01 January 2018

Black ice

I picked up these three Icelandic beers on a quick sweep in Bierkoning in Amsterdam in September. "These will be good for some dark and stormy night in," I thought. So here we are.

We start with Myrkvi Nr. 13, a porter. Lively when poured, the head settled down quickly, giving me access to a sweet aroma of rosewater and ripe cherries. That mixes in the flavour with dark chocolate and a drier burnt roast. The texture is surprisingly light for such a sweet beer, especially at 6% ABV. Also surprising, one read of the label later, is that it's brewed with coffee. It doesn't taste of coffee, though maybe they've managed to extract the fruity flavour from the beans without the more prosaic coffee taste, in which case, well done. However you slice it, this is a damn fine porter and great opening to the set.

It's imperial from here on out, though the coffee theme continues. Surtur Nr. 47 is 10% ABV, an opaque inky black and makes almost no effort at forming a head. The coffee contributes a slightly oily flavour, but there's none of the softness found in the porter. Instead it's quite a severe taste: ash-dry and bitter, with a dash of smoke too, though no smoked malt is advertised. The body is far thinner than I'd expect and there's no warmth either, just a raw alcohol burn. It improved a little as it approached room temperature but I was still apprehensive about having another one to come.

Sheep shit to the rescue! Although Surtur Nr. 30 shares a name with the previous one, the recipe is quite different, incorporating rye, sugar and yes, malt smoked over sheep manure, but no coffee. Given all that, it's surprising that it comes in a percentage point lower at 9% ABV. The aroma is an enticing sweet smokiness, all pipes and kippers. Smoke is definitely at the centre of the flavour too though there's nothing especially sheepish about it. It's all exactly as a smoked imperial stout usually tastes, with a slightly sticky, syrupy texture and tongue-coating peaty phenols. Remarkably understated, all told: elegant and balanced, and mercifully devoid of gimmickry.

Decent stuff, for the most part, though it's the other versions of the porter I came away interested in, more so than the imperial stouts.


  1. SheepShit LOL ..... well, now we've crossed the bridge of insanity LMAO

    1. Still tastes better than "milkshake IPA".