A couple of weeks ago, the haven for many a beer nerd in Melbourne, Slowbeer had a tasting to showcase some dark beers from Danish brewery Mikkeller. In reality, the showcase focussed on variations of two of their beers, the Beer Geek Brunch Weasel and the Mikkeller Black.
What’s so special about Mikkeller, you’re thinking? For a start, the head brewer doesn’t have his own premises. He roams the lands far and wide like a gypsy and basically goes to existing breweries, sets up for a bit and does his thing. In fact, the Beer Geek Brunch Weasel was made at Nøgne Ø in Norway. You might recall that this Norwegian brewery picked up a slew of awards at the recent Australian International Beer Awards.
I missed out on trying the Beer Geek Breakfast when it was available – the fuss being that it contained ‘gourmet’ coffee and was supposedly suitable for breakfast drinking. Mentioning ‘beer’ and ‘breakfast’ in the same sentence also gives me an opportunity to flog that post again. So, with the Beer Geek Brunch Weasel, they upped the ante and didn’t use any old coffee but the most bloody expensive coffee in the world – kopi luwak. Yes, yes, you’ve probably heard about it but let me tell you again because it’s quite exciting – a civet eats coffee berries and it pops out the other end having been…’treated’ by its digestive acids and thus leaving us humans with something of a delicacy. Also, cutest little baristas ever! Squeeeee! Ahem, sorry.
Thus the tasting begun: we forked over $30 per person and were huddled around the table in the shop. Was this madness? Leaving the warmth and comfort of home to try out civet-shit-coffee-poo beer? Pah, hardly! The BGBW is an imperial stout which also has a fair amount of oats as well as the infamous coffee. I find oats generally give stouts a smoother, silkier drinking experience.
Okay, I admit, I’m sexing up things a little. I blame the British in me: I’ve actually had this first beer before. It’s a luxurious experience. It pours near-black with a dark tan head and whiffs of its 11% ABV are oh so evident. Despite this being a strong beer, the alcohol is well integrated. This time around as compared to my very first taste, I found that with my first sip there was a hint of hops and every so often the civety-coffee aroma and taste would pop up. I think the coffee generally brings out the chocolatey characteristics of this stout.
Mmm. Perhaps in winter, I could possibly have it with brunch. Perhaps.
The second beer for tasting I doubt I would have in the daytime – this was the Beer Geek Brunch Weasel Highland. The difference between this and its parent is that it is aged in Highland whisky barrels for three and a half months. This seemed to affect the beer’s carbonation considerably – there was virtually no head, less coffee presence to the palate and more savoury. While the whisky aroma was strong, the taste was but a whisper in the beer itself.
Second variation, third beer in the tasting – Beer Geek Brunch Weasel Islay. This time the beer is aged for two and a half months in Islay whisky barrels. I’d say that this was more of a success as compared to the Highland incarnation – there was more carbonation and thus more head (which is useful for imparting aroma before you even take a sip) and holy shit, it was peaty. The coffee was pretty hard to detect but this could have been because the whisky was more prominent than it was in previous one.
Beer Geek Brunch Weasel: ace. Thick, chocolatey coffee goodness in imperial stout form. Great as a dessert beer for those who don’t like dessert! This is probably because I like to imagine imperial stout is choc mud cake in liquid form.
Beer Geek Brunch Weasel Highland: lost the plot a little here, chaps – whisky-soaked barrels don’t add much to this already awesome drop. The low carbonation oddly enough dilutes the enjoyment of this beer.
Beer Geek Brunch Weasel Islay: a more successful venture with the whisky barrel ageing thing. Not as drinkable as the original but far more pleasing than the Highland version.
Rather than fatigue you, dear reader, permit me a pause in what is turning out to be a rather lengthy chronicle of the Mikkeller showcase tasting. Please check back tomorrow for the next instalment of the tasting on the Mikkeller Black variants.