A trillion years and a few paychecks ago, I was lucky enough to make my way to the beautiful nation of Iceland (translated "Land of Ice" - actually, no, translated "Island"), where I went around drinking whatever I could find, because that's what you do when you've tried to make a name for yourself in the world of drinking.
On that trip, I had a bottle of Ölvisholt Brugghús's Lava, a beer I didn't write about, despite it being the standout beer of the trip.
After I got back, I interviewed Valgeir Valgeirsson from Ölvisholt Brugghús, and asked if the brewery had any plans to export their beer worldwide - which was probably the wrong question. The right question was "Is your beer coming to the United States?" - In any case, I've got an answer sitting in front of me.
Lava cold smells strongly of smoked meats, and has all the character of a typical smoke beer, but is still nicely balanced with the roast dark malt flavor of a robust porter. But once warm the flavors meld together even more so, with the smoke fading and lending a slightly more gamey flavor to the malt. There's the richness you might associate with some of the better known imperial stouts, but (I was guessing 8% and got 9.4%) the beer is never heavy-handed, and is ready for drinking right now.
Ok, when I wrote the stuff above, I thought this beer was a smoked porter. In any case, the alcohol is well hidden, lending just a hint of warmth. If you stretch your drinking session over the course of a two hour movie, as I did, additional elements of black licorice show up, as well as a hint of ash in the finish.
If you're a smoke beer guy, or always like the idea of smoke beer but maybe not the execution, Lava is a beer definitely work checking out.
Next up was a selection from 3 Floyds. In the long line of excellent 3 Floyds beers, Blackheart may be one that doesn't immediately come to mind. But it's an amazing take on the English IPA style, with a hop spiciness you just won't find in most examples of the style.
It may not surprise you to find out that Floyds takes their English IPA the extra step, aging it on toasted oak for a full on "boats across the ocean" sort of authenticity that other versions of the style don't have. I don't know why they put it on oak - I'm just wildly speculating because that's the sort of shit beer geeks do - I just know that the end result is full of surprises. The beer contains a Christmas bouquet of spiciness. This review could probably use some editing.
Last up, Dark Horse's Double Crooked Tree. If you're used to drinking Double IPAs, you're probably used to every drink tasting like you're sucking on a pine cone. Or grapefruit. Here's Double Crooked Tree to say "Hey, how about you have a dose of caramel to go with that trip to the coniferous forest, because fuck mooses."
That's probably not exactly what they were saying, but what they've said is "Here's what wellrounded Double IPA tastes like" by giving us a little malt body to work with. Double Crooked Tree is a 12% beer, so half the bottle is fine - you should share it. Sharing is what life is about, right? I don't mean that in a hippie way. I hate hippies.
Mike Atwood is a former and perhaps current member of HBG's KOTBR, a former participant in the Outliers Brewery project, and a kegwasher / artist / graphic designer sort of person at Sun King Brewery. He also likes to refer to himself in third person.