The last time the South African beer community was this excited about a new import, it was 2012 and BrewDog had just arrived on our shores. This time it’s a small selection of beers from Danish maverick brewery Mikkeller. Founded in Copenhagen in 2006, Mikkel Borg Bjergsø is regarded as one of the most cutting edge brewers in the world.
The gypsy brewer (there are Mikkeller bars, but until last year no Mikkeller brewery – his 900-plus batches have been brewed on other systems around the world. In March 2016 Bjergsø bought a California brewery but still practices plenty of nomadic brewing) specialises in pushing boundaries – past brews have included a pumpkin and cranberry porter, an IPA with 19 different hops, a wild ale conditioned in champagne barrels and of course, Beer Geek Breakfast, an imperial oatmeal stout. But they also produce plenty of everyday drinkers. And these guys really love hops. Like great big mountains of hops. At the moment, three Mikkeller beers are available in SA – American Dream (pilsner), Peter, Pale and Mary (pale ale) and Green Gold (IPA).
“The kind of beer you drink straight outta the bottle on a hot summer day.” That’s what the Mikkeller website says about American Dream. I did pour mine into a glass, but I could see that when it’s 30 degrees and you need a super refreshing beer not nownow or just now but now, dispensing with the glass would work. This is one seriously crisp and moreish beer. If you were handed a glass of it and asked to inhale deeply, you would never guess this is a pilsner. You get a solid whiff of tropical juice – masses of mango and guava. It smells like Umbongo (it’s a tropical juice from 1980s Britain. I have it on great authority that they drunk it in the Congo, though not sure it made it to SA). Anyway, when you sniff, you’re expecting some bad ass IPA, but then you’re hit with a fairly light bodied beer, with the biscuit flavours and cleansing bitterness of a pilsner but the long tropical finish of an IPA. It’s truly superb, a marriage of what are probably my two favourite beer styles. I could drink this all day, if my finances would allow. It’s a definite 4/5 beer, possibly even 4.5 (will taste again soon and confirm).
If dank is more your vibe, Peter, Pale and Mary should deliver, although alongside the dankness you’ll find some gooseberries and fresh green melon. It’s fairly light in body, with a carbonation level I noted as ‘spritzy’. A great beer but for me it paled (haha, gettit?) when tasted after the pilsner. Still a definite 3.5 to 4 out of 5 though.
And now for Green Gold. This is my kind of IPA. Although nose-wise it’s actually more subdued than the pilsner – you get some pine and indeed, some caramelly malt aroma. There’s some fruit when you sip – citrus peel and perhaps white grapes, but it leans toward the more herbaceous side of hops. It’s not as full bodied and boozy-tasting as many non-SA IPAs (although it is 7% ABV) – and I think it’s all the better for it. It’s a delicious IPA with a finish that lasts until payday – which is ideal since these beers don’t come cheap.
The price tag looks to be around the R65 mark for a 330ml bottle. Not everyday-drinking beers, but certainly something you should splurge on for special occasions. At the moment you’ll find the beers at The Biggest Little Beer Shop, Roeland Liquors, Queen & Peasant and Claremont Liquor City in Cape Town, but keep an eye on importer Nordic Craft on Twitter – distribution is soon to reach Gauteng and KZN.