Good ol' Mikkeller's getting a lot of recent distribution around my neck of the woods, so I picked up this 17-ounce bottle of Mosaic Imperial India Pale Ale from Craft Beer Cellar in Westford. Though pricey ($11 per bottle), the beer does stack up at almost 9 percent ABV and contains one of the most well-loved hops, used frequently by many breweries both new and old, Mosaic. The result of the same hop-breeding program to put together Ahtanum, Simcoe and Citra (among many others), this "hop previously known as HBC 369" is absolutely en vogue right now for its veritable kaleidoscope of scents and flavors which can drastically change depending on the profile of beer it's used in (hence the "mosaic"). This beer pours a beautiful deep golden pushing amber slightly, though it refracts a lot of brightly colored light even through its translucent body. A lot of freely-floating hop solids dance around in the glass when the entirety of the bottle is poured in. The head is luscious and full with several fingers of unrelenting white foam that eventually (and I do mean eventually; this takes easily 10 minutes to die down) leave behind spectacular cobweb lacing. The initial scent is very herbal, spicy and lightly fruity with notes of guava, melon and orange behind a veneer of tannins and light sticky sweet caramel sugar. Very pronounced and exacting scent, but also a bit funky and tends towards a light rusticness when all is said and done. The lacing as this drinks is just amazing; a super thick, tight and tiered shade of foam that sticks around permanently.
Flavors at first seem very biased towards fruit, particularly melon, blueberry, lemon and tropical fruit, as well as herbs and spices (I can pick up some lemongrass and maybe rosemary) and with definite heft from the strong malt bill contributing a slick yet sweet and deft caramel-ness to an otherwise sticky, hoppy, resinous brew. There's definite notes of black pepper and spiciness/earthiness a la Czech hops as well, which could be a character from the many facets of Mosaic coming out in a heavy, thick yet playful brew such as this. Mikkeller and his brother, Jeppe of Evil Twin, regularly play with styles and push the envelopes of brewing, all while brewing on other breweries' equipment (this was brewed with Mikkel's friends at De Proef in Belgium, for instance), and this is no slouch in that regard; though making a double IPA is in no way "pushing it" by itself, the earthy, lightly funky, fresh and juicy character of this brew is not to be missed. On the tongue, it's a tad too oily to be highly drinkable after it stops being cold from the fridge, and that could be considered a few points off, but otherwise I can't think of too much to knock regarding this beer. Though Mikkel does have great potential, his brews can be expensive (not really entirely his fault, as exporting from Europe is a nightmare) and sometimes the crazy ideas are underwhelming despite the theory being great and this is not like that at all, luckily.
I love the super interesting hop character here, and I need to drink more beer showcasing Mosaic, as the tropically fruity, citrus rind and herbal/spicy flavors hit the spot in combination, all with an assertive and yet mildly-toying bitterness that has its way with your palate throughout the bottle. Carbonation definitely dies down kind of quickly due to oxidation and temperature increase of being out of the fridge, but that's to be expected and at that point, it also seems like it tastes much maltier, and a honeyed-syrup like flavor creeps out that gets punished and drowned by mighty flavorful hops flexing their muscles in the finish, bringing out some lemon rind, grapefruit peel and cut grass to the fore. Interesting, actually; the malt base on this tastes very, very similar to a beer by his brother in Evil Twin, Molotov Cocktail which was also reviewed on this very blog. Hmm! Regardless, this is pretty great stuff. Looking forward to drinking (and reviewing) more Mikkeller brews soon. Cheers!
The official breakdown:
- Style: American Double / Imperial IPA
- ABV: 8.9%
- Appearance: Like any double IPA worth its salt, it s slightly darker orange and more menacing than usual; hefty, lasting head and cloudy, particulate body
- Scent: Huge citrus, pine, freshly-cut grass, tropical/guava, herbal notes, tannic funkiness; some farm-y notes but more fruity/juicy; light caramel
- Taste: A mouth-watering combination of light berry notes combining with a citric wallop and a honey malt backing; lightly spicy and tea-like as well
- Mouthfeel: A touch thick with a deceptively oily feel that leaves the mouth rather dry; fruity/pine-y flavors linger heavily for minutes after each sip
- Drinkability: You could say this isn't as refreshing as it could be, but it's quite good for what it is, and it showcases this crazy, complex hop well