16 May 2008

KOTBR #46 | '80s Mikkeller Marathon

For Roundtable #46, all six Knights of the Beer Roundtable, along with our beloved founder and Knight Emeritus Chris, convened at Jim and the Lovely Redhead's place to commemorate the decade of Reagan, Gordon Gekko, Boy George, and parachute pants: the 1980s.

Now you know the reason for the totally awesome, gnarly, and bitchin' Michael-Jackson's-head-on-Michael-Jackson's-body banner (thanks to Mike and his unparalleled webpage design skills).

As part of our '80s soiree, we reviewed seven beers from Danish brewer Mikkeller. Our choice of beers to review was arbitrary, as there is absolutely no connection between the 1980s and Denmark's resident craft brewer. Rather, Jim saw a stunning variety of Mikkeller beers for sale on Kahn's well-stocked shelves and, given Mikkeller's high scores on RateBeer, proposed a Mikkeller review. Everyone said yes, so there you go: an instant Danish beer extravaganza.

Here was the lineup, in the order we drank them:
Here are our reviews. You might view them as a montage, that wonderful stock device used in many '80s movies (cf. The Karate Kid, Top Gun, Vision Quest, Footloose, Flashdance, etc.).


The beers, as seen through the eyes of an '80s college DJ--

Draft Bear. Golden color. Hoppy nose with a weird funk, sort of like sweaty socks. Pine-like IPA flavor. Little malt presence. Hefty and dry all at once. Musical analog: Red Hot Chili Peppers, who liked to don sweat socks in unique ways. 3.25 mugs.

All Others Pale. Coppery orange color. Metallic nose, with a little of the same sweat sock funk that the Draft Bear has. Very dry citrus flavor, with a metallic finish. Too dry and metallic for me. Musical analog: Iron Maiden. I always appreciated their effort, but was never much of a metal fan. 2.95 mugs.

Stateside IPA.
Beautiful orange color. Sweet caramel nose without the strong citrus hop presence that I expected. Flavor is extremely dry, citrusy, and metallic, but with a small amount of malty sweetness in the finish. Musical analog: Bad Brains. Like the godfathers of hardcore punk, this beer has a brutal edge, yet manages to be graceful at the same time. 3.60 mugs.

Jackie Brown.
Root beer coloring. Big coffee nose. A roasted malt, coffee-like taste with a huge hop bite. I'm not used to brown ales this bitter. Musical analog: The Beastie Boys, circa Paul's Boutique. You put on the headphones expecting more of the same party-boy shtick from before (Licensed to Ill), but you get something different and innovative. 3.30 mugs.

Santa's Little Helper 2007.
Dark brown color. Nose reminiscent of bourbon and coffee. Superb dark fruit flavor, with notes of apple, cherry, and bourbon. An exquisite beer, which was well-liked by the group. One of the best beers we've reviewed, in my opinion. Musical analog: The Clash. The Only Band That Mattered was love at first listen for me. This beer was love at first sip. 4.95 mugs.

Big Worse.
Amber color. Bourbon-like nose with a hint of caramel. Sweet, whiskey-like taste, but not as boozy as other barleywines I've had before. I'm not fond of the barelywine style, but I certainly like this one. Musical analog: Culture Club and Hall & Oates (tie). This is music that I should dislike, but I don't. 4.10 mugs.

Dirty motor oil coloring. Nose is quite boozy, like coffee-infused rubbing alcohol (thanks to party guest Sarah for the nose description). Also get a little bit of cherry in the nose. Flavor follows with intense sweetness, cherries, and coffee. On first sip, it's quite obnoxious. Way too much alcohol in the taste. But I let it sit for a bit, then sip again. Mmmmm. That's better. Third sip--mmmmmm. Even better. Fourth sip--wow, this is fantastic! Musical analog: Sonic Youth. Cacophonous music that grows on you. Eventually, you can't get enough of it. 4.70 mugs.


My apologies to the estate of Keith Haring.


Draft Bear -
Cloudy and orange with a giant rocky head. This one smelled like dishwater and tasted weird. But also kinda good. Weird Science - "It's weird Chet. It's really weird Chet." 3.15 Mugs

All Others Pale -
Metallic, funky nose with a little spice in the taste. Friday the 13th - "More beer? More beer." 3.00 Mugs

Stateside IPA -
Translucent orange with no head. A little malt and a little citrus make up this one. Rad - "How about some applause for our rad dude!" 3.25 Mugs

Jackie Brown -
Clear, reddish brown with a small tan head. The nose is a very wonderful coffee smell and the taste is surprisingly hoppy. Ferris Bueller's Day Off - "It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up." 3.45 Mugs

Santa's Little Helper 2007 -
Dark brown with a tan light head. Tastes sweet, but not alcoholic, which could lead to some trouble at 11% ABV. Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure - "EXCELLENT!" 4.50 Mugs

Big Worse Barleywine -
A very strong alcohol nose in this brown-orange and slightly cloudy brew. The alcohol is toned down in the taste, but it still has a good, chewy mouthfeel. Top Gun - "Jesus, this guy's good!" 3.55 Mugs

Black -
Has the look of the Triple Bock. Uh-oh. It certainly lives up to its name in color. It's very, very hard to drink in the beginning. But after a few sips and it warms a little, the taste goes from extremely alcoholic (can't really hide the 17.5% alcohol) to wonderfully sweet and delicious. I couldn't drink a lot, but I could definitely handle a little nip every once in a while. Breakfast Club - "Wouldn't I be OUTSTANDING in that capacity?" 4.25 Mugs


Draft Bear:
A cloudy, dark gold beer with a pleasantly light sweet smell, the Draft Bear looks like a draft beer. And with a nice flavor profile that makes me think of an English beer, like a good ESB or maybe an English IPA. At 8%, it has a surprising amount of bite. But of all the beers from Mikkeller, this might be the most approachable of their beers for craft beer newbies, like Norm and Cliff. I would have loved to see Coach or Woody pour one of these at “Cheers” between 1982 and 1993.

By the way, it’s a little known fact that bears actually don’t like bear piss beers, but prefer the hoppier scents and flavors of IPA’s. It makes them think of a pine forest.
3.25 Mugs

All Others Pale:
This orangish colored beer has a fresh, piney hop smell and flavor. I originally thought about the show “Taxi”, which ran from 1978 to 1983. You know, little pine tree air fresheners hanging from the rear view mirror. But the more I think about, the more the orangish color makes me think of that Melmacian native “Alf”, which ran from 1986 to 1990. And, I’m sure that Gordan Shumway would spray his furry self down with pine air freshener to cover up the smell of him snacking on…cat. 2.78 Mugs

Stateside IPA:
Another nice malt/hop balanced IPA. It doesn’t have the IPA hop kick in the nose like you expect from this style, yet it is not overly malted. It has a nice butterscotchy, caramel something to it. So what would be the television equivalent of two opposites coming together in a nice balance? “Bosum Buddies” (1980-1984)? “Perfect Strangers” (1986-1993)? How about “Diff’rent Strokes” (1978-1986), in which case, I propose renaming this beer “State Pen IPA”.

What’choo talkin’ ‘bout, Jason?
3.33 Mugs

Jackie Brown:
This is not your typical brown. It is full of surprises, like a fair amount of bitters. And a strong amount of fresh-roasted coffee in nose and flavor. It’s like being drunk at Starbucks. Or perhaps like Dr. Johnny Fever, whom I imagined was constantly suffering from a hangover while on the air at “WKRP in Cincinnati”, which aired from 1978-1982. That’s why he was always drinking coffee in the studio. Booger. 3.55 Mugs

Santa’s Little Helper:
While sampling this, I imagined that I was drinking a Cherry Coke (which made its national debut in 1985) and scotch. It was spicy with whiskey flavors but sweet with cherry and caramel flavors. It is sure to brighten any dysfunctional family holiday gathering. I’m sure that Nicole Bradford wished she had a stash of this syrupy beer hidden in her room from 1987 through 1990. It certainly would have made tolerating her “Two Dads” more bearable year round. What was Judge Margaret Wilbur thinking?!? 4.67 Mugs

Big Worse Barleywine:
This is a big frickin’ barley wine. Brown sugary bourbon. It is sweet and alcoholly. It is a knock you on your ass beer. It will show you “Who’s the Boss” (1984-1992).

Yes, I know, it’s lame. Both my joke and the show.
4.12 Mugs

This thick beer has no carbonation, and at 17.5% ABV, it is very alcoholly to the point that it smells sanitary. Perhaps they could use this beer to sanitize their instruments at “St. Elsewhere”. But the appeal of this beer makes me think of the “The Cosby Show”, which ran from 1984 to 1992. Why? Because both are very good, both are popular with the Hoosier Beer Geeks, and…there was some reason why I correlated Black beer with the Cosby Show, but it escaped me.

Oh yeah, if you drink enough, you too will start doing that silly ass Bill Cosby dance.
3.87 Mugs


Draft Bear –
Though this is billed as a lager, it has a rather persistent bitter hoppy flavor, cloudy appearance, and alcohol taste that I hadn’t expected. It attempted to be a Transformer of my understanding of what a lager is. Instead, it was more of an aberration, an attempt to tread where others have found success. Not an IPA, not really believable as a Lager. I call it the Go-Bot beer. 3.00 mugs

All Others Pale Ale –
It smelled to me like the ThunderCats’ lair, by which I mean cat pee, of course. As a minion of Mumm-Ra, this smell is anathema to me. I overcame my initial fear to give it a taste and found hoppy bitterness and a clean finish. All the same, the smell reminded me of Lion-O’s fury in battle, of which I have been the recipient many times. I just couldn’t get past that. 2.80 mugs

Stateside IPA –
This was one of my favorites of the evening, or as I like to think of it, Mama’s Family in a glass. The hops this time were both floral and bitter, like the dresses and acerbic humor (respectively) of Thelma Harper. The malt provided a more effective balance on this beer, not unlike the good-natured dopiness of her son Vinton. I even had the good fortune to have a second pour, in which I detected some caramel in the nose. Maybe that could be Vint’s wife, the flirtatious, sweater-off-the-shoulder-wearing Naomi, but this analogy is getting pretty thin, so I think I’ll move on. 3.60 mugs

Jackie Brown –
This was another nicely balanced and complex beer. I found no shortage of flavors and aromas to challenge me both mentally and physically. It reminded me of all the times I wished I could be a contestant on Double Dare. It’s the perfect test of one’s academic and athletic mettle, not to mention one’s tolerance for super sloppiness. When I tasted the brown sugary, hoppy, malty, and coffee flavors I felt like I had indeed won a Huffy bicycle and a telescope for pulling an orange flag out of a giant nose and successfully navigating the giant ant farm. 3.50 mugs

Santa’s Little Helper –
This had an interesting combination of flavors and, surprisingly given the slate so far, none of them was hops. Cherries, apple cider, and whiskey abound, but there was nary a mote of hops to be found. Generally, I like hops in my beers. This time their absence made me appreciate everything else all the more. You don’t have to see or hear Vern to realize that he’s the perfect foil for Ernest P. Worrell. The fact that he’s invisible and mute allows us to appreciate the physical and character driven comedy of Jim Varney. I should know, I’ve seen every Ernest movie ever made. Betcha didn’t know that Ernest went to Africa or joined the Army…Didja?! 4.30 mugs

Big Worse –
I’m not crazy about barleywines, but this one wasn’t programmed to injure me like the most barleywines and the military drones at NOVA Robotics are. This was the Johnny 5 of barleywines. Like all of Johnny’s terrifying hardware such as a laser and ridiculous robot strength, this barleywine has the requisite sweetness and alcohol taste. Where Johnny and Big Worse diverge from the norm is in their true strengths: a hoppy nose, self-awareness, caramel, a sense of humor, bourbon, and fear of disassembly. 3.40 mugs

Black –
Maybe I was just burnt out, a beer too far if you will. I didn’t write down a whole lot about this one. I recall finishing it somewhat reluctantly, unfortunate given my usual liking for imperial stouts. I think of it the same way I think of Big Top Pee-wee. I loved all of his previous adventures, but this one just didn’t work for me. Pee-wee is a farmer? A medicine-tasting stout? Pee-wee is a scientist too? A stout dominated by sweetness? Pee-wee is engaged? WTF? Maybe I’ll give the beer another shot by itself, but Big Top Pee-wee will stay on the shelf. I’m holding out for Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Movie. 3.35 mugs

KOTBR final averages:

Draft Bear - 3.20 mugs
All Others Pale - 2.85 mugs
Stateside IPA - 3.70 mugs
Jackie Brown - 3.48 mugs
Santa's Little Helper 2007 - 4.66 mugs
Big Worse - 3.84 mugs
Black - 4.16 mugs


  1. I've heard of Mikkeller on the Flossmoor Station blog and we saw it at Kahns the other night. The wine guy at Kahns that we talked to was very excited about Mikkeller. His enthusiasm coupled with these reviews makes the brewery a must-try in the future!

  2. When I hear a brewery like Three Floyds (who I admit I unfairly use as a punching bag) called "the best brewery in the world" and then we experience a ground of beers with as much depth and variety as these Mikkeller choices, I wonder about the experience of the folks voting. Then again, maybe my FFF's experience is limited.

    From looking at the Mikkeller site I see that we've missed at least five Mikkeller beers: Beer Geek Breakfast (a stout), Green Gold (an IPA), Monk's Brew (a quadruple), Black Hole (an imperial stout), and To From (a porter) - quite a few of which I know I've seen on the shelves at PartiPak on the southside of Indy.

    I suppose that's good news - I'd happily take part in a Mikkeller Marathon (Part II).

    I suppose we should have had one disclaimer - these beers aren't cheap. I think the most affordable choice was still more than $8 for 12 oz.

  3. I like the names of these beers!

  4. I've had most of these Mikkeller brews and I agree with the majority of the reviews. I think the Black needs some age on it though... I've also had Black Hole (think Black-lite) and To From (decent Baltic Porter).

  5. Dude I love the Bad Brains. Going to buy some of that just on the analogy! haha

  6. Looks like you caught someone's eye: http://mikkel-ler.blogspot.com/

  7. Thanks, Rodney. We actually tipped them off to let them know that we did a review of their stuff.