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Dead Eye Double Feature

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Today we feature two off-shelf imperial stouts from the dead-eye twins, Mikkel and Jeppe:

Dead Eye Twins

Those eyes, man. They look like sociopaths, but they can brew some good beer. To be sure, they both have a large catalog filled with a wide range of styles and experimental series, so they both have their fare share of hits and misses. Since both are highfalutin "gypsy" brewers, those misses tend to be expensive misses, but I've had pretty good luck with both, especially when it comes to their imperial stouts, the details of which are covered below, along with my amazing tasting notes. Up first, Vanilla Shake:

Mikkeller Beer Geek Vanilla Shake

Mikkeller Beer Geek Vanilla Shake - Yet another variation on the Beer Geek Breakfast (stout with coffee) theme that Mikkel has been riding for a few years now, this one made at a higher ABV with both coffee and vanilla. You should know by now that I'm not a big coffee guy, but I do really love me some vanilla, so I had big hopes for this. It pours a pitch black color with a finger of light brown head. Smells of coffee, dark malts, and lots of vanilla, in roughly equal measures. Taste has lots of that coffee character tempered by rich caramel and lots of vanilla, with that roasty coffee reasserting itself in the finish, along with a hint of bitterness. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, medium/low carbonation, not at all boozy. Overall, it's a rock solid coffee based stout. I enjoyed it, but you know, coffee. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 13% ABV bottled (11.2 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 6/27/14.

Evil Twin I Love You With My Stout

Evil Twin I Love You With My Stout - So this is basically another variant on Jeppe's famous Even More Jesus recipe. What's the difference? As the story goes, it was "brewed at a different brewery in bigger scale. Since we had to adjust the recipe to the new system, we gave the beer a new name as it is not the same, though it will be similar." Ironically, I had the coffee version of Even More Jesus, and actually quite enjoyed it (actually moreso than Vanilla Shake), but I really found myself wishing I got to try the non coffee version. Well, I basically got my wish with this beer. Pours a black color with a very pretty brown head. Smells of dark, roasty malt, rich caramel, maybe even some vanilla. The taste starts sweet, but that's tempered by some roasty dark malt, rich caramel in the middle, and a little bitter dark chocolate and hop bitterness towards the finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, and chewy, medium carbonation, no real booze here either. Overall, we have another rock solid stout here, and because I'm not a big coffee person, I like this better than the vanilla shake. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 13% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 6/28/14. Bottled 04/16/14.

So there you have it. Jeppe wins this round, but only really because coffee, and if other beer geeks are any indication, the coffee stuff would probably be treated more fairly. I know, I'm the worst. I actually think the Evil Twin one will age really well, so I may try to snag some more of that.

Before he became a famed Gypsy brewer, Mikkel Borg Bjergsø was a high school teacher. Two of his students showed an abiding interest in homebrewing, so Mikkel schemed to use the school's kitchen during off hours (10 pm until 6 am) to teach them to brew. When they slept, I do not know. Eventually Mikkel would go on to found Mikkeller to great acclaim. A few years later, his two students threw their hat into the ring and started To Øl (Danish for "Two Beers"). Like their teacher (and his Evil Twin), they would pursue the Gypsy approach to brewing, scrounging excess brewing capacity where they could, and started putting out their own well received beers. To date, I have had none, so it's finally time to rectify the situation:

To Øl White Wine Barrel Aged Snowball Saison

To Øl White Wine Barrel Aged Snowball Saison - Pours a mostly clear golden orange color with a couple fingers of white, fluffy head that sticks around a while and leaves lots of lacing. Aroma isn't especially strong, but I'm getting Belgian yeast, fruity esters and spicy phenols, and that white wine barrel is coming through too. Does not smell sour or particularly funky. Taste bears that out, it's very much like a regular ol saison, sweet with some peppery yeast notes. The white wine is there, as is the vanilla aspect of the barrel (though I really don't get a lot of oak itself), but this not at all sour or funky. Mouthfeel is actually very nice, highly carbonated, effervescent. That white wine cuts into that a bit though, and makes the finish a bit on the sticky side. Overall, this is a nice beer, if not exactly what I was expecting. Reminiscent of White Monkey, actually. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (375 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/22/14.

So not blowing the doors off the building or anything, but I'm still curious to try more from this pair of gypsies.

Evil Twin Aún Más Café Jesús

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Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø is the Evil Twin of Mikkel Borg Bjergsø (of Mikkeller fame)... I don't know if they're actually twins, but I'm going to go one step further and say that they're identical twins, because they both seem to have this beer brewing thing down pat. I haven't delved that deeply into Evil Twin's (rather sizeable) catalog, but I'm beginning to think that might be a good idea. If I can afford it, that is.

This beer began as something called Even More Jesus, a big, chewy imperial stout brewed in Denmark. But like his brother, Jeppe is one of them new-fangled "gypsy" brewers who walks the earth, soaking up excess brewing capacity wherever he can. So he took his recipe on the road, ended up at Cervesera del Montseny in Spain of all places, and rebrewed the beer. This time around, he also made a variant with coffee, which is what I have right here. As befitting its origins, he translated the name to Spanish, leaving us with this rather great beer:

Evil Twin Even More Coffee Jesus, but translated into Spanish with a bunch of accents and whatnot.

Evil Twin Aún Más Café Jesús - Pours a thick, gloopy, very dark brown color, almost black, with a beautiful finger of brown head. Smells deeply of coffee, some roast and plenty of dark chocolate. Taste starts off sweet, rich caramel and fudgy chocolate, with the roast and coffee peeking out later in the taste, though less prominently than in the nose. Mouthfeel is thick, full bodied, rich, and chewy. Medium carbonation, but tight enough to retain a creamy, fudgy feeling, well suited to the style. Overall, this is an excellent stout, and coffee lovers would go crazy over it. Even I'm having an excellent time here, and I'm not a big coffee guy... A-

Beer Nerd Details: 12% ABV bottled (11.2 oz) Drank out of a snifter on 12/14/13.

This stuff seems just as good as Evil Twin's much more famous Imperial Biscotti Break, though perhaps this warrants further, uh, "research" if you know what I mean. And actually, given my lack of interest in coffee, maybe the regular ol' Aún Más Jesús (sans the Café) would be something to try. If I can find/afford it. Anywho, I bought this because I thought it kinda/sorta might be a Christmas beer (it sez Jesús on the bottle), but apparently that's not the case. Well I'll just have to see if I can get a little more festive this weekend.

Decembeer Club II: Electric Boogaloo

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Tonight was beer club, a meeting of beer minded individuals from my work who get together for a meal and lots-o-beer once a month. As usual, a core group of stalwarts showed up, along with some new faces and other return guest stars. All told, a solid turnout, plenty of good beer, and a fun time had by all.

Decembeer Club 2012
(Click for bigger image)

Apologies for the image quality. Brightness kinda got away from me there. Stupid flash. For the sake of posterity, some thoughts on each beer we tried are below. Standard disclaimers apply, though I think I've achieved a new level in beer nerdom in that I've already had (and probably reviewed) a lot of the beers presented here. Go figure. Roughly (yeah, yeah, gimme a break, it's a social gathering after all, you're lucky I can do this much) listed in order of drinking, not the order in the picture above:

  • Hitachino Nest White Ale - This has actually been on my radar for a while, but it's not something I've ever tried before. It's a very solid Belgian wit beer, not super strong on the wheat (though it's there), more defined by the Belgian yeast character of fruit and dry spice. Sorta reminded me of St. Bernardus' Tokyo beer, which is not suspicious at all, as Hitachino is Japanese (I swears, I didn't realize it when I was drinking, except perhaps subconsciously because Hitachino does sound pretty Japanese). Really worth checking out, and it won't break the bank like St. Bernardus will. A-
  • Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer - This must be the 4th or 5th time I've had this. I've always enjoyed it too, though I didn't have any sticky toffee dessert dish to pair it with (like I normally do). A solid contribution from a beer club newcomer. B+
  • Ommegang Scythe & Sickle - Malt-focused, Belgian-style harvest ale, recently reviewed! Well chosen and well placed in the tasting. This works well with food (which came out as I was drinking this)... B+
  • Ballast Point Sculpin IPA - Yep, another that I've had several times before, but I do love this beer. It seems that some beer club members have been doing some research on Beer Advocate and this is a pretty good choice. Well played, Paul. A-
  • Magic Hat Hi.P.A. - A decent enough IPA that I think just pales (pun intended!) in comparison with Sculpin. Flavors seemed muted and a little bland, but seemingly well crafted enough. Not something I'd seek out again, but I wouldn't turn it down if you handed me one. B-
  • Kaedrin Abbey Dubbel Xmas - A variant on my homebrewed abbey dubbel beer, when I was bottling and I got to the bottom of the bucket I added a cinnamon stick and some clove to the remaining beer. Alas, I didn't get much additional spice out of this, at least in my small sample. However, I feel like the beer has finally conditioned into something solid. Still not quite what I was going for, I think perhaps too much in the Special B department, yielding a bit too much in the way of toasted malt character, but still, it's coming along well. I will refrain from rating this for now, as I don't think it's peaked yet, but perhaps a full review will be forthcoming.
  • Anchor Our Special Ale 2012 (Christmas Ale) - Just reviewed this one yesterday (along with the 2011 variety). This was one of my contributions, so of course it was good.
  • Evolution Secret Spot Winter Ale - I've enjoyed most of Evolutions offerings that I've tried so far, and this one is no exception. But it's not really exceptional either. Another beer that may have suffered a bit by comparison to the previous beer. Technically an altbier, this drinks kinda like a winter warmer without the spice. I like. Want to try again in better context. B
  • Lagunitas Brown Shugga' - Yep, just reviewed this one too. Big flavors do well in beer club setting.
  • Mikkeller Santa's Little Helper 2011 - One of my contributions... I've had the 2010 vintage, and though Mikkel claims to tweak the recipe every year, this seemed pretty similar to me. It's listed as a Belgian Strong Dark, but it reads more like an Imperial Stout. Lots of chocolate and roasted malts, smooth, well hidden booze. It's said that this is a spiced beer, but it's hard to detect in this. Definitely a complex beer, and I'm guessing the spices contribute to that without being overpowering. Overall, a very good beer, worthy of the holiday. A-
So there you have it. Another successful beer club. Good company, good food, good beer. As always, already looking forward to the next installment.

Mikkeller Barrel-Aged Black Hole

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In anticipation of Red Wednesday, I figured it might be a good idea to check out some non-sour beers aged in red wine barrels. This one is part of a series of beers, all aged in different types of barrels. While the version aged in Scotch whisky barrels apparently represents a "scorching oral douche", all the other variations seem to be pretty well received, including this red-wine version:

Mikkeller Barrel Aged Black Hole (Red Wine Edition)

Mikkeller Barrel-Aged Black Hole (Red Wine Edition) - Pours a thick-looking, very dark brown (almost black) color with a solid finger of light brown head. Smells sugary sweet, dark caramel and roast malt aromas, something bright that I assume is the doing of the red wine, and that oak is adding a nice rich complexity to the nose too. The taste is... whoa... yeah, that happened. Starts off very sweet followed by a big wallop of oak, then a bit of those astringent red wine tannins kick in, finishing off with mellow roast and coffee notes. Each of those flavors hits at a discrete point in the taste. One flavor hits, then fades as the next flavor rides in, only to give way to another, and so on... It's like I'm drinking a boxing match. Fortunately, most of these flavors work well. Mouthfeel is full bodied and chewy, but not overwhelmingly so. There's an acidic tannin kick in the mouthfeel, presumably from the red wine, but it's not sour or even tart in any way (as expected). Overall, I'm really enjoying this unique, complex beer, though I don't know that it's something I'd hit up often. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 13.10% ABV bottled (375 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 11/9/12.

I am now officially excited for Red Thunder, as I think this sort of treatment might be better integrated into a slightly less hot base beer, but I guess we'll find out. I'm sure I'll pick up more of these Black Hole variations (in particular, it seems the Cognac version is popular) at some point, but I wouldn't expect to see that anytime soon. My cellar is becoming unruly again.

Beer Hop Breakfast

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Apparently weasel poo is not involved with this beer at all. Not that it normally would be a key ingredient, but the last beer I had in Mikkeller's Beer Geek series of imperial stouts did have that improbable ingredient... and it was spectacular. This time around, in place of poo, we've got hops. Unfortunately, I think my bottle had been sitting around for quite while when I bought it, and thus I suspect the hop profile was somewhat diminished:

mikkeller-beerhopbreakfast.jpg

Mikkeller Beer Hop Breakfast - Pours a thick black in color with a couple fingers of light brown head. Smells of light roast, caramel and chocolate, with some piney hops apparent (but not quite as prominently as I was expecting). The roastiness comes out much more in the flavor, along with some coffee and bitter dark chocolate in the finish (the additional hops may also have been a contributor to the bitter finish). Not quite as much hop flavor as I was expecting, but it's clearly more of a hoppy beer than the Brunch Weasel. Mouthfeel is definitely less full than the Brunch Weasel, thinner, but not watery or anything, with a dry finish. Overall, it's a nice beer, but I wish I had a fresher bottle. I'll give it a provisional B, but it could go either way.

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/31/12.

Mikkeller remains one of my favorite breweries, so I'm sure you'll see some more of their stuff popping up here soon. I think I have a red wine barrel aged stout from them somewhere in my cellar, which I'll probably bring out to play when it gets a little colder out...

Beer Geek Brunch Weasel

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Also known as: that beer made with weasel poop coffee. Yes, this beer is made with civet coffee, one of the world's most expensive varieties. Apparently, coffee berries are fed to weasel-like civets and are thus passed through their digestive tract. The idea here is that the coffee beans are exposed to various enzymes in the process, helping break them down. But not too much, as the beans retain their coffee-like properties, just with a different, supposedly less bitter character. There's apparently a lot of controversy surrounding the coffee due to the novelty factor and also the ease with which "fake" civet beans are put on the market. Oh, and the fact that people are drinking coffee made from poo. Ok, fine, the coffee is apparently washed and roasted, but still. Weasel poo.

And of course, leave it to Mikkeller to make an exceptional beer with this stuff. He's got a whole series of Beer Geek stouts, mostly brewed with various coffees. Not being a big coffee person (poo or no poo), the beer never really made it past my radar, but I eventually broke down and got a couple bottles from the series to see what all the fuss is about. Well, I'm glad I got over my hesitation, because this stuff is great:

Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch

Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel - Pours a very dark brown color with a finger of light brown head. Smells fantastic, very rich dark malt aromas, caramel, booze, maybe a little roast (but not much). Taste also features those rich dark malt flavors, much more coffee and roast character than the nose would indicate (but not overpowering or anything), plenty of caramel and chocolate, and maybe a hint of booze. The finish has some balancing bitterness, some of which is coming from that coffee (rather than all hops - though if wikipedia is to be believed, the bitterness is less pronounced than regular coffee). Mouthfeel is thick and chewy, full bodied, low but appropriate carbonation and just a little stickiness in the finish. Alcohol is very well hidden here. Towards the end of the bottle, the yeast got a little clumpy, which wasn't great, but only really impacted a small portion of the bottle. Overall, this is expertly crafted stuff and while I don't normally go in for coffee in my beer, this one is fantastic. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10.9% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 7/20/12.

Up next on the wallet-lightening train of Mikkeller beers is Beer Hop Breakfast - basically a similar beer, sans poo, plus tons of hops. All aboard!

Mikkeller 1000 IBU

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Beer is quite sweet. Even highly attenuated beers still end up with a fair amount of residual sugars, and to counteract all this sweetness, brewers turn to our lovable friend: the hop. Among other trivial things like flavor and aroma, hops provide a bitterness that makes beer palatable, and one way to measure hop bitterness is through a system of International Bitterness Units (or IBUs for short). On the low end of the scale, you've got beers like industrial light lagers (of the macro-brewer kind), clocking in at around 8-12 IBU. This is apparently pretty close to the lower taste threshold for us humans. When you get into pale ales, you see stuff in the 35-50 IBU range, and IPAs go well beyond that. The theoretical limit of the human ability to detect bitterness is around 100 IBUs.

Now, the stronger the beer, the more malt sweetness there is to be balanced. Thus IBUs alone don't tell you very much about a beer. A monster 13% ABV imperial stout with 100 IBUs won't necessarily be the most bitter beer you've ever had. In fact, it's likely to be pretty darn sweet. On the other hand, a simple pale ale with 50 IBUs may hit you in the face like a sledgehammer. Brewers use various ratios comparing IBUs to Original Gravity units (BU:GU ratio), but now we're venturing into the dreaded mathematics territory, so we'll just leave it at that.

Mikkeller 1000 IBU Packaging

Now, if the taste threshold of bitterness is around 100 IBUs, what the heck is Mikkeller doing making something with ten times that amount of bitterness? I have a few theories. One is that Mikkeller is the leading edge of an insectoid alien race that craves bitter foods and drink, having a much higher threshold for bitterness than us puny humans. And I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords. But I digress. Another completely baseless speculation is that Mikkeller has some crazy palate that can actually detect higher IBUs in weird ways. Sorta like how audiophiles claim that records have superior sound quality or how MP3s (which basically compress music by getting rid of frequencies that are recorded by our equipment, but not detectable by the human ear, amongst other techniques) ruin music. Perhaps there's something too that, but I'm certainly not qualified to say for sure. Finally, it's almost certainly a gimmicky stunt or marketing fluff. Extreme beer always gets people talking, even if approximately half of the discussion is purists condemning the extremists. On the other hand, for a gimmicky beer, this thing is pretty darn spectacular:

Mikkeller 1000 IBU

Mikkeller 1000 IBU - This is another beer with one of them fancy paper wrappings, though it's especially useful for this particular beer given the high hop content and green glass it was bottled in (I will never understand why good breweries insist on green glass). Pours a thick, very cloudy orange brown color with a little less than a finger of head with nice retention that leaves a bunch of lacing on the glass as I drink. The aroma is a dream. Tons of citrus and pine resin character in the nose (and when I say tons, I mean this literally), lots of other hop notes from earthy to spicy, along with a pronounced sweetness. I could sniff this stuff all night long. The taste is surprisingly balanced. There's a lot of sweetness, but it's all balanced by the massive hop character. Lots of that citrus, pine, and resin in the middle of the taste, followed by a solid bite of bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is thick, chewy, and full bodied, but well carbonated. As it warms, it starts to go down reallly easy, which is surprising for such a big beer. Overall, this is an impressive beer. If only all gimmicky beers were this good. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 9.6% ABV bottled (375 ml capped). Drank out of a snifter on 7/7/12.

It appears that this Mikkel guy knows what he's doing. You'll have to pay an arm and a leg for his stuff, but in most of my experience, it's worth the stretch. I've got a few more Mikkeller beers in the pipeline, including one brewed with weasel poop coffee. And another stout that's been aged in red wine barrels. So yeah, lots more Mikkeller to come on the blog in the coming months.

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

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