14 May 2010

Hamlet, cats, windmills and weed

Aside from BrewDog, the other non-Danish brewery I was overjoyed to see exhibiting at the Copenhagen Beer Festival was De Molen. As well as Menno and his helpers there was a good contingent of Dutch beer fans flying the flag (well, wearing the t-shirt) for De Molen around the city. It was unusual to see Menno at a festival unaccompanied by one of his huge barrels -- almost his signature at this stage -- but there was plenty of major barrel-aged goodness coming from the taps. Take Hel & Verdoemenis Wild Turkey Barrel Edition, for instance. The base beer is an absolute stonker of an imperial stout and why anyone thought it needed more complexity is beyond me. But they did and it worked. The heady super-fresh coffee notes take a back seat and you get sweet malty bourbon flavours at the front instead. Not too boozy (for a 13%-er) and remarkably, dangerously, gluggable.

Top of my personal hitlist was Turf & Veen, another imperial stout, this one carrying a health warning about how much peated malt it contains. Like heat warnings on curry menus, that's like flames to a moth for me. Turf & Veen is peaty but not in the medicinal, harsh, Laphroaigish way. It tastes like the smell of autumn evenings in Donegal -- fresh and aromatic turf smoke. Then, for balance, it has massive amounts of bittersweet chocolate. Perhaps not for everyone, but I certainly want more of this.

Menno seems to have an endless supply of binomial names for his many many beers, but it looks like he may finally have crossed off most of the words in his dictionary. Why else would the new coffee imperial stout be called Mout & Mocca 2? While the first one had almost Caribbean levels of sweetness, this is super dry with a burnt coffee bean crunchiness.

The only De Molen I didn't care for was Vuur & Vlam, a 6.2% ABV pale ale. Even though I had it early on the first day -- long before palate fatigue might become a factor -- I found it quite insipid. Where did the hops go? In the same general category, but with the ABV ratcheted up to 10% there was Luid & Duidelijk: smooth, spicy, warming and just what you want in a barley wine.

Last of the dedicated foreign-brewery stalls -- that I noticed, anyway -- was the minimalist showing from Italian brewery Revelation Cat (a wonderful name which I can't hear without thinking of Resurrection Joe by The Cult). Their gorgeous chrome six-pump Angram engines were pouring a series of lambics they'd made, each using a single hop variety. Fresh hops thrown in dry, mind, not the aged sort the Belgians tend to prefer. I went for the Nelson Sauvin Lambic and found that it lacked the saltpetre-and-bricks complexity you normally get with lambic and instead the sourness is topped with a massive fruity hit, white grapes in particular, from the hops. An interesting combination, for drinkers with more of a sense of adventure than the lambic purists and dyed-in-the-wool hopheads. For even more of an adventure they also had Cat in the Barrel. I'm not even going to look up what went into this, but it's mad: a crazily floral aroma like a summer meadow on steroids plus added orange blossom, and then an eye-watering sweet acetone flavour like drinking pear drops coated in nail varnish remover. I have no idea if I liked this or not, but after a 100ml glass I needed a bit of a sit down.

The remaining imports I tried were, shall we say, a bit of a mixed bag. One of the Irish attendees (hi Betty!) has a soft spot for Pink Killer from the aptly-named Silly brewery in Belgium, and I was afforded a sip. There's a sort-of interesting piquancy to this, presumably from the grapefruit, but mostly it's extremely sugary to the point of alcopopism.

To Austria and Schloss Eggenburg, best known for its Samichlaus winter lager. They also do a hemp beer which they've named Spirit of Hemp, presumably in an attempt to lure in the stoners. They'll be disappointed, as was I: this is another very sweet sugary beer with no discernible hemp character.

The importer One Pint has a large portfolio of UK beers on its books, and on sale in Copenhagen. I had been specifically looking for Harvey's Elizabethan Ale but it had sold out by the time I got round to it so the same brewery's Prince of Denmark had to do. It's an appropriately dank and melancholy winter beer -- heavy, sticky and warmingly spirituous. One for the hipflask when doing nightshift on the walls of Helsingør.

Which brings us back neatly to the local beers in time for the next post.

1 comment:

  1. As usual, some interesting sounding beers there from some brewouses I'd genuinely never heard of. Nelson Sauvin Lambic sounds particularly interesting, though...