Mikkeller Bangkok Launch
Along with Brew Dog, one of the most well-known craft breweries in Europe is Mikkeller. I would say that Mikkeller is even more prolific as a brewery because of the sheer number of limited edition, one-time-only releases they produce. They exemplify the creativity, the experimentation and the desire for excellence that characterize a true craft brewery. It was finally launched in Bangkok, Thailand thanks to local craft beer distributor Hop Session. Hopefully, a Philippine distribution is not far away (Global Beer Exchange hints that we could be getting close!).
I sent a message to the Hopsession Facebook page inquiring about the best places to taste craft beer in Bangkok, and they replied with an invitation to the Mikkeller launch at beer mecca Brews Beers and Ciders. Despite a tight schedule that night, I managed to squeeze it in, and I was glad I did. It was a packed crowd of local craft beer enthusiasts, expats and tourists, most of whom were there for the Mikkeller, of course.
There were a lot of limited releases available that night, and making the decisions of what to go with became a tough, but enjoyable task. My first choice was relatively easy, though. I had always been enamored with hoppy breakfast stouts. The ones from Founders in the United States are among the highest-rated beers in the world, and the demand is so strong that it is as good as impossible to get here in the Philippines. Luckily, Mikkeller had its own version, Beer Geek Breakfast. What I got to try, though, was the dry hopped iteration, Beer Hop Breakfast. I just saw the magic word. One, please! This was excellent despite the Bangkok heat. It’s rich and thick, with a nice explosion of both hops and roasted coffee and chocolate flavors. The 500-ml bottle went by way too quickly.
Jacob of Hopsession was also pouring tasters some of the lighter offerings, so I made sure to sample each. First up was a Summer Pilsner brewed with orange juice. As far as pilsners go, this was probably the best one I’ve had since Victory Prima Pils. It may not be the most traditional, but with the prominent but not overpowering citrus aroma from to hops and flavor from the orange juice, this was an excellent beachside brew.
I was also able to taste their Hop Bomb Challenge, an IPA which was originally a home brew recipe. Mikkeller often holds contests among local home brewers, with the winning recipe being produced by the brewery on a larger scale. It’s a good way for home brewers to immortalize themselves, and the Hop Bomb Challenge was a good IPA by all accounts.
Given the unique names of the other brews Mikkeller was offering, the simply named Porter showed why it deserved a much more generic appellation. This was the epitome of the porter style. It was a lesson in moderation and restraint, which is rare with many craft breweries. The roasted malts, hop bitterness and thickness of the body were all present, but not overpowering, achieving a perfect balance that I’ve never experienced with this style. Other breweries may go by philosophies of bigger, better, more explosive beers, but this Porter shows that Mikkeller’s goal is quite simply, excellence. And it achieved it with this brew. Bravo.
Boogoop, along with its “cousins” Risgoop and Hvedegoop, was a collaboration between Mikkeller and Three Floyds, brewer of the infamous Dark Lord. This was a buckwheat barleywine, but for some reason, it didn’t leave much of an impression on me, most likely because of the sheer amount of different flavors I’d been barraged with. It didn’t help either that I forgot the Moleskine I had been bringing around for jotting down notes.
Our Mikkeller experience was made much more enjoyable thanks to a couple of Swedish backpackers who, like us, were having one last round or so of good beer before heading to the airport. Patrick and Fredde are actually friends of a brewer at Mikkeller and they gave a lot of insight and friendly tips as to what beers to try. Fredde was the bigger craft beer enthusiast, and gracefully suggested to share some of the boozier bottles with me so that we could get to as many brews as we could.
Fredde turned out to be a hophead as well, which meant that we would surely get along in terms of beer preference. The first beer we shared was a Crooked Moon DIPA, which was fantastic. I noted its amazing floral aroma, to which Patrick commented that it reminded him of elderberries, which were quite common in their native Sweden. While I haven’t even seen, much less smelled those before in my life, I’ll take his word for it. The Crooked Moon was even more enjoyable than the Hop Bomb Challenge. I’d definitely include it among my IPA/Imperial IPA rotation if it ever makes it here to the Philippines.
One of the drinks that Fredde recommended was the George, a slow-boiled imperial stout aged in either Cognac or Calvados barrels. We decided to order the Calvados edition, as he had already tried the Cognac back home. It was a well-hidden 12.2% alcohol-by-volume, covered up nicely by strong dark chocolate, black coffee and oaky, tannic red wine. An excellent stout for a cold night. Fredde really knew his stuff, and I appreciated how he really waited for his glass to warm a bit before tasting. Beer geeks unite!
Our new friends had already left to catch their flight home, but there was still time for one last beer. Mikkeller, the brewery runs a newly-opened bar “Mikkeller and Friends”, named as such because it not only collaborates frequently with other craft brewers, but also helps push some of the other lesser-known breweries. To Øl is one of those friends, but it actually has a good cult following in Denmark. Their Black Ball imperial coffee porter was a good nightcap. It was more coffee-forward than the Mikkeller Porter, but otherwise nothing else really stood out after a long night of mostly deeply roasted malts.
At one point in the evening, I was asked to fill out a small slip with some personal information – the standard name, address and email. It turned out that this was for a bottle raffle, and I was lucky enough to win a 330-ml bottle of Monk’s Elixir quadrupel.
I also decided to bring home a couple of bottles for the Beer Club of Manila to try. Piscator is a Belgian Wild Ale, and Gypsy Tears is a red wine barrel-aged stout in collaboration with Stillwater and Fanø breweries.
Getting the Piscator was actually due to an error in its description in the menu that night. I thought I was getting a variant of the legendary Mikkeller Black, an extreme 18+% abv stout which came highly recommended. These beers may pose a bit of a challenge to drink, as they both turned out to be sour ales. Hopefully, they will be just as enjoyable as the rest of the Mikkeller lineup I tried. I will most likely be bringing these to the 80’s Night at the Global Beer Exchange Bottle Shop, this Thursday, 11 April 2013.