Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mikkeller: USAlive – An even more sensational synthesis

After raving to my friends and writing a blog post about the “sensational synthesis” of Chouffe’s Dobbelen IPA Tripel, quite a few folks recommended Mikkeller’s USAlive as an even better synthesis of the finest traditions of Belgian strong ales and the intensity of American-styled IPA. To those of you who recommended USAlive, your recommendations were spot on: Mikkeller’s USAlive is without a doubt an even better synthesis and one of the best beers I’ve had over the past few months.

While Mikkeller officially hails from Copenhagen, Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, Mikkeller’s brewmaster, manager, et al., brews beer in a variety of locations throughout Europe and the United States. Mikkeller’s USAlive is brewed at De Proefbrouwerij, which lies in a small rural village just a few kilometers northeast of Ghent. What makes USAlive most interesting is Mikkeller’s choice of using Brettanomyces yeast, which imparts a bit of a funky or rough taste. For those of you familiar with different beer brands and styles, but less familiar with yeast strains, Brettanomyces, or “Brett” as it is sometimes called, is commonly found in lambics, and features in other tasty treats like Orval, Liefmans Brown Ale, and Rodenbach Grand Cru.

When tapping USAlive into a glass, the hazy copper color, medium-sized and resilient creamy off-white head, and incredibly dense and sticky lacing are signs of the remarkable level of quality that’s about to come. The aroma has a rather light footprint, but is well-balanced and relatively complex. It’s pretty much what one would expect from a Trappist and an IPA: The piney and slightly florally hop notes from the IPA style and the fruity-sweet notes from the Trappist style battle it out for the drinker’s attention. However, the faint horse blanket note from Brettanomyces delivers a decisive victory for the Trappist style.

USAlive’s aroma more or less predicts the range of tastes to come. It starts out on the sweet side, where the fruity tastes of the Trappist genre play out. Brett makes its appearance about halfway through by bringing in a hint of barnyard funkiness accompanied by a strong grapefruit taste undoubtedly from the hops. The finish is distinctly IPA: intensely bitter and dry, although in this case the bitterness is not nearly as biting as I expected. The mouthfeel is medium and comes with an average amount of carbonation.

Overall, this is a complex and well-balanced synthesis. The various flavors battle it out, but in a way that brings a lot of harmony to the aroma and flavor structure. Both styles – Trappist and IPA – are well represented, with the overall balance favoring the Belgian tradition. Mikkeller’s USAlive certainly reflects Mikkel’s ceaseless capacity to make some of the most interesting, innovative, and complex brews around.


Mikkeller USAlive on Ratebeer

Mikkeller USAlive on BeerAdvocate

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1 comment:

  1. What a great review! You certainly have a fantastic knack for description. Cheers!


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