Hope you all had a great LA Beer Week. Back to good old Mikkeller. A few months ago I decided I'd give you all a break from my nonstop Mikkeller raving, however, I still have four or five bottles of the Single Hop Series in my fridge, just waiting to be opened, so we're back at it again.
I thought I'd try the Nelson Sauvin because it's a hop I don't have much experience with. Surprisingly, it originates in New Zealand rather than on the West Coast. I say surprising because Mikkeller generally shows a deference to West Coast Hop themed IPAs, so I was surprised this was one of his choices. The hop is fairly cherised for its high alpha acids as well its grape like character. That means it delivers quite a complex mix of fruitiness while still maintaining its hop bite. It's oils are often described as "fresh crushed goose berries," which interestingly enough is more often a term used to describe a grape used in some Sauvignon Blancs. This beer pours frothy with a decently webbed foam and a floral aroma dominated by the smell of red or green wine grapes. The aroma of the grapes is distinct and really quite amazing. The color is a much deeper orange than I would have expected, almost an amber. The taste... wow, the flavor!
On stopping to think of how to describe the taste of this beer, I'm left slightly speechless at first due to its complexity and richness. The front end is a subtle flavor, it starts with a even balance of fruit and malts. As the beer opens up, you get a bit more of that young grape flavor that presented itself in the aroma. The sweet flavors start to expand and for a moment you start to wonder if this could possibly be a barleywine – if somehow you grabbed the wrong bottle off the shelf. But just as you're about to get up and check, the familiar hop bitterness begins to kick in, starting gradually and finishing with an extremely well balanced punch. I can certainly see why this hop strain is so exhaulted and why Mikkeller had to use it. It's an incredible balance of sweet and bitter, and the pungency of the grape flavor is so distinct that you really are wowed by its richness. At 6.9%, the beer is just enough alcohol content to enjoy what you're drinking without being overwhelmed by the hot presence of alcohol on your throat and tongue. I often bemoan IPAs that stray too far from the origin of the American style, however, the craftmanship in this beer leaves little room for criticism and even less liquid left in the bottle.
Nelson Sauvin Single Hop: *****