23 July 2018

Mass market Mikke

I've never been a fan Keith Shore's artwork for Mikkeller. I'm not a fan of that naïve-art look generally and I've always thought it cheapened a brand that did so much to build a reputation beforehand. But. Mikkeller has just embarked on a new departure with permanent core beers which they're calling the Mikkeller Year Round series. The cans feature the familiar Shore style, but they've been cleaned up, rounded out, and look altogether more professional. It's not for me to say if the change in production and design is a sign of Mikkeller growing up a little, nor if that would be a good thing or a bad thing if true. What I do know is I have three cans to review.

Wood Will Fall Down is a passionfruit Berliner weisse, and by golly you have to be brave or stupid, putting one of those on the Irish market in the proximity of YellowBelly's sublime Castaway. This one doesn't quite measure up, though it's not far off. It's a very pale yellow with a slight haze. The passionfruit is present and distinct, and it's properly tart. There's an alkaline edge to it, however: a chalky limestone scratch that's too loud and adds a sharpness which is a little too intense for the beer, reducing its accessibility. It's certainly punchy, but I think for once the fruit should have been allowed a bit more elbow room over the soured side.

Onto more orthodox things now, and a pale ale called Stick A Finger In The Soil. It's a deep orange colour and slightly hazy. The aroma is all but absent, just vaguely orangey. The flavour is similarly understated: it's that savoury caraway seed hop effect but not intensively. The mild citrus sits behind this but doesn't really do anything, gradually fading to nothing, and you're done. This is very plain fare indeed and, to be honest, not the sort of thing I expect from Mikkeller. If they've changed it's not for the better. One more beer for possible redemption...

An IPA: Hair in the Mailbox, 6.3% ABV and a clear pale gold. This is another savoury one, at least to begin with: the aroma giving up baba ganoush and fried onions. The flavour is sweeter and I got a strong lime rind flavour but without the bitterness, as well as bigger kick from the residual yeast in the glass than I was expecting. It's quite thick, to the point of sticky, yet the malt flavour is lacking. To me this suggests a recipe that didn't quite work out as planned -- there's certainly none of the big bold flavour on which Mikkeller made its name.

I'm all for a year-round decent sour beer, though I've tasted better than this one. But the pale ale efforts are distinctly lacklustre and, if they're not once-offs, run the risk of devaluing the Mikkeller brand into just another average contract brewer. It would be a shame to see that happen. Mikkeller should definitely be making better beers than these two.

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