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Night and Day; Beer at it's Best. And Worst

I suppose my purpose when blogging was that I had a few opinions about certain areas of my “hobby” that I wanted to address, whist also getting to share my own tastes and experiences. Sometimes I’ll find something that angers me, sometimes something that is worth debating. Occasionally, when sat at home bored, I’ll theme my evening with a few bottles of similar style or brewery to entertain myself more than anything.

This weekend this was never my intention. I found myself, unusually, with little to do socially so I cracked out a few bottles I fancied at random with no intention of sharing the experience on these pages. However, after experienced a huge contrast in quality in two beers, I couldn’t resist writing something down.

It started on Friday when, after a dreadful working week came to an end and a few warm-up beers, I turned to my Nøgne ØSunturnbrew, a beer I had been keeping for a while. I’ve only tried the beer once, at Indy Man Beer Con, and hailed it my favourite of the festival. I knew it warranted an evening where it would be savoured, loved but most importantly invigorate me from a dejected torpor. I wasn’t disappointed. Heavily peated, beautifully smoked and exceptionally well-balanced, I considered dedicating a blog post to this heavenly beer but decided in the first few sips that this wasn’t a one to be over “intellectualised.” It would possibly get the vote as my favourite beer tasted in 2012, and would certainly make the top 3.

Where the Sunturnbrew pleased, Saturday night’s choice did the opposite. Wishing for a quiet Saturday evening spent in relative peace for once, I decided to limit myself to just one bottle of beer. With this restriction in place, I decided to make the most of it, choosing a beer I’d previously wondered if I’d ever get round to trying considering its unusual strength.  

Mikkeller and To Øl’s collaborationbeer, Walk on Water, is labelled as “the lightest beer in the world” despite being 14%. A quick read of the above link gives you the background to the beer and, seeing as these two breweries can do little wrong in my eyes, my excitement was high at the beer in prospect. I dedicated a blog before to mytasting of ToØl and have stashed away 4 of their other beers ready for another. I've yet to publish my finished post about Mikkeller, though I wrote my feelings about them briefly here.

The opening of the bottle brings a presence of East Coast American Pale Ales, with toffee hops and caramel maltiness immediately present. There's the hint of barley wine style nuttiness, though the strength makes this unsurprising. The taste is an altogether different beast. There’s been no attempt to mask the strength here; instead it hits you like a mammoth windmilling through a narrow alleyway. There’s little time to recover before a metallic burn hits your throat and you start questioning whether you’ve actually poured the drink into a tin pot.  

It's as if somebody has matured a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in a vodka cask. But not just any vodka cask; a rusty phosphorous bronze vodka cask so the alcohol is mixed with the flavour of brittle metal. Sure, there are the hints of a matching malt and hop presence, but that overproof keeps pulling at your tonsils until they’re left dangling in your chest.

I’m disappointed. Mikkeller and To Øl getting something so wrong is equivalent to finding out that your favourite singer/songwriter actually only mimes to covers. A quick read again of that beer’s description shows the failings. Attenuation. Fermentation. Violation. This beer should never really have been made widely available. It was an experiment into the fermenting process and it seems the taste was an afterthought.

One of my most viewed posts referred to novelty beers and it has begun to become a very derogatory term in my book. This beer is novelty on its least novel scale. Each time I order bottled beers never tasted or informed on it can be considered a risk, but never have I come so close to the “drain pour” so many others seem to perform. Yet I think back to that Sunturnbrew the night before and remember all that is right. But, because I find something to like in all beer styles, often people find I’m only positive when tasting. Perhaps they think I’m a fanboy at heart. Well, here’s the answer.


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