Thursday, 31 May 2012

Mikkeller In May
24. Mikkeller Weinbrand BA Red Ale 10.0%

It's the last day of May, and so the last of my Mikkellers In May series. I'll briefly list some of the highlights at the end of this post, I may even have a top three, but I wanted to have something a little bit special to end with and this could well be it.
It is already a special beer to me because this actual bottle is the very first bottle of Mikkeller beer that I ever bought.
I had read a little about Mikkeller beers and when I saw this bottle, with it's seductive wax-sealed cap, I knew it had to be mine.
This is a Red Ale or American Amber style, another that is brewed at the De Proef experimental brewery, before being aged in Weinbrand (a type of fortified fruit wine, quite similar in some respects to brandy) barrels from the Kollwentz vineyard in Germany for a period of three months.
I've never had a beer quite like this before, and suitably intrigued it's time I pressed on and see how it tastes.
It pours a cloudy dark amber with a definite ruby red edge to it. The head is surprsingly heavy with a beige colouring, and although it blooms and fades, it seems to do so reluctantly. The aroma is quite pungent with losts of musty vanilla and a big kick of cherry liqueur. It's bitingly sharp at first, making it's presence felt immediately with some milk chocolate, then the big flavours of sour cherries and a hint of vanilla and orange peel sweep in. Next comes what is almost a warm alcoholic orange and cherry void before a musty lollipop flavour, more cherry but this time with a little lemon, leaves a really rounded texture in the mouth. This coats the whole mouth with some sticky-sweet sourness resonant of the aftermath of a boiled sweet. This moves seemlessly into the finish which lingers a long long time.
This is another superb beer from Mikkeller, benefiting from storing a while I think, but it makes me wonder what the flavours would have become if left for a while longer.
The big question you're asking however (well, you might be) is, 'does it make the top 3 for May ?'
Not quite.
I was actually quite surprised when I read through my reviews and thought about the beers without drinking them at the same time. All the reviews and posts were made on the days that I drank them, which made it interesting at times, but I wanted to be true to the guidelines that I set myself.
Without further ado then, here I my favourites in reverse order:
3. Jackie Brown for it's gorgeous chocolate hoppiness.
2. Mexas Ranger for it's crazy hoppy chocolate roller-coaster ride.
1. Spontanale for it's pure sour fruit juice wonderment.
I hope that you've enjoyed coming along with me on my Mikkeller adventure. I'd love to know what you thought of what I wrote, and if you've tried some of these great beers or you've been inspired to explore the wonderful world of Mikkeller beer. Thank you to those who have already contacted me here and via twitter @1970sBoy.
I'll leave you with a picture of some of the Mikkellers that didn't quite make it due to time contraints but I may well visit here soon.
It's been a very good May indeed!

Monday, 28 May 2012

Mikkeller In May
23. Mikkeller Spontanale 5.3%

Those of you who have followed my Mikkeller adventures will know that I normally start off with a description of how it was brewed, what it contains, or some irrelevant aside.
On this occasion I want you to look at the picture first.
Have a good look.

I know.
It really is a thing of beauty.
This beer is simply stunningly beautiful to look at.
Some beers smell enticing, some have the most wonderful taste that keep you coming back for sip after sip, but this ... it's gorgeous, and I've not even tasted it yet.
This is a gueuze, a spontaneously fermented beer using airborne yeast in Belgium, possibly at Cantillon however I have been unable to positively confirm this. It is Mikkellers first attempt at the style, matured in oak barrels 'for years', and blended and is 'in all ways produced according to the rules'.
It pours, as you can see the most beautiful (that word again) golden amber, it glows and looks wonderfully fresh, with a highly carbonated pure white head. The aroma is pure sour green apples, resonant of a good quality dry cider with the merest hint of vanilla, or more correctly vanillin, which you would expect from something aged in oak. Bitingly sour over the tongue, a huge array of fruit juices assault the palate. There's sour apples naturally, but also peach juice, white grape, tomato juice (really wasn't expecting that !), grapefruit, tangerine and a splash of pineapple, all fresh, refreshing, zingy, tart, sour, mellow and smooth all at the same time.
You've read all those and thought "Really Justin?". Well, I read them back myself and thought the same thing, so went back again, and again, and again to check, and yes, they really are all there. This is absolutely wonderful. There is a light resonance of the juicy sourness in the finish but to be honest it really doesn't matter. The look, the smell and the taste are sublime. Mikkeller's first attempt at a gueuze and they've nailed it, and some.
Here's something else, looking at the bottle cap for the best before date, it says 14/04/21. That means they assume it will continue to develop and mature in the bottle for some time to come if kept cool and out of the sun. I would recommend getting a great load to serve at a barbecue to any cider drinkers (don't tell them what it is though until after they've tried it) and then get another great load to put away, bringing out a bottle every year or so to see how it's going.
That's what I call a real win - win situation. You won't regret it.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Mikkeller In May
22. Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel Calvados Edition 10.9%

After a brief interlude I finally get to taste my third Beer Geek Brunch Weasel - Calvados. It almost sounds like a film trilogy: The action moves to the Basse-Normandie (Lower Normandy) region of France. Our hero carefully watches the apples pressed and fermented into a dry cider. Biding it's time during the distillation and maturation process of the brandy, it seizes it's chance, occupying the recently vacated casks, waiting, transforming. Several months later it decides to split up, depositing some of itself in several bottles now fully matured and subtley changed. Now is it has emerged on it's final mission. This is it's time ...

It pours very like the others, as you would expect but with a touch darker head perhaps. There's a rich dark sugar aroma at first before the familiar boozy dark chocolate jumps up the nose. There's a lovely sweetness in there too with some deep fruitiness that I would more readily associate with brown sauce. Interesting. There's some fruity sweetness over the tongue but silky smooth nonetheless. More milky chocolate kicks in then a wave of dry yet sweet alcohol, warming the mouth, cuddling the tongue in a dark fruity embrace. The finish is smooth, continuing the same warming sensation with little bits of chocolate, cocoa and liquorice.

This is a wonderful conclusion to my BGBW trio. If I were to rank them this would probably be in the silver medal position although I really love the extra sweetness, just pipped at the post by it's older brother (well, like Dobie Gray sang in The In Crowd. the original is still the greatest) but absolutely superb. It's a close run thing, and I feel quite lucky to have had the chance to compare them.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Mikkeller In May
21. Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel Cognac Edition 10.9%

Hang on a minute, I hear you say, this is a bit of a cop-out, he's reviewing the same beer as yesterday, and in a sense you'd be right. (I'll be reviewing the same beer again tomorrow too). It is the same beer, but this time it's aged in Cognac barrels.

I thought it would be interesting to review this immediately after yesterdays 'standard' (like it could really ever be called standard) Beer Geek Brunch Weasel to compare and contrast.

I'm usually not one for 'brewery blurb', but on this occasion because I think they make it beautifully clear I'll let Mikkeller tell you about their beer:
'The recipe for this beer is as simple as a childs finger painting: you take one of the world's highest rated beers - that's the one called Brunch - and then you let it splash about in a totally fresh cognac barrel for three months. After that it's just a question of, out of the barrel, into a bottle and off you go.'
Nice and straight forward. time to drink it.

The first thing that you may notice is that the bottle is smaller than yesterdays, half the size actually, 25cl as opposed to it's 50cl brother. It pours in the same silky smooth way and it looks the same captivating and enveloping rich deep brown, but the head is lighter, less voluminous and fades quicker as a consequence. The aroma is rich deep dark chocolate with a very pronounced vanilla overlay, slightly spicy and creamy, with a touch of white chocolate too. Initially smooth as it flows over the tip of the tongue then a great bit surge of dryness is sucked up by a boozy milk chocolate brandy explosion at the back of the mouth. The flavour is quite intense, clearing the nasal passages and continues into the silky sweet milk chocolate finish with lovely alcoholic edge in there too.
The cognac barrel aging has altered the character of the beer, accentuating and intensifying the alcoholic chocolate element, but overpowering and obliterating any trace of the hoppy tropical fruit caramel. Yes, it's the same wonderful beer, but it's also wonderfully different too.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Mikkeller In May
20. Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel 10.9%

I'm afraid that this isn't going to be a review, this is going to be an experience. Mikkeller's Beer Geek Brunch Weasel is possibly one of my favourite beers, if not the favourite. Please indulge me. I will try to be objective, but ...

Beer Geek Brunch Weasel, the name is simply wonderful, is an Imperial Stout brewed at the Nogne O brewery in Norway using Vietnamese ca phe chon coffee. For those that don't know, that is coffee cherries, the red epigynous berries or fruit of the coffe plant, that have been eaten by the Asian Palm Civet (hence the weasel on the label). The flesh is digested but the beans are passed through the animal, having been partially broken down by its digestive enzymes. This gives the coffee a strong taste and aroma, making it very prized and quite expensive. Incidentally  a packet of this coffee was Stephen Fry's wedding gift to Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles.

So, to the beer. It pours a deliciously silky deep dark brown, oh so nearly black, sucking the light out of the surroundings but also reflecting all around it. The head is a whipped chocolate mousse brown, blooming and fading until a small creamy disc remains nestling over the darkness. The aroma is a vanilla edged dark chocolate, but that's not all, there's some milk chocolate and coffee with a ghostly pine peering hrough the middle of it all. Beautifully smooth, it flows sweetly over the tongue before a stab of sharpness roars at the back of throat. The flavours are astonishing. First comes some milk chocolate, but this is immediately overwhelmed by rich dark chocolate, this is not cheap dark chocolate either but the more expensive and intensive 80% chocolate, possibly with the faintest cherry edge. Then comes a vanilla coffe sweetness, quite boozy, the alcohol is really apparent here, with a really light, and I mean really light tropical fruit whisper. There's a touch of chewy caramel that is wonderfully rounded if a big gulp is taken that I hadn't previously noticed when gently sipping this beer, and given its strength it really should be sipped. The finish is pure milky coffee but with more alcoholic vanilla, coating the tongue and it just won't let go.

This beer is so well crafted it's almost magical. I've said this before about Mikkeller beers, but this more than any I think takes it's style and raises it to a wonderful zenith without any rough edges. It's simply sublime. Get some when you can.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Mikkeller In May
19. Mikkeller 19 6.8%

There was really only one beer I could use for my 19th Mikkeller In May review, especially after reviewing 10 yesterday. Mikkeller 19, along similar lines, is the culmination of the 19 hops used in Mikkellers Single Hop series, up until that point at least. I'm afraid I'm going to have to list those 19 hops with the percentages they were used in, just so that you know, and just so I can get them out of the way.
Here goes: Simcoe 17.14%, Citra 15.72%, Amarillo 14.29%, Sorachi Ace 10.71%, Bravo 6.79%, Colombus 6.79%, Cluster 4.64%, Warrior 4.64%, Cascade 3.57%, Centennial 3.57%, Pallisade 2.86%, Challenger 1.43%, Galena 1.43%, Magnum 1.43%, Mt Hood 1.43%, Tettnanger 1.43%, Nugget 0.71%, Williamette 0.71%.
I need you to remember those, as I'll be asking questions later.
Stating the obvious maybe, but I'm expecting this to be hoppy.
It pours a dark amber, almost burnt orange, with a beige head that blooms and fades but never quite disappears. The aroma has lots and lots of fresh green hops, bursting with pine oiliness, sharp citrus peels, lemon, orange and grapefruit. There's some tropical fruitiness in there too, pineapple and mango just at the back, jostling for space with some gentle buttery floral notes. Over the tongue this is far sharper than the 10, tearing a little at the tastebuds as it almost tries to cling on before tumbling down the throat. There's a big grapefruit hit with a little bitter lemon, before some tropical fruit caramel fills the palate with a wonderful roundness, then down crashes some orange pine marmalade all swept away by some spiciness, predominantly white pepper. The finish is long and dry with all those flavours combined, it's truly a wonderful and flavoursome experience.
This is the beer I thought that 10 would be,  hoppy but not overwhelmingly so, and while 10 was wondefully mellow, 19 is sharper and zingier but not so bitter that it causes the tongue to implode.
Now, what were those hops again?

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Mikkeller In May
18. Mikkeller 10 6.9%

Now I'm a very busy man, and I'm also a very busy man on a limited budget with limited space. Single hop beers, ten of them, that'd take up a fair bit of space and cost a few bob. This may or may not have been my thought process, but when I discovered that Mikkeller had released an IPA featuring all ten on the hops featured in their Single Hop series, then I knew it was a beer I had to try. The hops are, in label order: Warrior, Simcoe, Centennial, Cascade, Chinook, Amarillo, Nelson Sauvin, Nugget, Tomahawk, and East Kent Goldings. This could be a bit hoppy.
It pours a dark orange amber with a fluffy pillowy white head that clings to the glass as is slowly dissipates. Unsurprisingly, and you probably could have worked this out for yourself, there is a big big hoppy pine and grapefruit peel aroma. There's also some spicy lemon, some orange marmalade, pineapple, mango, peach, and some herby notes too. Medium bodied and smooth over the tongue, sharp lemon, peach and orange pine are the initial flavour hits, tropical fruit caramel then comes through but this isn't the overwhelming blast that you might expect, rather it's a gently pleasant, mildly assertive wash. There's some white pepper and a citrussy sherbert dryness in the finish that lasts for some time, diminshing ever so slowly.
This is a delicious IPA but not the explosion in a hop factory that I was expecting. I don't know whether some of the hops used are neutralising each other or combining and contrasting enough to actually make quite a mellow melange. It could be a fair reflection of the single hop series, each with it's own unique characteristics and nuances, but somehow I'm left wanting something a bit more, well, hoppy.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Mikkeller In May
17. Mikkeller Mexas Ranger 6.6%

Tonight is Mexican night! Ok, it's not actually Mexican night, but it is Mikkellers-Texas-Ranger-but-brewed-with-Mexican-inspired-ingredients night! Too much? You wait until you see what's been added to this beer! Malts: Maris Otter pale, smoked, chocolate, Cara-crystal, brown, and hops: Tomahawk, Centennial and Saaz, so far so good, but add some almond milk, cocoa, 4 different types of chilli, black beans and avacado leaves to the mix and this could be very interesting. Putting the tongue-in-cheek label aside, purposefully designed to cause a few murmurings Stateside I think, it's time to see what it's like.
|It pours a dark dark brown, shiny and thick, there's certainly no light going to get through this one. The light brown head flares sharply, desperately trying to cling to the glass before collapsing in on itself like a boxer with no fight left in him. There's a big hit of coffee, smokey malt and chocolate in the aroma, some creamy herbal notes, quite milky and the chilli spiciness actually attacks your nostrils. It's quite astonishing. Smooth sharp and a little oily over the tongue as you might expect, sweet milk chocolate hits the tip of the tongue before a big herbal chilli flavour with a little background heat comes barrelling in. These spicy and herby notes build, becomming almost overwhelming in the mouth before bursting into a deep rich smokiness covering everything before fading into creamy milk chocolate. The finish is sweet with tropical fruitiness from the hops, with a lovely lasting chocolate malt edge.  The flavours come thick and fast here, twisting and turning, building, diving, clashing and complementing into a wonderfully complex and enjoyable ride. Mikkeller have managed to combine some unusual (for beer) ingredients into something that somehow works incredibly well. This is more than a beer, it's an experience.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Mikkeller In May
16. Mikkeller Weizenbock 8.5%

So it's time I had the weizenbock. Actually there's not a lot to say about this beer. There's not much on the label save the obvious wheat imagery and the ingredients. There are a few tongue-in-cheek references online about this being the 'first in a long series of wheat beers ... 56 more in 2011' which may or may not (but probably did) come straight from Mikkeller. A weizenbock is essentially a strong version of an unfiltered weissbier or hefeweizen, but this is a Mikkeller weizenbock so let's see what it's like.
Pouring a dark amber with a quickly dissipating tan head, the vanilla, clove, coriander and banana yeasty aromas that you would expect from a wheat beer are very apparent with a faint lemon sorbet edge binding them all together. A touch thin, but with a little biting sharpness at the back of the tongue, leathery honey and some marmalade hoppiness that wasn't apparent in the aroma leads to some creamy lemon and the clove and coriander more readily associated with the style. The beautiful honeyed lemon continues into the finish, slowly drying and fading to leave an almost tannic spirit glow.
This beautifully crafted beer brewed at the De Proef brewery is another, like the Tripel I had yesterday, that takes it's base style and warps it just a bit. It's rounded and balanced but with some accents and nuances that take it in a slightly different direction. I'm very happy with where it led me too.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Mikkeller In May
15. Mikkeller Belgian Tripel 9.0%

Tripel. The term comes from the Low Countries and indicates a strong pale ale, but being a Mikkeller beer they've added a few tweaks, using wheat and oats in addition to the barley and ehancing it with candy sugar, orange peel and coriander. It's another beer brewed at the De Proef Brewery in Belgium (see Mikkeller review 9. It's Alive), the story goes that this was supposedly only brewed for the Italian market but an error during shipment meant achieved a much wider distribution. Not sure if I'm totally going for that, the back label is printed in English for a start (perhaps that could be the error?) but whatever the tale it's time to see what it's like.
Pouring a beautiful orange sunset amber, it has a cream coloured head which collapses erratically to leave a beautiful disc of foam. A big yeasty coriander, lemon and honeysuckle aroma has some herbal peppery notes. It glides smoothly over the tongue at first before some dry biting astringency changes the whole dimension on the palate. Some coriander orange and white pepper flavours move seemlessly into some floral honey and candy sweetness before the orange peel comes into play, but almost as an afterthought. There's some dry chalky coriander seed bite in the finish before the alcohol, and remember this is a 9.0%, beer, reveals itself in an understated but resonating light boozy sweetness.
This is another delicious beer from Mikkeller, it has all the qualities you would expect of a Belgian tripel with a nice little touches, smoothing out some of the alcohlic edges you can occasionally experience with this style. But if you really want to know if it's any good, then I'll leave you with the image of the cat of the back label:

Monday, 14 May 2012

Mikkeller In May
14. Mikkeller Dim Sum Beer 5.0%

Here's a thing, a pilsner style lager with lemongrass and coriander brewed especially to pair with Asian food. It was developed in conjunction with Henrik Yde Andersen for his flagship restaurant Kiin Kiin, one of only two Thai restaurants in the world with a Michelin star.
It pours a dark amber with an off-white head that blooms and fades to a snowy dusting on top of the beer. The aroma has the lemongrass and some white pepper very much to the fore but with a coriander seed orange bite lurking menacingly just behind. Smooth creamy and zingy  over the tongue but a little thin, it's the coriander pepperiness that's the initial flavour hit, pulling lightly at the tastebuds, before some subtle creamy lemon, lime and orange washes in. The finish has some coriander and white pepper which dries out to leave a modicum of lemon zest lingering awhile.
I didn't have this beer with Asian food, but it works very nicely on it's own. I can see it going down particularly well at summer barbecue and I may well grab a few bottles to try out that theory. This isn't a big beer by any stretch of the imagination and especially by Mikkeller standards, but the balance of light, sharp and zesty flavours all work together extremely well.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Mikkeller In May
13. Struise / Mikkeller Elliot Brew 9.0%

'The hoppiest beer brewed in Belgium' is some statement, but this beer makes that claim and when Mikkeller are involved you know it might just be true. Checking in at 130 IBUs this is a cross between a strong Belgian blonde ale and the hoppy beer style associated Mikkeller, and was requested by to be the second in their Master Series. Brewed in Oostvleteren, Belgium, not a million miles away from the monastery that arguably produces the 'worlds best beer' - Westvleteren 12. De Struise take their name from the old Flemish word for Ostrich and one can be found on many of their beer labels, but in modern slang the term means 'tough'. Let's see how tough it is to drink.
It pours a beautiful red/amber/light caramel brown with a big tan head that takes an age to dissipate. Sugary caramel maltiness, soapy lemon and a touch of pine on the nose, it flows thicker than expected over the tongue with a rough and biting astringency from the hops. A bit hit of alcohol with a little leather and wet wood is swept away by some malty caramel. Then, with some purpose, in march some sticky orange and pine flavours soaking up the moisture and drying out the tongue with ruthless efficiency. The finish has a harsh dry yeastiness and a light malty bread flavour.
This is not at all what I was expecting, and I love it when a beer completely takes me totally by surprise. I picked this up at Tap East a couple of weeks ago, anxious to try more from the De Struise brewery after sharing a bottle of their wonderful Pannepot Gran Reserva with a good friend of mine. The 'hoppiest beer in Belgium' is much more malty and balanced than I could have anticipated and is so much the better for it. It's simply glorious.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Mikkeller In May
12. Mikkeller Hop Burn High 10.0%

Well this is one I wasn't expecting to do today. It was supposed to be a Mikkeller day off today as I was out and about in London so wouldn't have time for a review. Fate intervened. We paid a visit to Craft Beer Co this evening and this tasty little double IPA was on tap and I simply couldn't resist. Apologies for the bad photography but the camera on my phone isn't great.
The name is a more than a little giveaway to what you should expect and if you weren't entirely convinced, a look at the tap sticker reveals a bit too. After a bit of bigging around on the internet I've discovered it was released on 14th December 2011 pitches up at 300 IBU's, so lets see what it's like.

As you can (almost) see it pours a glorious sunset orange with quite a thin off-white head, and the aroma is pure sweet shop. Lemon sherbert, orange pips and cola cubes are very much to the fore, and a little sugary sweetness completes the experience. In the mouth it is initially creamy, then the expected hop bite starts to dry out the tongue, but unlike the 1000 IBU Ultramate this is a much more pleasurable and flavoursome experience. Sweet dry tangerine with a Cointreau orange alcohol hit kicks in before being overwhelmed with a wonderfully orange maramalade that spreads itself deliciously thinly over the tongue. The finish is big on dry zesty orange peel, tart and zingy.
The hop burn here is definitely tempered but it's the wonderful layers of orangey hops that are the real star. I'll certainly try to seek out the bottled version of this beer to see how it compares.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Mikkeller In May
11. Mikkeller / Revelation Cat Brewing Cream Ale 5.0%

Here's a concept. Let's take a beer based on a top-fermented ale, that's cold conditioned like a lager and brew in in partnership with Revelation Cat, a brewery that does not even physically exist. I feel this typifies more than any beer that I have had so far this month, the whole ethos of Mikkeller and possibly what makes their beers so good.
Cream ale is a style that was prevalent in pre-prohibition America and is generally finished with a lager yeast. The malts used are Pils, Pale, Vienna and Munich, and while malt and hop character is generally subdued, I feel this may not be the case here with the addition of Columbus, Amarillo and Challenger hops.
It pours a wonderfully translucent bright straw and glorious orange with the head a shock of white golden foam. A big mandarin orange marmalade aroma is tempered by lemon and grapefruit with a slight vanilla essence just at the back, trying to peek through the crowd of delicious hoppiness. It dances daintily over the tongue, quite thin and light-footed before a big wave of creamy dryness sweeps in. This crashes down with a grapefruit and peachy lemon citrus, the sensation of which is like having your mouth filled with the essence of these fruits encased in a nebula, drying bitingly on the tongue and intensifying into the finish, before drifting away like a spectre dissolving in the ether.
It's the incredible lightness of the whole experience that stuns me here, it is both beguiling and unexpected. I had this half in my mind to have tonight and this was cemented after several conversations, both at work and with a fellow blogger, and sometimes a beer just fits the moment absolutely perfectly. Tonight this is that beer, and it may well be on many more occasions. It's simply beautiful and restful and I can't recommend it more highly than that.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Mikkeller In May
10. Mikkeller Jackie Brown 5.9%

Jackie Brown. Loathe as I am to start this blog as I did the last with a synopsis of a film, with a beer actually named after the eponymous heroine of the Quentin Tarantino movie I'd be dumb not too. I'll use IMDb again with their minimal descriptions : A female flight attendant becomes the key figure in a plot between the police and an arms dealer. That should be enough to whet your appetite, now it's time to wet mine.
I'm well aware that there have been many reviews of this brown ale. Who would not want to try it, combining as it does two masters of their art, one brewing and one nonlinear movie storytelling. Let's face it this beer could be nothing but cool.
It pours, as you would expect, a very rich dark brown, with a high beige head that soon collapses in on itself. Big spicy tangerine hoppiness floods the nose. There's a little meaty earthyness, with white chocolate, dark chocolate and mango juice. Tangy, roasty, sharp, sweet, it's all here. It rushes over the tongue like water breaching a damn (or maybe that's just my eagerness to drink it) with a zingy citrus zestiness melting into a beautiful sweet milk chocolate. Suddenly, back comes some tropical fruit flavours pushing the sweet chocolate aside, but it doesn't give up that easily, forcing itself back darker and with some powerful coffee roastiness entirely filling the mouth. This drys with some smokey malt and liquorice into a wonderful confusion of tastes, textures and flavours.
Jackie Brown, the film, is an adaptation of the novel Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard, and whilst this beer is certainly no rum punch its is so achingly cool that it should come with a Kangol branded bottle cap. To mis-quote Ordell Robbie in the movie: Yeah, Mikkeller, damn!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Mikkeller In May
9. Mikkeller It's Alive! Hvidvinsfadlagret 9.0%

It's Alive. A baby born to a human couple turns out to be a mutant monster with an appetite to kill when scared, according to, is the story to a horror film released in 2008. This beer however is a completely different animal.
Brewed at the De Proef Brewery in Belgium, an experimental brewery specialising in beers by third parties, It's Alive ! is described on the Mikkeller website as their answer and tribute to the Trappist beer Orval. It has masses of hops and the addition of the Brettanomyces culture means that it will continue to develop in the bottle.
I picked this up in early October 2011 on my first visit to Craft Beer Co, in London. I don't know when it was brewed but I'm guessing that even though it's at least 9 months I could have waited a while before opening this.
It poors a dark amber with a big hint of red and an unsurprisingly lively off-white head due to the yeast. There's a sour white wine and cork aroma. I don't particularly like the term 'barnyard' but I understand why it's used with Brettanomyces yeast because it does have a definite straw and manure edge which isn't as unpleasant as it sounds as the sourness and a hint of honeysuckle balance it out. So far, so complex, and I haven't tasted it yet. Smooth and briefly biting on the tongue, sour, tart, wet wood, oxidised white wine flavours fill the mouth. There's a fruitiness with the merest hint of blackberry and a dark cherry sourness, not as remotely pronounced as that of a kriek, but definitely there. I can immediately taste the similarity to Orval, a beer I like to keep a few bottles of, and especially as these flavours turn into the tart drying aftertaste.
This is a remarkable beer, and while it's influence is obvious it stands alongside Orval in it's own right. All the elements it was aiming for are clearly present. I'm really enjoying this beer, it is incredibly drinkable, and I am seriously regretting not picking up a second as I would be intrigued to see how it develops. If you have a bottle of this at home (lucky you) my advice would be to keep it cool and dark for a year or so longer.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Mikkeller In May
8. Mikkeller 1000 IBU Ultramate 4.9%

I'm not going to muck about here. When you get a beer that says 1000 IBU on it you know your going to get bitterness, that or it's ironic, being a backlash against some of the mega-bitter beers being produced for bitterness sake (hop, hop, and hop again ad infinitum).
This is most definitely the former.
It pours a deep honey-orange with just the faintest touch of yellow, a little transluceent with rocky beige head that quickly dissipates. The aroma is intense orange pine hops. If you've ever opened a bag of dried hops then you'll know the smell, it's that wonderfully intense fresh, green almost wet aroma that makes me salivate, it's one I really love. It's briefly smooth over the tongue, which surprised me, with some pleasant pine and orange marmalade flavours, rich and fruity. Then it begins. Slowly at first, a dry creeping pine bitterness builds, sucking at your tastebuds drawing out the moisture. The astringency doesn't stop, relentlessly building, steadily planing your tongue with a hop-edged cutting tool. This beer defines bitter.
However, and this is a big however, it is actually quite a thin beer and while the bitterness is beautifully and painfully intense that's really all there is too it. I wish it had delivered in taste what I had imagined from the aroma, but I guess that would be missing the point. I've never had a beer this bitter and I like beers that push boundaries and this most certainly does, I while I don't feel let down I just want a bit more balance, roundedness and flavour.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Mikkeller In May
7. Mikkeller Sorachi Ace Single Hop IPA 6.9%

I've read quite a bit about the Sorachi Ace hop, and most of what I've read has included the words 'buttery' and 'lemon', so I was anticipating this when I opened this beer but my experience was a little different, well different-ish.
Sorachi Ace was developed in 1988 by Dr Yoshitada Mori for Sapporo Breweries Co. Ltd. in Japan and is a cross between the Brewers Gold and Saaz varieties. It is high in alpha acids and has a high yield potential although it is apparently no longer grown commercially.
It pours a dark amber / burnt orange with a creamy tan head. The aroma is something else. I have never had a beer that smells like this, or even close to this. A big, no huge, just-peeled mandarin orange aroma with lots of floral lemon and a little grapefruit means that this is one of those beers that I'd be happy just to sit and smell it for ages. In fact I did just that, finding jasmine, orange blossom and that butteriness in there too. I don't think I've ever written so much about the smell of a beer. It's incredibly smooth and light over the tongue with a little astringency and tartness. The flavour is mind-blowing. Mandarin orange, tangerine, lemon, grapefruit, touch of caramel, then, and only then a light butteriness emerges. It may be subtle but it's definitely there and it came in when I was least expecting it. Aftertastes are usually drying, malty, fruity, or finish abruptly. Buttery smooth with tropical fruit and zesty orange and lemon was new for me, but so so good. And what an aftertaste it is lasting a long, long time. The flavours just don't go, but a mild soapiness does creep in.
This is another incredible beer from Mikkeller, and I'd love to see this hop used a whole lot more but it's apparent unpredictability and scarcity could make this unlikely. Get this while you can.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Mikkeller In May
6. Mikkeller Green Gold 7.0%

Pow! Welcome to Mikkeller Green Gold.
It's an India Pale Ale with definite leanings towards the USA, but this is a much more cultured rounded beer. Sure it's a hop bomb, but the flavour is superb.
This beer uses a wonderful combination of Simcoe, Cascade and Amarillo hops to full effect.
It pours a wonderful red-amber with a tightly carbonated beige head. The initial and dominant aroma is toffee-apple caramel but with a real background buzz of mango and pineapple. It's initially smooth over the tongue then liquid caramel mixed with tropical fruit flavours explode in the mouth. It's roasted pineapple, peach, grapefruit, mango, kumquat and baked apple with a touch of cinnamon, all with a deliciously rich and sweet toffee coating. These flavours then contract suddenly, like a hop implosion, sucking and biting at the tastebuds, leaving behind a honeyed tropical sweet caramel aftertaste. If Willy Wonka created an American style IPA then this would be pretty close to it.
It really is an incredible sensation, delivering wonderfully intense and deliciously beautiful flavours. I know I'm saying this a lot about Mikkeller beers, I chose them for May for good reason, but this really is stunning.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Mikkeller In May
5. Mikkeller Koppi Tomahawk & Guji Natural Coffee IPA 6.9%

Another coffee IPAbut this one has a long title,so with a little background preamble, I'll break it down before the main event - the beer itself.
Koppi, the name you can see under Mikkeller on the label are a Swedish coffee roasters of some pedigree, sourcing the best and unique coffee. You can find a link to their page and more about them here.
Tomahawk is the trade name for the Columbus hop. They impart a slightly woody, citrus and pine qualities, and are high in resiny oils making them good for bittering.
Guji is region of Sidoma in southern Ethiopa, along the Mora Mora River and this produces coffee trees that grow wild, often called 'forest coffee'. The coffee is renowned for it's floral, spice and chocolate tones.
If you can imagine all that together in a glass then you're pretty close to the beer itself.
It pours a darker amber with a small amount of cloudiness and a light but highly carbonated beige head. Orange, lemon, grapefruit and soapy pine are very much in evidence in the aroma but there's no hint of chocolate or coffee. Over the tongue it's both astringent and smooth then the milk chocolate roast coffee flavour kicks in hard. This quickly melts away, via a liquid chocolate orange, into a citrussy caramel. The finish has a dry citrus pine bitterness you would associate with a hop heavy IPA.
The coffee in this beer is not an aromatic espresso or other strong coffee that you would normally expect to find in a coffee IPA keen to emphasise the coffee element, but rather milder, more subtle variety and I think this makes it much more balanced than others I have tried. The way it segues effortlessly into the IPA is also worthy of note. A very accomplished beer.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Mikkeller In May
4.Brewdog/Mikkeller I Hardcore You 9.5%

Friday night, bank holiday weekend and time for something a bit special (as if the other's weren't (!) but go with me on this), and this most certainly is something special. Two very respected and unconventional brewers take their signature beers (Brewdogs Hardcore IPA and Mikkellers I Beat You) and blend them together superbly. Of course, given the reputation of these two brewers it won't surprise you to note that that they don't stop there. Oh no. They dry hop it twice, four, or maybe six times, apparently they lost count. However many times, it doesn't matter, it's absolutely stunning.
It pours a ruby red amber with a creamy tan head that quickly dissipates but doesn't completely disappear. The aroma is fantastic melange of spicy herbal malty grassy chocolate citrus piney orange. That's probably quite hard to believe, but all those olfactory triggers are there and completely distinct yet combined. There's an oily creamy smoothness over the tongue with incredibly delicious and sweet chocolate toffee orange marmalade flavours. Honeyed apricot bursts through with a marvellous smoothness and everything fits together perfectly. The aftertaste has creamy maple tinged roasted pineapple slowly fading, but actually not quite lasting quite long enough. I'm completely blown away by how integrated all the flavours, tastes and sensations are. It all works together magnificently to form a liltingly mellifluous Imperial IPA melody, and if you think I've over-used the hyperbole then you need to get this beer and you'll see for yourself. It sings.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Mikkeller In May
3. Mikkeller Not Just Another Wit 7.6%

It's late in the evening. After two days of big IPAs I needed something a little different, and this witbier, unfiltered and spicy, certainly fits the bill. It pours a cloudy straw colour with a high rocky white head. A dry lemony chamomile banana and clove aroma has real depth, with spicy vanilla toffee notes also making their presence felt. Sweet honey flavours ease themselves gently, almost lazily across the palate with little stabs of creamy zesty lemon bitterness. Wheaty coriander spiciness comes to the fore before melting into a dry vanilla grassy aftertaste.
 There's an interesting mix of American hops used, Goldings, Saaz, Amarillo and Cascade, and the fusion of these with a traditional Belgian wheat beer really works here. Justifiably claiming to be an Imperial Witbier, Not Just Another Wit is a complex and beautifully crafted white ale with all the flavours and textures working together very naturally to create something very special.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Mikkeller In May
2: To Ol/Mikkeller Sleep Over Coffee IIPA 10.5%

Second day of May, second Mikkeller beer. This was an easy choice for today as it's the sequel to the Overall IIPA, same beer but with a great load of espresso coffee thrown in for good measure before being matured in fermentation tanks in Belgium.
While the Overall was a palate ripping bitter hop bomb this is a more tempered affair, not a full-frontal assault more of a measured bombardment, but still with masses of flavour and complexity. It pours a muddy orange amber with a rocky tan-coloured head. The aroma is like smelling a sharp, tart and bitter orange coffee marmalde with a wet ashiness giving you a big hint of what's in store. It's slightly oily but also drying on the palate, with citric coffee and orange peel and honeyed nougat flavours washing through before seemingly pooling on the centre of the tongue, pushing a big pine lemony nutty grapefruit aroma up into and completely filling the nose. A citrussy hoppy maltiness in the aftertaste leaves a wispy smokey roast bitter coffeeness playing in the mouth and nose, and an intense dry bitterness drying slowly on the back of the throat.
A stunning and intricate beer, combining and contrasting the hoppiness of a Double IPA with the nutty aromatic caffeine hit of strong coffee. Stimulating.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Mikkeller In May
1: To Ol/Mikkeller Overall IIPA 10.5%

May. I wanted to do something different this year. Traditionally it's when the Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA) champions Mild - predominantly low-gravity dark and malty, in fact quite unlike the beer you see in the picture above. The reason for this change of tack is that last year I had a revelation. I discovered Mikkeller beers. These wonderfully different and flavoursome beers created, no, crafted by itinerant maths and physics teacher turned brewer Mikkel Bjorg Bergso, were a bit of an epiphany for me. I couldn't get enough and none disappointed. It is for this reason that I decided to devote some of May to revisting some old favourites and trying new Mikkeller beers.
This is one of the new ones for me,  Overall, an Imperial/Double IPA brewed in collaboration with Emil Jensen and Tore Gynther, former pupils of Mikkel Bjorg Bergso, who formed the To Ol brewery after a shared conversation lamenting nauseous Danish lager. Lots of Simcoe, Amarillo and Centennial hops, big on bitterness and citrus character were used in this beer, and this is immediately noticable as you open the bottle with a big whiff of grapefruit and orange marmalade hitting you right between the eyes. It pours a cloudy golden orange with a highly carbonated, rocky off-white head. As the head dissipates the aroma is a more settled lemony-orange with some white pepper hovering in the background. On drinking, a big and I mean BIG herbal bite attacks your palate with intense orange and lemon peel flavours. In sweeps a silky smooth orange marmalade before a really rough dry citrus tartness engulfs everything. This is incredibly intense and lingers a while.
This beer feels like it's tearing the skin from your tastebuds, painting them with an orange varnish before using an industrial sander on them. It's a bitter-sweet assault that brings out a little masochism in me by keeping me coming back for sip after sip to experience the pain and the pleasure.
It's so good it hurts.