16 June 2014

Learn from the Danes

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.

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