Mikkeller Roundup

As it happens, I’ve been sampling a lot of Mikkeller beers lately – thanks, Craft Beer Company and BeersofEurope.co.uk – so I thought I’d write up a themed review post. Here you go – my views on four Mikkeller collaborations and three Mikkeller originals:

Mikkeller/Revelation Cat Cream Ale (ABV 5.0)
I loved the Revelation Cat Milk Mild, one of the most flavoursome below-ABV 4.0-beers I’ve ever had, so I was excited to see a collaboration between Mikkeller and the Italian cat brewer. This is the house beer at noted Italian beer bar Brasserie 4:20 (Rome).

Look: A cloudy, dull orange/amber with a small but nicely frothy head.

Nose: Vaguely citrusy, rather faint.

Mouth: Comes on like an IPA with plenty of fruit – there’s a distinct taste of peaches – and a quick resin/citrus hop bite. The creaminess is not very pronounced, but it is there, adding a bit of body and depth throughout.

Mark: 3/5. Very refreshing at ABV 5.0 but lacks that special something. It’s really well balanced and I’m sure this goes great with a variety of foods.

Mikkeller/Cigar City Swinging Harry Tropical Quad (ABV 12.0)
We know Mikkel likes to experiment – so how about a Belgian Quad aged in Grand Marnier barrels with papaya, mango and brettanomyces? Crazy enough for you? Collaborators Cigar City have previous experience of using fruit in their beers (they’ve done a number of fruitified versions of their Jai Alai IPA, for example), so there should be some serious fruit to this one.

Look: A dark, cloudy, molasses-y brown. No head.

Nose: Well, you can sure smell the fruit! Overripe, rich, sweet, but difficult to pick out individual fruit notes.

Mouth: Thick and sweet – it does not just look like molasses but tastes like it as well. The tropical flavours are intense – alongside the papaya and mango you also get pineapple and coconut (probably from the barrel?) with the vaguest hint of citrus. A creamy cake batter malty flavour plus the alcohol give the beer a big body and makes it surprisingly smooth. The fruit sweetness lingers and gets almost sickly toward the end.

Mark: 3/5. It’s a wild experiment that sort of works but in the end the sweetness just takes over. Still a very drinkable beer, but even seasoned beer fans would probably find it difficult to have more than one half-pint in one sitting. May well work better with food (dessert). Anyone out there who has tried?

Mikkeller/Stillwater Two Gypsies Our Side (Belgian Ale, ABV 7.5)
When the world’s two leading gypsy brewers, Mikkel and Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales, get together, the result is bound to be special. This is essentially a hoppy Belgian ale, not quite a saison but something in that general direction.

Look: Golden yellow, cloudy, tiny white head with big bubbles that quickly subsides.

Nose: Sour, malty, bready – like a slice of sourdough bread with a bit of marmalade on it.

Mouth: The maltiness is not as pronounced in the mouth but there is just a hint of bread and yeast and saison sourness. The beer is creamy and buttery up front, reminiscent of a traditional english bitter, but the similarities end quickly when the nig resin/pine/citrus hop kick comes on. Fresh ‘green’ flavours throughout, an exciting beer not quite similar to anything else.

Mark: 4/5. A zesty flavour bomb that works well with rich food (we had it with pizza and it was excellent).

Mikkeller/Three Floyds Boogoop (“Buckwheat wine”, ABV 10.4)
Another heavy Mikkeller beer, this time a ‘Buckwheat wine’, i.e. something like a barelywine but with a different grain – this is the fourth in a series of Mikkeller/Three Floyds collaborations on this theme where the previous “goops” have been based on wheat, oats, and rye, respectively. It’s brewed at De Proef Brouwerij in Belgium.

Look: Another dark brown molasses-y beer with no head.

Nose: Quite faint nose of caramel and yeast.

Mouth: Sweet and oily barleywine feel, caramel, toffee, candy, also quite vinous. A bit of dried fruit/dried berries/date going on, then the sweetness disappears and WHAM! it’s like biting down on grapefruit rind. A very strong, citrusy bitterness. Essentially, this is a very hoppy barleywine – perfect for me, who normally thinks barleywine is too sweet!

Mark: 4/5. Bit of a surprise, in a good way. Much more balanced flavours than Swinging Harry. I like how the big sweetness ends just before it gets cloying, and then the hop bitterness explodes the palate instead.

Mikkeller Hop Burn High (Imperial IPA, ABV 10.0)

Look: Sunny orange, a bit cloudy, nice big white foamy head.

Nose: Marked floral and fruit notes, Seville orange, resin/pine.

Mouth: Strong citrus/resin hops, combined with a sweetness with strong candy notes (marshmallows?), then the hops shift into full tropical fruit mode (dried and ripe sort of alternating) with mango flavour dominating, and then at the end the citrus bitterness comes back with more grapefruit and Seville orange marmalade.

Mark: 4/5. An outstanding Imperial IPA, the alcohol adds a lot of sweetness and warmth to the extreme hoppiness (IBU 300).

Mikkeller It’s Alive! (Belgian Wild Ale, ABV 8.0)
Another Mikkeller beer brewed at De Proef, this one apparently a ‘tribute’ to the trappist beer Orval, favourite of Mikkel and many other beer lovers around the world. It’s also stuffed to the gills with Brettanomyces.

Look: Dark amber, nice big white head with fine bubbles.

Nose: Nondescript but nice sweet fruit, with hints of bread/malt.

Mouth: Not at all like I remember Orval, but it’s been a long time since I had it. A light, sweet fruitiness (dried apples, perhaps) and sour flavours run parallel – a little bit like apple sauce made with very tart Bramley apples. In terms of mouthfeel and body, the beer is anything but light – a solid malty body with lots of nice sweet bread flavour. It’s a well-balanced mix of sweet and sour, light and heavy. But where are the bretts? Maybe it needs aging for them to come through?

Mark: 4/5. I don’t know if it’s a good tribute but it’s a good beer! A beer that manages to feel light, refreshing and full-bodied at the same time.

Mikkeller Black Hole Barrel Aged Tequila (Imperial Stout, ABV 13.1)
Black Hole is a strong contender for being Mikkeller’s signature imp stout, and it comes in several outstanding barrel-aged varieties. So far I’ve tried the Red Wine, White Wine, Bourbon and Peat Whisky and they have all been great. So how about the Tequila?

Look: Black as the night. Minimal dark brown head.

Nose: The usual coffee, cocoa/dark chocolate and roast notes you would expect from an Imp Stout dominate.

Mouth: I found this a complex beer with many different flavours working on many different levels and at different stages – and also changing and opening up in the glass. At first, it was  creamy and sweet with strong vinous notes, then a  wooden dryness came on and stayed in the background for a long time, parallel with smoky flavours, dark berry notes, dark chocolate and coffee. Then towards the end the creaminess came back and it all went out on a smooth, smoky/roast bitterness, with some of the wood still there.

Mark: 5/5. As good as, if not better than, its Black Hole siblings. One to savour and share with a friend (thank you, Jonas!).

After these six Mikkellers, the overall impression is – as usual – one of consistently high quality, extraordinary skill, and a high degree of innovation. This is not news: he is one of the world’s best brewers, after all. But perhaps more important than the quality, skill and innovation is that all his beers are so damn drinkable. I think I will never get tired of Mikkeller beers – there’s always something new and completely oddball on offer from him, and it’s almost as if the more oddball, the better he pulls it off!


Posted on March 17, 2012, in Review and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. It’s great to be back at the London Beer Blog! One day I hope to come to the UK and among other things, I will try some great English, Scottish and Irish beers. In the meantime, I can enjoy you telling me about them. Enjoy!

    David Ivey
    BlackBucketBrew.com Inbox Magazine Editor

    PS. Check out our free e-book and mag.

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