may not appreciate.

Unfortunately, the tasting room closed before our bus ride so we had to stumble- I mean walk- across the street to the neighborhood bar. Inside was a very serious bumper pool competition and then a group of AMS students, silently observing. We befriended a woman with a dog, who really wants us to come back to visit so I would totally recommend doing that. We said our goodbyes, went outside to the bus stop, and then promptly missed the bus. The taxi home was a bit pricey so we do NOT recommend doing that. And then as always, the Beer Club ended their meeting at De Prof, where far too many Duvels were consumed so we can’t really drink them anymore.

To schedule your own tour, go to http://www.duvel.com/en/visit-duvel

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