I visited Mikkeller’s San Diego location twice to cover the majority of the beers. They are such a big name that I wanted to try as much as possible. In total I tried 11 different beers. Mikkeller took over the old Alesmith location and is brewing beer with one of the Alesmith Brewers. They gave the Alesmith tasting room a change in look including tons of wacky artwork of the sort that Mikkeller has on their bottles.
To start with, I tried the two lightest beers. The Berliner Weisse was really nice beer that is lightly tart with notes of fruit and citrus. The Saison SD is also quite fruity with some mild funk, notes of banana and peach, and a solid earthy back end. Both of these were quite good. The Sparks pale ale is solidly balanced pale with notes of peach and other fruits with a medium bitter finish. The Waves IPA is super sticky and dank with overripe tropical fruit notes dominating but it is not overly bitter.
The Brett IPA is super fruity and is a nice balance of funk and citrus hops. This and Waves were my two favorite hoppy beers. Brett IPAs are hard to get right kinda like Belgian IPAs because of the strong flavor the yeast imparts so I always try to recognize one that is done right. The Spells double IPA to me tasted like a double version of Sparks. It was similarly balanced with a nice bitter finish and some citrus hop flavor at the finish. Sparks and Spells aren’t bad per say but a bit less hop aroma forward compared to the Waves.
Hop Geek Breakfast is one of the most popular beers from Mikkeller and I thought it was solid but not fantastic. It is smooth and roasty with a bitter coffee finish and a mild sticky sweetness under. The coffee could have come on stronger though. Hop Geek Breakfast is a highly hopped version of the previous one. While the balance was there and the citrus and pine go well with the roast I would still prefer the Waves IPA over this. Flat White Beer Geek adds lactose and is the sweetest of the bunch. It balanced nicely between sweetness and coffee.
The NY Verden Old Ale is thick and fruity with notes of cherry and mild smoke and a sweet finish. The Imperial Stout was thick and a mix of bitter chocolate and light smoke. I noticed a lot of the stouts had a similar mild smoke flavor to them that to me was a little off-putting. While I found the flat white too sweet, everyone else who I know really liked it the most of the stouts. Mikkeller opened up out of the gate with a large tap list thanks to having a ton of recipes that have already been perfected. There is a little something for everyone on tap. Though I wasn’t huge on beer geek breakfast initially I am confident that they will get the recipe dialed in shortly and I will come to love it.
When I first read about Strong Ale Day my first thought was “This is going to be a bunch of malt-heavy beers like Old Ale and Wee Heavy.” Thankfully, there were a variety of beers available and we got to grab a solid snifter glass to go with them for not too much more. Having the right glass makes all the difference so it was interesting to check it out. There was one slight logistical problem with the setup in that everyone had to go back to try each of the six tasters included with the glass. So the line was much larger than it would have been if everyone took six beers with them at once.
I went with two friends so I didn’t have to have six tasters on my own of all these strong beers. It was good that I did because I prefer to let friends finish the ones I don’t really care for. We started with the 8% oatmeal stout called Dammit Jim Stout. It had a solid flavor but didn’t really stick out in any way. Next we went for the Imperial Porter that had some solid coffee and chocolate flavors. This one was quite nice and smooth though it still didn’t match the Victory at Sea from Ballast Point.
We then went for the Imperial IPA. It was my favorite of the set and quite deliciously hop forward. I couldn’t taste much malts but mostly nice tropical fruit and citrus hops. Next we tried two different barleywines. I’m not typically a fan of this style but both of my friends enjoyed them. The Black Barleywine was not as bitter but they were both pretty interesting. The flavors were both a bit on the sweet side for my tastes. Finally, we went with the Imperial Stout. I didn’t try the Old Ale or Wee Heavy because I don’t typically enjoy those style.
Overall, it was a fun experience and a great way to get people to recognize how important it is to use the right kind of glass for the right beer. With a snifter glass it sends the message that this beer should be savored slowly, which we certainly did. At times it felt pretty crowded, much more than I have ever seen here before.