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Compurgating To Øl

A few months ago I had the opportunity to purchase beers from a brewery I’d read and heard about, but yet had chance to sample. They were the To Øl brewery from Denmark. They have an interesting background, and direct links to the Mikkeller brewery, which is what initially, sparked my interests. Anyone who has a huge passion for beer, and has been tutored by one of the grand masters of international brewing, must have a pretty decent idea of what makes decent beer.

On that day I purchased five of their beers, and enjoyed the first – First Frontier IPA – finding it deliciously hoppy ale and one I would seek out again. It was then that I decided I would taste another 3 of their bottles, all being versions of an IPA, together to get an interesting insight into how good this brewery currently are. The three chosen ales were the Final Frontier IPA, and the two Mikkeller collaboration IIPA’s Overall IIPA and Sleep Over Coffee IIPA. I’m not expecting prosaic brews and approach this tasting with eagerness.

I started with the Final Frontier IIPA .It pours a lovely, fruity amber colour with frothy white head. It’s delightful on the nose too; tangy grapefruit and strong watermelon. The taste is, perhaps what I expected, but agreeably so; big, tasty, fruity hops, beautifully balanced and near perfectly crafted. It's almost ineffable and difficult to make tasting notes when you can't put your glass down long enough to write them. Lovely tang, terrific hop hit and there's even a pleasant alcohol warmth to remind you of that strength. It’s in my top 5 beers of the year instantly.

From here I moved on to one of the collaboration beers, and To Øl’s first official release, the Overall IIPA. This pours a cloudy peachy colour and is so mouth-watering on the nose. There are feelings of peach and then those scents from the Final Frontier, especially the melon - but bigger and bolder, stronger and more affirmed. For the first glorious second of tasting this is about to become my favourite beer of all time However, this amazing sensation lasts briefly before an alcohol burn sucks it away. It’s still great. It’s still one of my favourite IIPA's, but it’s just a shame that the burn holts this from being the best beer ever brewed. Unbalanced? I’ve suggested it is, but it’s ignominious to say so. I want it to be that good.

So, with my first slight disappointment I finally taste the other Mikkeller collaboration, Sleep Over Coffee IIPA. I’ve seen this on keg in a couple of bars but have avoided it to give this first outing it’s full effect.  This pours a hazy, Iced Tea colour, not far from the Overall. However, the smell is a huge contrast. It IS coffee, I know I shouldn't be surprised but I am. Its sweet coffee, like the flavours you would find in coffee Revels or Roses. The taste... barmy, a word I've not used for 22 years, but it is. Hop filled bitterness mixed with the taste of raw coffee beans. It's exactly how it’s described, like they've taken the Overall IIPA and mixed in a spoonful of Kenco Gold. It’s not bad. But at no point can I decide if I'm enjoying it. I will say, it’s much more balanced than the Overall IIPA, and drinks like a 5% rather than the huge 10.5%. It smacks of Mikkeller experimentation which isn't a criticism. But then I can't say I regret not having more than the one bottle, unlike the Final Frontier. Different, but crazy.

Since this tasting, I’ve tried, and enjoyed, To Øl’s Black Ball Porter, and stashed away a Reparationsbajer, Raid Beer, Ov’ral IIPA and Mochaccino Messiah (perhaps I could make a part two to this tasting event.) I think from the fact I’ve ordered these, and my love for both the First and Final Frontier, we can assume that To Øl are exciting, inventive and good at what they craft. Like the best craftsmen, they’ve served an apprenticeship to a master, but I bet they can come close to surpassing him.


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