13 October 2011

The inevitable Danes

Our tour of the breweries at the Borefts beer festival this year brings us to Denmark next. Well, sort of. Mikkeller is still brewing in all corners of Europe and beyond, and there was certainly no lack of diversity in the beers they presented. They even had comedy legend Chris Morris helping out at the stand.

I went for a couple of the sour ones first, attracted in particular to Rhubarb Lambic 2010. Though I'm not big into rhubarb generally, I have known it to work really well in beer. This cloudy pale yellow beer doesn't have much by way of rhubarb flavour characteristics, but is more appley, with a pungent cider aroma and apples sitting next to the normal, invigorating, lambic tartness. The texture is very interesting, with a dry bicarbonate of soda style fizz. Not a beer I'd drink lots of, but great as a palate cleanser in small quantities.

Though a variety of fruit lambics were on offer, the other one that really interested me was Spontancranberry as I'm fairly sure I've never had a cranberry beer before. It's not too tart and the hefty 7.7% ABV goes a long way to mute the sourness with alcohol. Instead of sweet fruit, the cranberries impart a pink peppercorn piquancy, finishing a little bit acrid. I think this would be a better beer at a lower strength, but I liked it.

I just had a quick taste of the barrel-aged edition of Mikkeller's smoked chilli porter. Texas Ranger Speyside is much like the original version, not giving much bang for all it promises. There's some dry powdery chocolate, a mere suggestion of chilli, and an unfortunate wet cardboard finish.

Mielcke & Hurtigkarl appears to be a house beer created for a Copenhagen restaurant. A spell in sauternes barrels is the draw here. I can't honestly say I would have guessed that from tasting it, but it is rather nice: broadly in the tripel style with a little extra spice to liven it up. Great with posh nosh, I'm sure.

I was a little underwhelmed by Mikkeller's Monk's Elixir at the 2008 European Beer Festival in Copenhagen. As is the way of these things, the recipe has moved on since and spawned an array of variations. Monk's No Brett is a particularly odd one: dark brown and sour like a Flemish oud bruin, gushing fizz. It's stopped from all-out sourness by a sweet milk chocolate flavour which sounds like it should clash but actually provides a weird sort of balance. But even this seemed normal next to Monk's Trippin' On Cherries. Full-on Rodenbach Grand Cru vinegary intensity follows an enticing sweet and sour nose from a dark dark red beer topped by innocent pink foam. The cherries come through the vinegar quite assertively and the whole experience is intensely weird, but in a nice way. I could have had another but there was one more Mikkeller I couldn't pass up.

Again, a bit like racehorses, it's possible to guess the pedigree of this beer from its name. BooGoop is one of a series of collaborations Mikkeller has done with the Three Floyds brewery of Indiana. This is a 10.4% ABV "buckwheat wine" and starts with huge peach and apricot aromas, following it up with more of the same on tasting. The immensely heavy body was offset by a low serving temperature and it came out really quite refreshing in the end. A great beer on which to leave Mikkeller.

Just one other Danish brewer was at Borefts. Amager had a choice location in the shadow of the windmill. I've always found them to be a little staid in the branding department, though the quality of their beer speaks for itself. However, it looks like they've put a bit of graphic design effort into their series of beers based around the seven deadly sins, two of which (arguably the best two sins) were available at the festival.

Gluttony is an orange-coloured pale ale and very much hop-forward, offering a refreshing bitterness plus lots of fresh and summery hop high notes. Lust wasn't so popular among my drinking buddies but it hit the spot with me. A beautiful conker-red and very sweet, almost worty. Give it a moment, however, and there are hidden depths: a vinous complexity and some lovely tannic notes.

Amager were also serving a couple of different versions of their Hr. Frederiksen imperial stout. The plain one is a heavily textured and massively roasty example of the style, with lots of dry fresh-ground coffee on the nose and palate. Amazingly, Hr. Frederiksen Whisky Barrel edition manages to bury all that with a combination of big boozy scotch and a little touch of unpleasant vinegar. Stick to the original is my recommendation.

That's Denmark done. Where next?

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