BREWTAL TRUTH: Drink This (or Something Like it) Now!

Apologies first off, if you go looking for this specific beer and can’t find it. Consider it an example of the kinds of beers that are subject of this week’s online Brewtal Truth. The topic at hand is “gypsy brewing,” or if you find that term offensive, “itinerant brewing.” Basically, if you’re a brewer, but you don’t want to actually spend all the money on equipment and a building to brew your own beer, you can pay breweries that are already up and running to brew and bottle your recipes for you. That would make you a gypsy, er, itinerant brewer, since you have no actual brewery yourself. This is a concept that not only frees the brewer from the financial constraint of building and maintaining a brewery, it also allows him/her to collaborate with different brewers, literally, around the world. So, not surprisingly, the brewers who have chosen this path tend to be quite creative with what they produce, and many don’t really produce a “core” lineup, instead opting to do whatever strikes their creative fancy. Mikkeller, the subject of this week’s Brewtal Truth, does exactly that, producing scads of beers at dozens of breweries around the world. Other itinerant brewers include Evil Twin, Pretty Things and Stillwater Artisanal.
Farmhouse IPA
Mikkeller (Anchorage)
8% ABV

We selected this particular beer because it was made by Anchorage Brewing, who is a particular favorite of ours. Anchorage is known for its use of brettanomyces yeast to ferment its beers and, indeed, this follows form. Beers fermented with brett aren’t everyone’s bag, as this “wild” yeast tends to produce some unusual flavors. And when brett goes awry (as can sometimes happen, since it’s a bit unpredictable) it can create some really unpleasant flavors. When it’s good, though, you’ll find notes of fresh-cracked pepper, tart fruit, leather and funk. ANd when it comes to brett, Anchorage knows how to play to its strengths. This is no different.

Invasion is called a “Farmhouse” IPA, because, quite frankly, it tastes more like a saison (or farmhouse ale) than an IPA. And the smell of this hazy, bright golden ale is pretty unusual, as well. What it has in common with an IPA in its current state is a fair swack of hops. That’s about it. The smell is quite funky, with bright notes of cannabis, pineapple and that classic brett descriptor, horse blanket. It’s alternately incredibly inviting and slightly off-putting.

Still, a brett-fermented IPA is hard to say no to. And this one delivers everything the aroma promises. First of all, probably due to the fact that this was bottled about 18 months ago and brett continues to develop and evolve, it is remarkably dry and hides its 8% ABV shockingly well. Some double/imperial IPAs of this strength can be quite sweet, but this is almost austere, it’s so dry. What you get is an incredible mouthful of fruity/spicy hop character, a whole lotta fruity/leather funk and a crisp, dry and bitter finish. It’s like eating a semi-ripe pineapple sprinkled with pepper. You get a nice pineapple flavor, but with no sweetness and a whole heap of peppery spice. It’s very well carbonated and incredibly refreshing.

Again, apologies for the fact that this probably isn’t that widely available (Western B.C., you gotta grab what’s in stores NOW!), but what we can tell you is that if all this sounds good, then seek out any Anchorage beers. This is very representative of every Anchorage beer I’ve had. And though this has Mikkeller’s name on the label (and maybe it’s actually his recipe), this particular beer wouldn’t have been brewed as expertly at probably any other brewery.

Beer’s made by itinerant brewers can be pretty interesting. They aren’t necessarily always this collaborative, but free of the responsibilities of the overhead costs of a brewery, there’s lots of opportunity to brew beers that are a little (or a lot) off-center.

Adem Tepedelen’s new craft beer book, Decibel Presents the Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers: An All-Excess Pass to Brewing’s Outer Limits, is now available in the Decibel online store.