Today’s guest is Natalya Watson of Duvel Moortgat. Watson’s upbringing was something of an adventure, born to Northern Irish parents in Canada, then living back in Northern Ireland before growing up in California. Watson would then go on to live in New York, before eventually putting her British passport to good use, and moving to London in 2015.
The start of her new adventure in beer here in the UK began behind the bar at Mother Kelly’s—an East London bar and bottle shop that’s become something of an institution among beer fans. Shortly after this she landed her current gig at Duvel Moortgat, where she’s held her role as UK marketing manager for almost three years.
The Duvel-Moortgat family currently consists of 12 of brands spread acrossmainland Europe and the United States. However, it doesn’t presently have a stake in a UK brewery. The UK arm of its business looks after seven of these brands within this territory, which are: De Koninck, Vedett, Maredsous, Liefmans, Brasserie Achouffe, Boulevard in Kansas City and Duvel itself. Not all of the brands in its portfolio fall under Duvel UK’s jurisdiction, however, with examples like California’s Firestone Walker and Bernard in Czechia acting autonomously in this market.
It’s an interesting time for Duvel in the UK—the British beer market is a landscape that’s unrecognizable from what it was 10, maybe even 5 years ago. It needs to find a way to compete in this space but in a way, the activation of the modern UK beer market has been a benefit to the Belgian company. In fact Duvelas a beer saw a 16% retail sales jump in 2017, and this year that figure might be closer to 25%. Remarkable numbers for a beer that will be celebrating itscentenary in 2023.
Perhaps this is because as a beer, Duvel no longer looks so alien on the supermarket shelf to some consumers. In Britain—a land built on the back of sessionable ales—an 8.5% Belgian Golden Ale is nothing if not a little intimidating. Now, Duvel has been joined on these shelves by Double IPA’s, Imperial Stouts, Saisons and more, somehow making it feel more accessible than ever.
Over the course of the next hour we’ll also find out why Duvel has decided to roll out a new draft version of its flagship using a unique dispense system. And we’ll speak about its US brands like Boulevard, Ommegang and Firestone Walker, examining why some of them are more prevalent here in the UK than others.