Tuesday, 5 September 2017

I just want an imperial stout

Is this an imperial stout? 
So there I am in the tiny Mikkeller bar in Copenhagen, my first time back since 2011. It’s gone 11 and I want a final beer or two for the night. An imperial stout calls and on the blackboard behind the bar there are two imperial stouts chalked up. 

I just want an imperial stout. 

However…

One of the them is brewed with Sahti yeast, which is rather interesting and has a soft vinous-like character, you know the jazz shapes that wine can give to beer, a roastiness and a sweetness and a sense of darkness reminiscent of the thoughts of a murderer planning their next killing. 

I just want an imperial stout. 

However…

The other imperial stout is Imperial Mexican Biscotti Cake Break, a collaboration between Evil Twin and Westbrook — it is sweet, soft, doughy, biscuity and gently roasty. 

Both of them are decent beers and inevitably get good marks from the teachers at Ratebeer, but as I sit there zoning in and out of the conversation on the next table (has Copenhagen become the new 1920s Paris given the amount of Americans I heard or saw?), that moment, that brace of beers, feels like an infantilisation of beer. Imperial stouts are muscular brutes, hammering away like a leather-clad smith on an anvil — now, they, just like the IPA, have become a laboratory for mad scientists, a dartboard randomly pinned, a ghost style perhaps. 

I’m not arguing for an interdiction on beer styles, after all no one made me drink these beers. Instead, what I felt in the Mikkeller bar was an irritation, an utterance of quiet despair, a flight from fantasy. And I was aware of a counter argument going on in my head, beers like this are an example of breweries heading for the open seas, the outer space of brewing imagination, the search for a god, a lodestar of flavour. 

As for me I remain genuinely torn by these conflation of beer styles — sometimes I think it is marvellous and creative and a mark of greatness and other times I think it is just Cheddar with chilli or a pizza with chocolate, baby food for adults. 

6 comments:

  1. "Baby food for adults". Briliant.

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  2. Oh yes, Haribo IPAs and Patisserie Imperial Stouts.

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  3. I like Northern English stouts - incapable of sidestepping

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  4. I think the problem is that in an ideal world we'd be able to decide whether we want a big, serious, austere Imperial Stout or something daft with jellybabies and custard as the mood takes us, but in reality, novelty works too well as a marketing tool so you don't always have the choice.

    I don't object to silly beers in principle, but they're annoying when you want something "normal" and it's not on offer.

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    1. Dave says the most sensible things, always.

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  5. As craft beers get bigger, there's going to be more focus on experimentation. That's good news if you fancy trying something different and experimenting yourself with taste, but bad news if everyone starts diverging from what we know and love. Some interesting thoughts here.

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