Tuesday 12 September 2017


Red barley was used to make this beer,
it was chewy, full-bodied and rather enticing
After a visit to Carlsberg a couple of weeks ago I’ve been thinking a lot about trust. When various people at the brewery talked about the need to recall their origins, you know Emil Hansen, the good works of JC Jacobsen and so on (which suggested that they had forgotten who they were — as the last time I was there was in 2011 for the launch of a sodding advert and a meal), I thought, can I trust what you say; when I drunk a beautiful single malt lager that had been produced on their experimental kit, lightly fruity, delicate despite being 5%, uncomplicated but damned in the way it went down my throat, which was then followed by a beer that had green unripe barley as part of the mix (estery, grassy, clean), I thought about trust, would these beers ever see the light of day beyond the room we were in; and then there were certain phrases from people that acknowledged the revolution that craft had brought about, with almost like an air of sackcloth and ashes about it, mea culpa and all that, and as I drank the Jacobsen Yakima IPA in the brewery’s brewpub, I also thought about trust. And then several days ago Anheuser-Busch sacked several hundred employees from the High End subsidiary and I wondered what they thought of trust. I hope I can trust Carlsberg, I met some good people, and I respect the role it played in the development of beer in the 19th century, and I enjoyed the 1883 Vienna-style Dunkel-style beer that they are rolling out in Denmark (but not here), but I keep thinking about trust. 

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. 


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. 


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.