Tasting: Mikkeller’s Yeast Series 2.0

Eureka, I would like to share some of my tasting experiences of Mikkeller’s Yeast Series 2.0. The basic idea behind this series was to compare different yeast strains and their effects on the beer’s aroma and taste. I could get my hands on five of the six beers in the series (English Ale yeast is missing) and did a side-by-side tasting.

IMG_1505_cutThe base beer was all the same. In one case, the beer was fermented with a Lager strain, another one with an American Ale strain, yet another one with a Saison strain and two with Brettanomyces lambicus and Brettanomyces bruxellensis respectively. Lets see how they tasted and the individual strain’s impact on the flavor profile.

IMG_1509_cutLager yeast

Aroma: Very hoppy aroma (lots of grapes, fruits). The combination of all the hops used (Simcoe, Nugget, Warrior, Amarillo and Centennial) remind me of Nelson Sauvin hops. No yeast character.

Appearance: Orange, clear, 1 finger white head, nice bubbling.

Flavor: Fruity, nice bitterness level.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, average carbonation level, bitter/fruity aftertaste and a grassy finish

Overall Impression: Rather clean beer (in terms of yeast character). Very pronounced hop aroma and bitterness and a grassy finish

 

IMG_1512_cutAmerican Ale yeast

Aroma: Less hoppy than Lager example. Even a musty component in there. Doesn’t smell clean at all.

Appearance: Orange, clear, 1 finger white head, nice bubbling.

Flavor: Luckily nothing of the weird musty aroma is on the palate. Very fruity beer with a well-balanced bitterness. No typical yeast character.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, average carbonation level, bitter/fruity aftertaste. No grassy finish

Overall Impression: Compared to the Lager version, this beer is smoother in terms of bitterness. The bitterness is well incorporated and there is no grassy finish. However, the aroma in this beer is not as nice. We could not detect any yeast character in this example.

IMG_1513_cutSaison yeast

Aroma: Pine, lots of tropical fruits and citrus and some spicy character (pepper).

Appearance: Orange, clear, 1 finger white head, nice bubbling.

Flavor: Again some fruits and some spiciness in addition.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, average carbonation level, slight bitter aftertaste and a grassy finish and even a bit astringent.

Overall Impression: Slightly different aroma compared to the previous two examples. This time, we could detect some yeast specific character (pepper). This yeast seems to accentuate the bitterness in the aftertaste including a grassy, astringent finish.

IMG_1515_cutBrettanomyces lambicus yeast

Aroma: Subtle hop aroma, no funk…

Appearance: Orange, clear, 1 finger white head, nice bubbling.

Flavor: A bit of a disappointment. Subtile fruity beer with a well-balanced bitterness. No typical yeast character and no funk. Actually a rather clean beer.

Mouthfeel: Medium to low body, average carbonation level, slight bitter aftertaste.

Overall Impression: Not very funky nor very interesting. Average beer. We could not detect any yeast character.

IMG_1514_cutBrettanomyces bruxellensis yeast

Aroma: Wow, now we are talking. There is some Brett funk going on: Wood notes, horse blanket, slight vinegar and the hop profile in the back. This beer reminds me of Cantillon’s Iris with Nelson Sauvin hops instead of the Saaz hops they use. Simply amazing smell!

Appearance: Orange, clear, 1 finger white head, nice bubbling.

Flavor: Unfortunately, not a lot of funk on the palate. Some leathery notes are present. Some fruity notes as well and a well incorporated bitterness. Rather clean beer.

Mouthfeel: Medium to low body, average carbonation level, no bitter nor grassy aftertaste. Hint of tartness reminds of the Brettanomyces in this beer.

Overall Impression: Judging from the smell, the most interesting one in the series for sure. B. bruxellensis really shows itself here. The aroma profile of this beer is surprisingly complex in my opinion. The flavor on the other side is not very yeast pronounced. But the finish is rather pleasant again.

What we learned from this tasting:

Lager strain: Gives a hop forward beer. Clean and very pronounced hop aroma. More pronounced bitterness and a grassy finish.

American Ale strain: Well incorporated bitterness and nice finish. This strain seems to work for more hop forward beers.

Saison strain: Some yeast specific character in the nose and palate. This strain accentuates the bitterness and leads to a grassy and astringent finish. Not really working for me. The spicy character, the grassy thing and the astringency makes it hard to enjoy this beer.

B. lambicus strain: Not a very funky Brett strain. Rather clean beer (compared to B. bruxellensis version). A side note. This doesn’t have to be true for every B. lambicus strain. There are so many B. lambicus strains with different flavor profiles.

B. bruxellensis strain: Lots of Brett character in the nose. But not so much on the palate. Rather clean and smooth beer with a nice bitterness level and no grassy finish.

I will put some efforts into brewing something like the B. bruxellensis beer myself. I am really fascinated about the complexity one can get with a single Brettanomyces fermented beer. Unfortunately, I tried to isolate some yeast from different Mikkeller beers before (brewed by DeProef) but never managed to recover any viable yeasts from the sediments in the bottles. I guess all the DeProef’s beers are pasteurized and therefore no (or a very small) chance to get any living yeasts out of bottles. That’s why I did not bother to isolate the B. bruxellensis strain at all. Thanks for reading, commenting and stay tuned!

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Tasting: Westvleteren 12

Eureka, Ab aedificandam abbatiam adiuvi (I helped to build up an abbey). Today some tasting notes about the Westvleteren 12. I guess I do not have to explain what kind of deal the Westvleteren 12 is, right? If you have no idea what I am talking about, some people say that this beer is the best on the planet. Is the Westvleteren really the best beer in the world? Lets find out.

 

How do I got myself some of these beers? Well, I got the chance to buy an awful looking brick from the brewery a few weeks ago. It comes with six bottles of the Westvleteren 12 and two glasses.

First of all, I am quite disappointed about the visual appearance of the package itself… And there aren’t even the real Westvleteren glasses included! There are two glasses, sort of small goblets, with some imprints: Westvleteren XII and “Ab aedificandam abbatiam adiuvi“. The same is written on the bottles. And on the packages it says: “This unique Trappistbeer, brewed and bottled in the Sint-Sixtusabbey at Westvleteren, is offered to you in this exclusive and limited giftbox. This exceptional set enables you to contribute directly to the extensive renovation of the monastery. Cheers!”. The Westvleteren 12 comes in 330 mL bottles and 10.2 ABV.

All in all, the appearance is very poor and kind of cheap in my opinion. But enough with the evaluation of the package.

Aroma: Sweet, raisin notes, caramel, clove and reminds me a bit of almond paste (marzipan). The aroma is quite nice. But not overwhelming as well.

Appearance: Clear with some particles (yeast in the bottle), brown with a hint of red, light <1 finger tan head, some bubbles visible. Looks like a typical quadrupel.

Flavor: Caramel notes, marzipan again, some dark fruits, molasses, notes of dark sugar. The candy syrup they use is very easy detectable. Some bitterness is detectable as well.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, low- average carbonation, bitter aftertaste, alcohol detectable (warming sensation)

Overall Impression: I have to say, this was one of the most difficult tastings ever. Not because of the complexity of the beer but because of all the expectations I had for this particular brew. And I have to mention something else before getting into the evaluation. According to the cap, the beer is best before the 5th of October in 2014. And I conjecture that the beer I tasted was bottled on the 5th of October in 2011. So the beer was nearly four-month old and therefore pretty fresh. Lets go into the evaluation. Well, the beer has some interesting notes indeed. I can’t remember a beer where I tasted marzipan before. But I am not convinced about this beer. There are even some notes I really do not like in such a beer like the detectable bitterness and the alcohol notes. And I would not even drink a second one of it! Really, it was not that interesting after all. Some of the flavors were not yet fully developed. I would give this beer a rating of about 80/100. I even gave the Abt 12 from the St. Bernardus brewery (some say it is a Westvleteren 12 clone) a rating of 90, and this was a really interesting brew indeed. But I can’t remember how old the Abt 12 was.

Lets summarize, a fresh example of the Westvleteren 12 is not that special in my opinion. And I am actually not that surprised about that. I would have been surprised if the beer would have been more complex after four months. Now, I will store the other bottles and taste it again maybe in a year? Why did I rated the beer with a 80 and not lower you might ask yourself? Well, the beer has a kind of premature complexity. I mean that the flavors are already there for a very special beer but it needs some further time to balance and mature. Is it the best beer on the planet? Maybe not yet…