23 September 2008

Nordic Americans

The influence of American craft brewing on the Danish micros was very apparent at the European Beer Festival. It's not surprising, then, that the American industry was quite well represented among the various stalls.

I had missed Dogfish Head's 90 Minute IPA at the Great British Beer Festival this year so made damn sure to try it this time round. My interest was largely morbid curiosity and I didn't expect to enjoy it at all. But it's delicious: full of those orange sherbet flavours I associate most with Goose Island's marvellous IPA. Not at all the monster I was expecting. Mind you, I was drinking it straight after a glass of 120 Minute IPA, and that's a beer that will tone down the flavour in most things. Nevertheless, I found the 120 surprisingly drinkable. It has some big solventy alcoholic notes all right, but there's enough of a balance in there to make it work: bitter without being harsh; malty without being tramp juice. I'm no hophead, but this was an eye-opener.

Two more strong and hoppy ales, this time from Avery in Colorado: Maharaja is their Imperial IPA and is another orangey one with a particularly mouth-watering aroma. The 9.7% ABV gives it warmth without making it sticky. Also available was a Collaboration they did with Russian River in a Belgian style. This is an immensely complex concoction full of peaches and nuts and spices and cloves, yet remains light and drinkable at 8.2% ABV.

Avery had come recommended to us from the Bull & Castle's Declan who attended the Great American Beer Festival last year. Mephistopheles Imperial stout was his first recommendation. It's incredibly thick and loaded with sweet molasses and bitter black coffee flavours. It was the last beer I had on the Friday and awoke on Saturday to find the dregs had congealed into a tar-like lump in the bottom of my sample glass. The other big black American was Great Divide's oak-aged version of Yeti, a stout I thoroughly enjoyed in Amsterdam last month. It's pretty much what I expected: the usual big chicory maltiness, with a fresh acidic hop character, but smoothed out with that woody vanilla flavour that comes from barrel aging. A more refined Yeti than the plain one. My last big American stout was an east-coaster: Brooklyn's Black Chocolate Stout. It's hops in the aroma once again, with sugary molasses and more than a hint of delicious smokiness. I'd had a fair few beers that were beyond the 15% ABV mark at this point and this mere 10.1%-er was well able to hold its own in the flavour stakes.

And just to show that American beer isn't just about high alcohol, I was extremely impressed by Flying Dog's Doggie Style pale ale. Only 4.7% ABV, this is possessed of an intense citric bitter fruity character, yet is still light enough to be very easy drinking.

Yes, the Danes definitely have the right idea when it comes to picking a country to emulate with in their brewing culture. That the industry in both countries is feeding off both the experience and marketplace of the other can only be good from a drinker's perspective.


  1. Bloody hell, I usually won't cross London for a beer festival, never mind the North Sea!

  2. I've said it before and I'll say it again: folks what have a ready supply of decent beer in nice pubs don't know they're bloody born.

    Where's me whippet?

  3. I agree, Beer Nut, the cross-pollination seems to be beneficial for both sides of the Atlantic. And as much as I've been shying away from these high-alcohol or incredibly hoppy beers lately, there's something to be said for a Danish Beer Geek Breakfast or a Belgian Houblon Chouffe.

    And of course, good to see our "extreme" beers getting some love over there, too.

  4. Ciaran7611:50 pm

    Just drinking a Flying dog doggie style after playing a match tonight so not site if that is influencing my taste buds.
    It's really good and after my first taste I thought it was bitter like a grapefruit taste but then a nice hop hit and not too fizzy either so going down a treat. Only shame us I don't have another one !