Say what you like about the gypsy brewing phenomenon, when beermakers are freed from the distractions of brewery administration they can produce some amazing results.
Exhibit A is Mikkeller's American Dream, as found on tap in Farrington's (now The Norseman, again). This 4.6% ABV lager is an exercise in perfect balance. The initial sharp jolt of aggressive citrus is suddenly smoothed by a candyfloss sweetness which takes enough, but not too much, of the edge off. The end result is that rarity: a highly complex, hop forward, delight that invites an immediate second pint.
To the dark side next, and To Øl's Black Ball porter: a different Danish gypsy but produced at the same Belgian brewery. Fans of smooth sinkable porter will be disappointed, though possibly only for the first couple of seconds. 8% ABV lends this a substantial weight, pouring gloopily into the glass. There's a little treacle in the flavour but the headline act is hops: Simcoe, Centennial and Cascade are the varieties but they deliver little by way of citrus and instead give off a fresh vegetal effect, like walking into a greengrocer's cold room. Thanks to Brian, who shared a bottle at The Brew Dock.
Back to Mikkeller, finally (without moving from De Proef), and Green Gold. It's been sighted on a number of bars around town but I eventually caught up with it at The Black Sheep. Ever the literalist I was shocked to find it's not gold, or green, but quite a dark amber. 7% ABV but it could pass for stronger on the basis of the thick texture and slightly hot alcohols. The aroma is a bit lacking but it makes up for that in flavour: spices, then dank, then a long-lasting pine bitterness. A sipper not a quaffer it really holds your attention all the way through.
Of course, you could say that there's no real skill to just whacking a load of hops into a beer, but the more I drink -- of beer brewed on the brewer's own kit or elsewhere -- the more I realise that there's a definite knack to it which some can pull off and others can't. If in doubt, check with a Danish gypsy.