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My old man had his 65th birthday a few days before he and my mum came to visit us for Christmas. When I sent him the greetings I promised we would have toast with something appropriate. The beer I had in mind was Mikeller Black, a 17.5%ABV that its creator had sent me a couple of months before. And so it was that I uncorked it after a pre-Christmas dinner . We had it in brandy glasses, perhaps not the best container, but the beer did look great in them.
Mikeller Black (such is the meaning of the ideogram on the label) pours really black, the kind that sucks the light. I can't speak much of its aromas, the shape of the glass concentrated too much of the alcohol in its narrow mouth, but I could notice what I think were wood, smoke and Port. To the palate, though, it's a magnificent beer. Full bodied wine mouthfeel. The flavours surprise by how relatively moderate they are and the best way I can find to describe them is Tawny Port mixed with espresso where someone melted some bitter chocolate, all with a pinch of spice for good measure. The finish is unexpectedly short, but very intense and makes the beer very easy to drink. This doesn't mean that you will feel like taking big gulps of it. No, Mikkeller Black makes it very clear that it is a seriously strong beer and that it is greatly enjoyed in small sips, just like the conversation it generates.

During that conversation, my mum, a very civilised teatotaler asked me what I would pair this beer with. After answering with a couple of obvious things I ran to the kitchen to pick one of the little bags with candied ginger we had bought. A few days before I had some of it while drinking BrewDog Bashah with fantastic results. As they were with Black. The sweetness of the candy complemented really well with the beer's, bringing up the spicy bits in both. A match made by the gods themselves.

After that Danish beauty I was really looking forward to tasting another strong beer I had gathering dust in my cellar, Nøgne-Ø Dark Horizon (2nd edition), another Imperial Stout, in this case with 16%ABV and brewed with ingredients from different corners of the planet. My great friend Gunnar had sent it as a present for my daughter's birth and since I receiving it I had been waiting for the right moment to pop it open.
That moment came in the evening of Christmas day, a few hours after that heavenly lunch. On this occasion my old man declined the offer. Fortunately, I was joined by Dani, my sister's boyfriend (well, paperless husband, actually), who isn't the kind of man who would refuse the offer of good booze.

The tasting notes of Dark Horizon are basically mental, jotted down a couple of hours after having finished the beer. Just when I opened we received the visit of a great friend of us and her daughter and my attention was naturally diverted elsewhere. What I can tell is that Dark Horizon wasn't as engrossing as Black, perhaps because we had enjoyed the latter during a relaxed after dinner conversation with other three people, while this one I drank during a very lively evening together with 7 or 8 others.

The almost obsessive taster part of me has become would have sure loved to drink this beer in a quieter environment in order to be able to say with certainty if the mouth feel was really not as succulent as I had expected, and if the impression of drinking Cream Sherry with a healthy dose of coffee is accurate. Still, I enjoyed it a lot, and it was a perfect pairing for the wonderful Christmas biscuits my wife had baked (ten kinds of them, one better than the other).

And now that I think of it, the fact that a beer as strong as Dark Horizon had refused to claim more of my attention than strictly necessary says a lot about how good and drinkable it was.

I still have plenty of notes from other beers I drank before parting ways with 2009, I'll be publishing them if I have time and don't find anything better to write about.

Na Zdraví!

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  1. Candied ginger, eh? That's very interesting. Boak has a borderline addiction to ginger in all its forms, so we'll definitely give this a go next time we have something strong and dark.

  2. The pairing was just lucky. I was helping my wife prepare one of the Christmas biscuits, chocolate balls with candied ginger and almonds, covered with sesame seeds, and I was drinking that Bashah. I wanted to taste the ginger (lovely stuff) and the match blew my mind.

  3. Great to see that masterpiece finally made it to prague. By far my favorite Mikkeller brew ever. Mikkeller just released two barrel aged editions of it called Black Peatet Edition (Gold Wax) and Black Whiskey Edition (White Wax), both beyond belief. Not as explosive, but still xtreme and very very complex.

    Check it out our pictures:

    And the review (in danish)

    Na Zdravi,

  4. Martin, I do believe you, with that body that beer wooden aged must be really good. Even as it is I think is great for aging a few years.


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