Friday, July 17, 2009

Mikkeller Nelson Sauvin Single-Hop IPA

I will admit to being a fan of just about anything Mikkeller puts in a bottle. Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, headbrewer of Mikkeller, is uniquely his own. He doesn't so much as follow as trends as break them down to their basic components, reconfigure them, and put them back together to create something at once modern and current and also challenging and fresh. Indeed, just last week, the intrepid souls of Hoosier Beer Geek interviewed Mikkel and he explained his mission thusly: "I think it is sad that so many people don't know what possibilities beer has. I want to show them what hops, malts, and yeast taste like."

Take for example, his recent collaboration with 3 Floyds Brewing Company, called Oatgoop. Released this past winter it combines recent trends in the brewing industry such as high-alcohol, wine-style beer and using non-traditional grains. In that case, he paired with a high-profile American brewery to create his own take and came up with a high-alcohol, wine-style beer that uses a non-traditional grain. It was a big, complex, playful approach to the barleywine. On the other side, is something like the Jackie Brown, a surprisingly straightforward, even if somewhat hoppy, take on a traditional brown ale. The Jackie Brown not only demonstrates his superb skill in brewing to style, it posts his own imprimatur and provides a pointed counter-point to something like this Nelson Sauvin Single-Hop IPA

Where the Jackie Brown is relatively traditional, this Single-Hop IPA is anything but traditional. Mikkeller has rent the hop and IPA trends into pieces, brought it down to its components and dissects each one under a microscope. A series of five beers that focus on a single hop each: Nugget, Simcoe, Cascade, Warrior, and Nelson Sauvin. It is a singular focus on the hop, exposing not just the positive qualities, but the negatives as well. The Jackie Brown is a benign take on a traditional style, each of the five Single-Hop IPAs are a non-traditional, over-the-top, under-the-microscope look at not just the hop, but the style itself, and even our own perceptions on what an IPA is. Thought you like cascade hops? Try a Cascade Single-Hop and see what you think. No idea what the Nelson Sauvin is? Try this one:

Appearance: big creamy, foamy whipped cream head; opaque burnished copper; a soft-dusky cloud
Aroma: crazy fruity and musty; on the grapish side of citrusy - can definitely see why people call this hoppy wine-like; a slight biscuit maltiness hides behind
Flavor: sharp and hoppy, with a slight pine-sol (but not in a bad way) brightness, not super-bitter, but very flavorful in a grassy-hoppy kind of way; the hops are very definitely up-front but a solid maltiness lies beneath that implies that this beer could age interestingly
Body: soft and oily with a medium-lean body; dries out in the finish to clean everything up, though leaves a lingering off-grape flavor
Drinkability: something a little different; surprisingly, I think, I could drink a lot of these and at 6.9% it's not overly alcoholic
Summary: some of the descriptions of this seem strange ("pine-sol", "off-grape") but only because, I think, it is so unlike very many beers; it is actually similar flavor-wise to Dogfish's Midas Touch with it's non-traditional, grape-like, beer flavors; it's very nice, but approach and presentation are everything with this - if you were to pour this into a shaker pint and hand it to someone to drink as a beer they might be put-off; but with a white wine glass and paired with a dinner (sautéed whitefish with capers?) it is very approachable

2 comments:

  1. Where in Madison did you find Mikkeller?

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  2. In the past I have Mikkeller beers at Riley's, Steve's and Barriques. Not sure about some of the other places around town (Star?). But this one was not procured here - I picked it up in Michigan precisely because I hadn't seen it here in town. I wanted to write about it, though because: a) we do get other Mikkeller beers, b) it was a really beer, and c) the single-hop series is pretty cool.

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