Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mikkeller: Beer Geek Brunch Weasel – Civet droppings never tasted so good


Setting expectations is always risky, especially when applying them to beer. On the one hand, spending time anticipating a beer’s quality is part of the joy behind letting the beer cellar for a few months and routinely peeking at the bottle as it sits patiently maturing. On the other hand, expectations can really be a letdown when the beer fails to live up to the hype. Fortunately for me, and for my close friend and partner in beer, Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Brunch Weasel not only lived up to our expectations, but actually shattered them by being nearly everything expected and more. 

Indeed, we did everything humanly possible to raise our expectations and savor the process of anticipation. Upon purchasing Beer Geek Brunch back in early October, I immediately placed it in the cellar and would occasionally take a peek at it as the bottle sat on the self. I read and watched some reviews of it, showed the bottle off to some of my neighbors while talking a bit about how it was brewed, and then finally set a date to share it with my friend. For his part, he spent some quality time sipping away on  Mikkeller’s other notable stout, namely the Beer Geek Breakfast, and admiring it’s powerful coffee profile. All in all, the stakes were considerably high when the Weasel climax – or what might have otherwise been an anti-climax of epic proportions – unfolded in the night of the actual session. As an added bonus, my friend coincidentally had a vinyl release of Weasels Ripped my Flesh by The Mothers of Invention, and we thought this was an appropriate music selection for our Beer Geek Brunch Weasel experience. And so the session begins.

The Brewer

While Mikkeller officially hails from Copenhagen, Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, Mikkeller’s brewmaster, manager, and the ‘mother of invention’ behind Beer Geek Brunch, brews beer in a variety of locations throughout Europe and the United States. Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Brunch, along with the Beer Geek Breakfast, is brewed at Nøgne Ø, which lies in Grimstad – a small rural community along the southern coast of Norway. Both Mikkeller and Nøgne Ø brew some of the finest products in Scandinavia, and I cannot think of more logical collaboration of sorts or a collaboration where expectations are a relatively safe bet to place.

The Animal

Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Brunch Weasel feels quite a bit like Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Breakfast. Indeed, both are oatmeal stouts, and both are brewed with gourmet coffee. However, the former rounds out with a whopping 10.9 percent ABV while the latter stands at a 7.5 percent ABV. More interesting still, Beer Geek Brunch has a more robust coffee and dark chocolate synthesis, and based on the title of my previous Beer Geek Breakfast post, that says a lot about the amazing quality of Beer Geek Brunch. Without a doubt, part of this robustness is connected to the feature ingredient used in Beer Geek Brunch – namely the Vietnamese cà phê chồn, or what English speakers refer to as weasel coffee. 

So, what’s this cà phê chồn all about? Well, for starters, the term cà phê chồn does implicate coffee, but it does not really have much to do with weasels. Instead, the animal in question is the civet, or the asian palm civet to be exact, which is a member of the Viverridae family rather than the weasel’s Mustelidae family. Perhaps the more well-known English term for the civet is toddycat (see Wikipedia).

What makes the civet so important for coffee and for beer is its diet and what is done with the byproducts of that diet. For starters, civets eat a variety of berries, including coffee berries, and the animal selects only the finest and most mature coffee beans and then excretes them a day or so later. Afterwards, workers gather the partially digested coffee beans from the civet’s dropping (See About.com). The beans are then thoroughly washed, sun dried, and lightly roasted (See Wikipedia), and are ultimately used to brew some of the world’s most expensive coffees and to brew this fine Mikkeller oatmeal stout. Yes, when drinking Beer Geek Brunch, you are also consuming the remnants of partially digested coffee beans! Yummy, right? Well, yes it is in fact.

The resulting product from “civet coffee beans” is sometimes referred to as civet coffee, or kopi luwak in Indonesia. In Vietnam, which is where Mikkeller’s civet beans originate, civet coffee is sometimes referred to as fox-dung coffee, where the alteration in the bean’s protein structure brought on by the digestive process is hypothesized as the reason for why the resulting coffee is richer, full-bodied, and somewhat syrupy (See Wikipedia). To be sure, this richness is plainly evident in Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Brunch. 

The Beer

Now back to our session. Popping the cap and pouring it into a glass reveals the unmistakable stout signatures: The body appears with a super dark brown color and a dense, medium-sized brown head that settles comfortably into a thin brown foam. As an added aesthetics, a faint burgundy color appears at the point where the beer kisses the side of the glass. While still tight and sticky, the lacing of Beer Geek Brunch is a bit more timid than what is found in the Beer Geek Breakfast, although that can be expected with a higher ABV brew. In terms of the nose, Beer Geek Brunch is perhaps the most aromatic stout we’ve ever come across: In a word, it was so amazingly climatic not because of its complexity per se, but in the way the aromas blended together in a powerful and seamless presentation. The show kicks off with a generous blast of bitter, dark chocolate and then seamlessly transitions into a powerful roasted coffee nose. At the same time, semi-sweet malts and light licorice tones dance around in the background. After about three seconds of an uninterrupted sniff, the aromas come together in what really struck me as a sort of smoked, blackstrap molasses. 

What was perhaps the most amazing was the almost perfect match between the nose and the taste. Taking a generous mouthful comes with a mild amount of carbonation, a creamy mouthfeel, and an instant explosion of dark chocolate, with a rapid transition to roasted coffee and a smoked-like blackstrap molasses synthesis in the finish. At the same time, a faint licorice reference appears, disappears, and then reappears throughout the show. Aside from a warming sensation during the finish, when Beer Geek Brunch is served at its proper temperature, an edgy and somewhat distracting alcohol tone is virtually absent. While a few other stouts out there may have a wider spectrum of flavors, Beer Geek Brunch presents the flavors in a way that, in our view, is simply unrivaled. And for me personally, presentation is an important part of the beer experience. 

Without a doubt, placing and raising our expectations on Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Brunch paid enormous dividends. When considering the time we spent anticipating its aromas and flavors, and then having those expectations exceeded by leaps and bounds, Beer Geek Brunch has perhaps been one of the most enjoyable beer experiences we’ve ever come across. In our view, this is a nearly flawless brew, and one that is surely a risk worth taking. 

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2 comments:

  1. I'm not typically one to go for a gimmick beer, but beer made with "weasel poop" has me intrigued. I may have to try and get a bottle of this to try.

    --Scott

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Will probably not be hard to find, and depending on where you live, mail ordering it is certainly a possibility.

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