22 September 2017

Taking the Mikkel

I have to admit, I'm surprised that Mikkeller still generates a buzz. The Danish gypsy brewer is a veteran at this stage, and in the highly fickle world of "craft" beer few brands generate enthusiasm for so long. Mikkellermania may have peaked some years ago, but when UnderDog dedicated a swathe of their taps to the beer, excitement ensued.

I stuck my head in on a Friday afternoon to see what was what. Tap 1, and beer of the moment, was SpontanDoubleBlueberry. This is an attempt to recreate the lambic brewing process, with mixed results in this drinker's opinion. It looks dark and tarry in the glass, the deepest of purple with a shock of violet foam on top. The first flavour to come through isn't sourness, nor fruit, but bitterness: the tannic bite of berry skins. A harsh Bretty funk follows, rough and uncouth. I was expecting some fruit flavour but that didn't really emerge until the beer had warmed up a ways, and was heavy and jammy, perhaps reflecting the weighty 7.7% ABV. And sourness? It's buried in there but it's not a central feature. There was the saltpetre spark of proper geuze, doing little other than reminding me I'd rather be drinking a proper geuze. There's certainly a lot going on in this one, but I definitely preferred the lighter and cleaner beers I've had from the Spontan series.

Hallo Ich Bin Berliner Weisse Mango has been around in cans for a while. I just had a quick taster as a contrast with the Spontan. It's a bright pale yellow, thin and clean, and with a sharp, slightly metallic, sour bite. I could barely taste the mango at all: there's certainly no fruit-pulp thickness. It's simple and refreshing fare and for the price usually demanded it ought to be offering more.

It's hops from here on in. I had not realised that the Mikkeller Single Hop Series, which I started drinking in 2008 and last encountered back in 2010, is still running. The beers are all 6.9% ABV and they seem to have acquired double IPA siblings now.

There were two varieties available: Citra and Mosaic in both single and double versions. As a fully-certified Mosaic hound I asked for a taster of the Mikkeller Mosaic IPA first. I was not expecting the aroma of toffee. The hop flavour struggles to come through the heavy malt sweetness, and manages to bring only the savoury side of Mosaic when it does, and none of the fun fruit. I decided not to struggle through a full glass of that.

So instead I surprised myself by opting for Mikkeller Citra IPA instead. Unsurprisingly it's sweet again, though the aroma does include plenty of fresh grapefruit to help cover the caramel. The texture is thick and this helps the hops do their thing: a lovely oily lemon and lime flavour, coating the palate at first, while building to a bitter crescendo. A juicy counter-melody of mandarin adds a tasty extra dimension, though I also detected a burr of yeast bite spoiling things ever so slightly. But overall an excellent performance.

How would that stack up in a double IPA? Remarkably well. Again just a taster, but Mikkeller Citra Double IPA really emphasises the tropicality, piling in mango (more than in the Berliner weisse) and cantaloupe. It doesn't have the whole toffee thing, leaving more room for hop fun, and there's no trace of alcohol heat; an amazing achievement at 8.9% ABV.

With thoughts that I should have given the Mosaic Double IPA a chance too, I headed off. I suppose it should be of comfort that Mikkeller is still doing the Spontans and the single hop IPAs after all these years, and that people are still enjoying them. Perhaps even craft beer radicals settle down at some point.