Pint 7 – Mikkeller Black

January 17, 2009

Whoa, this one’s a sipper.

Intense "Imperial" Stout

Intense "Imperial" Stout

This is the last of the beers I bought for New Years. It’s from Mikkeller, a Danish brewing company that has been getting amazing reviews. Just getting around to drinking it now because I thought I should save it for a while, really savor it; the bottle says it’s good until 2012. Love the presentation – that’s the Chinese/Japanese character for “black” if you didn’t already know. Love the fact that it comes in a green bottle, too, nodding it’s head to sake.

It pours a ridiculously thick, black. I used a small Japanese beer glass to force myself to actually sip on it. Beer Advocate reviews claims it produces a head, but there is very little carbonation.

Thick black liquid

Thick black liquid

Ooof. This one packs a punch at 17.5% alcohol by volume. It has a sweet smell and initially a sweet taste, but then the roastiness and malt really hit you after the sweetness wears off. Calling this an imperial stout is like calling Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA a double IPA…it doesn’t quite fit. It’s more like a liqueur. Very warm on the throat as the sweetness hits.

I was thinking of going to the convenience store for a couple more beers after this, but that will only happen if I can still walk. This is one of the most powerful beers I’ve ever had. Not an everyday beer by any measure, but a nice one to experience.


Pint 6 – Green Flash Le Freak

January 10, 2009

This is the third and final Green Flash beer I bought during my end of year trip to the beer store. The others were solid, but this is superlative. It’s only my second Belgian IPA fusion beer, but now I think I get it. The first I had was the Collaboration Ale made by Stone, Mikkeller, and AleSmith, and when I had it I’d already had two pints and might not have been able to detect all the flavors. This time, they all came through in Green Flash’s Le Freak.

An amazing fusion.

An amazing fusion.

It pours an awesome clear golden color.

Pours a nice clear golden.

Pours a nice clear golden.

For such a lightly colored beer, it has a wide, complex array of intense flavors. There’s the hops, mostly bittering, and then the yeasty Belgian flavor that comes. I bet that you have to be very careful not to overpower the yeast with too many aroma hops. This beer tastes like what a super-hopped Duvel might taste like.

After a while, I poured the rest of the bottle and clouded up the pint a bit.

Clouded up a little when I added the rest of the bottle.

Clouded up a little when I added the rest of the bottle.

The bottle says this is the combination of an imperial IPA and a Belgian trippel. I looked up trippel to check the spelling and was surprised to find that it’s a relatively recent development – Westmalle made the first one in 1934. It packs a punch at 9%, but is only slightly warm on the way down. Not much sign of the alcohol. While I do love me some aroma hops in my IPAs, I can dig the replacement with the yeasty flavors. This is a fantastic brew. Definitely need to round out my Green Flash tasting with a few more bottles.


Pint 5 – Nøgne Ø #100

January 4, 2009

This is the other Norwegian beer I bought. They had a huge number of beers, all emblazoned with the Scandinavian letter “Ø.” Most of the regular styles were accounted for, and there was even a beer that was a collaboration with a Japanese brewer. I ended up going with this #100, a double IPA (so said the guy at the store; BA says barleywine), and was pleasantly surprised to discover that it is a limited run beer that has already been retired.

A complex double IPA.

A complex double IPA.

This IPA seems to be heavy on the bittering hops and light on the aroma hops. It works really well – there is intense bitterness, but some other aromas come through. I’m not quite sure what they are using, but I’d be willing to guess cinnamon or nutmeg, which might also help reinforce the bitterness of the hops. After I poured the second half of the bottle, the flavors were a lot stronger – a bunch of yeast and stuff from the bottom got mixed up; the beer is so thick that it never fully resettled. The bottle does say “upasteurisert” and “ufiltrert,” which I’m assuming means unpasteurized and unfiltered.

Nice and dark, frothy foam.

Nice and dark, frothy foam.

I wonder how travel affected this beer. The Haand beer seemed to be a US-export beer that had been reimported into Japan. This bottle has the original Norwegian labeling. Also, I might have let it warm up slightly before putting it in my toilet closet cellar. Still, this is a unique beer; the coloring, hop spectrum and interesting aromas are great. I think Nøgne Ø is all about spicing their beers – they have another that uses juniper berries – so I’ll have to check out their other styles.

Found these cool videos from when the Stone brewer visited the Nøgne Ø brewery – Norway looks amazing: 1, 2.


Pint 4 – Haandbryggeriet Haandbakk

January 2, 2009

I was fortunate enough to pick up two bottles of Norwegian beer during my last visit, both at somewhat reasonable prices – right around 1000 yen. The beer from this brewery, I think I’ve got it right although it could very well be Haand Bryggeriet, was easy to choose – I’ve wanted to try a sour ale for a long time since they seem to be the latest thing back in the States. The front label says “Norwegian Sour Ale Aged in Oak Barrels.”

Puckering Norwegian sour ale.

Puckering Norwegian sour ale.

The back label says the barrels were used to make sherry and rhubarb wine, which sounds amazing. It also says that this brew has been aging for a while:

Vintage 2006

Vintage 2006

First sniff revealed a little sour but also some deep notes, maybe the oak. I can’t really tell how the oak plays into the whole taste to be honest. I poured it and was surprised to find a really dark beer:

Surprisingly dark.

Surprisingly dark.

I wonder if that comes from the malt or the barrel aging. It is 8.5% alcohol but doesn’t feel too heavy. It has a super puckery sourness that increases over time. Really refreshing. I can’t compare it to sours, since this is my first, but I can compare it to lambics, which is the category Beer Advocate uses. It is far more complex than your average lambic, which shares the sour taste. (Maybe sour ale is just another name for lambics?) The fruitiness is only apparent in the sourness.

This is one of the most intense beers I’ve ever had. Really, really nice. Definitely going to have to try it again, maybe after some other brews from Haandbryggeriet.


Pint 3 – Saison Dupont

January 1, 2009

For New Year’s Eve I wanted to get something a little exciting, big and bubbly, and the big bottle of Saison Dupont was a fantastic value, one of the best in the store, at 1100 yen.

Fatty Saison with the Hop Head for comparison.

Fatty Saison with the Hop Head for comparison.

It definitely provided some excitement, fuzzing up pretty good and making me spray it all over the kitchen trying to get it under control. Maybe I should have gotten it cooler. (Currently I’m using an empty closet in the bathroom as a beer cellar as it’s one of the only rooms in the house with a temperature suitable for beer all day long.)

Nice fuzzy head and massive foam in the bottle.

Nice fuzzy head on the pint and massive foam in the bottle.

I’ve only had three saisons – Dupont, Regal and Baird’s Beer – so I’m still wrapping my head around the flavors, but the yeast definitely have a similar presence as Hefe yeast. More clove than banana, for certain. The hops and malt are so balanced and really seem to let the yeast do its very complex thing. Also deceptive for a 6.5% beer. Will definitely require more research and comparison with other examples of the style.


Pint 2 – Green Flash Hop Head Red Ale

January 1, 2009

New Year’s beer number two cut through the Mexican instantly. I could smell the hops right after I opened the bottle. The label describes it as “resinous,” and that is an accurate description. It also asks slyly whether this might be a Red IPA, a rhetorical question no doubt.

Resinous.

Resinous.

I can’t remember the last true red ale I’ve had. Actually, the only one I can remember is Harpoon’s seasonal that I believe they release around St. Patty’s Day. I drank five of those in one sitting. The Hop Head, however, is not that kind of beer. It’s much closer to the West Coast IPA. I’d need another bottle or two to be able to tell the difference clearly, but from what I could tell, there’s some of that intense caramel maltiness from Caramel 60 or 80 malt. It hit at the same time as the hoppiness on the back end of the spectrum.

Definitely a bit amber, but perhaps not all that different from the Nut Brown.

Definitely a bit amber, but perhaps not all that different from the Nut Brown.

Only other strange thing to note is that it had a lot more yeast than the Nut Brown. (I always pour the full bottle – yeasties are good for you.) I need to do a side to side to side comparison to be sure, but I think I prefer the West Coast IPA. That will have to wait until after I try some of Green Flash’s other beers. Very cool brewery.


Pint 1 – Green Flash Nut Brown Ale

January 1, 2009

I’ve gotten into Green Flash recently thanks to a bar close to where I live. I’ve only ever had their West Coast IPA, which is such a solid beer. I picked up two bottles (this and their red ale) after I finished work for the New Year’s holiday. Not a bad deal at 500 yen a pop. This beer is solid. Really drinkable. Brits would probably say it’s too carbonated, so I’d hesitate to add the “English” to the brown ale as the Japanese back label did. It’s 5%, so I’d call it a session beer if it were a little weaker. A perfect starter beer as it probably wouldn’t be able to bust through more intense flavors after you’ve shocked your palate.

Solid, but doesn't match with Mexican food.

Solid, but doesn't match with Mexican food.

Unfortunately I made Mexican food for the roommates last night, and this beer was a little mild. It made it clear why a nice, stinky Pilsner is the perfect match for Mexican. Having experienced the IPA, I was hoping to be overwhelmed by the nuttiness and was not. Will have to give this beer another shot when I’m not eating Mexican. Fortunately it’s in a safe price range.

Nice and brown.

Nice and brown.