Mikkeller and Rick Astley’s bar on Hackney Road is a fun mix of traditional boozer and trendy craft taproom, serving a mix of draught beer, growlers, and cans. I picked up a tasty selection to bring home: an amber ale, a pale, an IPA, and an imperial stout.
For a long time I’ve admired Mikkeller from afar, tasting their mad, inventive beers at festivals or in cans at trendy restaurants. “I guess one day I’ll have to go to Denmark so I can visit,” I idly thought while appreciating their latest zingy sour.
But while I was lazily musing and drinking, Mikkeller has been hustling. These days you don’t have to travel far to reach one of their bars anywhere in the northern hemisphere, with venues reaching from Tokyo to San Diego. Amongst them we have not one but two locations in London: a bar in the former George and Dragon on Hackney Road and a brewpub on Exmouth Market. Both, as it happens, in partnership with 80s pop legend Rick Astley. It just goes to show he really is there Whenever You Need Somebody.
Back before the pubs reopened (there was this whole lockdown thing, remember?) I paid a visit to their bar on Hackney Road to pick up a few cans to enjoy at home. I’ve gone for a mix of cans and crowlers and a range of styles, but this is just scratching the surface of Mikkeller’s output.
Side Eye Pale Ale
The name and can art on this beer are brilliant. I’m a big fan of Mikkeller’s art style in general, but this particular can speaks to me especially strongly. I’m just frustrated it’s so difficult to photograph.
Side Eye is pale copper to amber in colour and slightly hazy. The head is thick and white, fading over a few minutes to leave a persistent lacing.
The aroma is sweet with orange sherbet, mandarin, and grain malt. On the palate is apricot, more mandarin, more malt. The sheer amount of malt here is a pleasant surprise. That sherbet sensation coats the tongue on the finish, alongside a hint of bitterness. I am guzzling this.
This would be a magnificent barbecue beer. It’s light, refreshing, and has enough sweet malt flavours to balance the inevitable bitterness of burnt sausages. 3/5
Blow Out, IPA
Of the beers I picked up on my trip to Mikkeller, this one is perhaps the most enigmatic. I watched, quivering with anticipation, as the staff poured this fresh draft beer into a shiny new can and sealed it with their canning machine right before my eyes. Now, I have the chance to enjoy that fresh, draft beer experience at home.
Except I don’t, because I’m an idiot and I forgot to crack this beer open within the three day best before date recommended on the label.
Still, it’s a bloody good beer. An intensely hazy, dark amber in colour, it smells intensely sweet, spicy and floral, a mix of sweet marmalade, cake batter and mango. The sugar doesn’t lead on the palate, at least for the first second. However, hoppy spice and bitterness is quickly followed by bready, jammy sweetness. It’s rich and thick, accentuated perhaps by sitting in a can too long and losing some carbonation.
I won’t give it a proper rating, as it wouldn’t be fair given it’s no longer fresh. Let’s just say I’m excited to get back to Mikkeller to give this beer another try.
Astley’s Amber Ale
“A fine beer”, the can proclaims, so I’m hopeful. If Rick’s beer is half as good as his music I’ll be delighted when someone sends me a linkto some important work documents only to find a fresh pint of this instead.
Ruddy brown chestnut, Astley’s ale is perhaps a shade too dark for amber, but with a thick, generous head that hangs around patiently as I fiddle with my camera settings.
The aroma is heavy on the caramalt. There’s also an element of funky dankness here, as if they’ve added bittering hops later on in the boil.
I can’t shake that funkiness on the palate, but it’s backed up with some lovely malty, grainy flavours. Caramel, oak, pecans, and red apples. The mouthfeel is oily and the bitterness lingers in the mouth for a long time.
That funky oily sensation lasts even as the beer warms up to room temperature. I’d have another, but possibly one to enjoy more for the name and the label than the beer itself. 2/5
Beer Geek Brunch
Now this is an interesting one. Breakfast appears to be the most popular of Mikkeller’s Beer Geek series, but much like Robert Frost I like to retrospectively justify my decisions based on what makes me look most hip.
Brunch is an imperial oatmeal stout brewed with coffee, and so contains two thirds of my grandpa’s breakfast. If any brewers want to make something that reflects a modern brunch, they’ll need to figure out how to ferment avocados.
It’s thick, creamy and slick like an oil spill. An intensely boozy aroma with espresso and maple syrup is preamble to a thick, boozy mouthfeel and vanilla flavours. You expect to find a lot of flavours in a beer this strong but, even at 10.9%, Brunch seems to be punching above its weight. And yet it’s not overly heavy – the finish is dry, clean, leaving me ready for the next sip.
I’m a millennial who blogs about craft beer. Me really liking Beer Geek Brunch should come as no surprise. 4/5