Mikkeller - Koppi Coffee IPA - Citra x Wachuri AA
- ABV: 7.2%
- Serving Temperature: 45–52° F
- Suggested Glassware: Tulip, Nonic or IPA Glass
This one’s a pretty big score for The Rare Beer Club. Only 150 cases or so of this coffee IPA have been sold in the U.S. in previous years. In 2016, only 60 cases will be available outside of The Rare Beer Club, and we expect those cases to go quickly. Mikkeller has found a lot of success with amalgams of IPA and coffee, with other examples in the Koppi coffee IPA line pairing Citra hops and Santa Barbara coffee, Tomahawk and Guji Natural coffee, and Citra and Michita coffee—among a number of others. This one stood out to us for being a purely seamless example of a coffee IPA—generous in hop character, with a hint of coffee beneath.
Anything that includes the term ‘IPA’ in its listed style should (as far as we’re concerned) go the distance in that regard. Regardless of whether it’s an imperial or session, a coffee or fruit, IPAs of all ilk should have that delightful bitter bite, and Mikkeller’s coffee IPA offers up an expressive orange bitterness that works as a perfect background for a coffee IPA. Again, the coffee addition is on the softer side, and—if we’re thinking in terms of something like classic chocolate-orange pairings—that orange-y hop bitterness seems a perfect match for a special ingredient typically characterized by chocolate and coffee notes. In any case—this is delicious.
The aromatics strike the chocolate-orange chord straight from the start, supported by grassy and herbaceous notes that quickly fill one’s glass. The Citra contribution isn’t overtly tropical and pungent, at least not at first, leading with fresh-cut herbs and citrus that seems expansive and uninterrupted by the underlying coffee. That’s what we dig most about this beer: it’s one of the best embodiments we’ve encountered of a recent trend in coffees beers, one that sees more subtle integration of the various elements of coffee into styles way beyond a traditional stout or porter. We’ve seen some out-there stuff with coffee as of late, much of it great.
Digging in further, from the first sip forward, it becomes pretty quickly evident that this beer isn’t fooling around. Like many of Mikkeller’s offerings, this is brewed at De Proef Brouwerij in Lochristi-Hijfte, Belgium, and is—give or take—a collaborative effort of crazy-genius beer makers. This is a roundabout way of saying, the texture’s perfect: finely tuned bubbles, rising through dense layers of candied lemons and oranges, fresh-mown grass, and (more and more as this warms up) a rustic piney bitterness that works splendidly here. The nose affords more chocolate as this warms, while a softly rounded roast appears next to orange-y aromatics. If it isn’t spelled out above: a brilliant, unique coffee IPA that satisfies on a whole lot of levels.
The cap offers up a best-by date a few years out, meaning that this is robust enough to stand up to a bit of time in the cellar despite the IPA nod (we still personally prefer our hops quite fresh!). Rounded, candied orange and apricot notes suggest roasted pork pairings, no doubt.
As one of our featured beers this month in The Rare Beer Club, we’re pleased to introduce to our thirsty members a limited-release coffee IPA from Mikkeller: a potent combo of orange-y hops and a subtle roasted interlay of coffee. This one barely makes it stateside, so do share.
On a variety of levels, Mikkeller has challenged how the craft-beer world thinks about artful brewing. Mikkel Borg Bjergsø started Mikkeller in 2006 with then-business-partner Kristian Keller (who would soon after depart for an editorial position at Copenhagen-based magazine Soundvenue). They began without an actual physical brewery, choosing to instead rent capacity at existent locations like GourmetBryggeriet and Belgium’s de Proef Brouwerij. It wasn’t too long before the notion of a locale-hopping “gypsy brewer” manifested—and quickly stuck.
But the term tends to oversimplify what Mikkeller is and is not, particularly as other similarly minded folks have followed in Mikkel’s footsteps. Whether contract brewing, an “alternating proprietorship,” or any of the other innovative new approaches to starting a brewery without having to build a new one from scratch, what tends to matter most from the consumers’ side is the quality and artistic clarity of that final product. (One could make obvious parallels with the publishing and music industries, among others.) What Mikkeller has done time and again successfully is realize Mikkel’s expressive recipes at world-class breweries such as BrewDog, Amager, Anchorage, and—most often—de Proef.
The gypsy-brewing model affords creative flexibility elsewhere, and Mikkeller has deservedly become known for its use of nontraditional ingredients and concept-driven efforts that, well, actually work. Mikkeller’s Single Hop and Yeast Series lineups incorporate savvy, educational elements, while other offerings include ingredients such as Kopi Luwak coffee, lychee fruits, currants, Chateau d’Yquem barrels, and apparently (per the Mikkeller blog) even cabbages.
My role at All About Beer has recently expanded a bit, beyond overseeing our reviews system and managing the beer side of our World Beer Festivals (etc.), to include a new column. It’s slowly|amusingly turned into me taking deep-dives into parts of the beer world I don’t like.
Fruit IPAs, coffee beers (I’m an outlier here) and, most recently, quick-/kettle-soured beers. My beer-loving wife, normally on board for pretty much anything (except smoked beer), has been like: You’re on your own. Fruit IPAs, coffee beers, quick sours: couple dozen at a time. No help. Our sink’s usually drunk. The recycling bin contents makes us look like odd pirates.
Don’t get me wrong. Some folks love these. But I cannot for the life of me say that my heart beats faster when a new kettle sour appears on the shelf. Fruit IPAs still, generally, just make me wish for normal IPAs (ideally loaded with late hop additions). But the newer coffee beers were, surprisingly, pretty great.
(I’ve also been threatened with having to review hard sodas. … Not really. I volunteered.)
Coffee beers: I’ve been jaded by so many iffy ones in the past. But this time around our top picks were stellar—and all from SoCal: Modern Times City of the Dead (barrel-aged coffee!), Stone Americano Stout (seamless) and AleSmith’s new Hammerhead Speedway. All glorious, and making me regret bad words I’ve spoken about coffee beers in the past. (Stone’s Mocha IPA has been a standout new release in the time since then.) With cold-brewed additions and boutique-roaster collaborations like never before, we’re just starting to approach peak coffee.
Ken Weaver serves as beer editor of All About Beer Magazine, currently in its 37th year and the best-selling beer magazine on U.S. newsstands. Find him on Twitter | Instagram @KenWeaver.
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