You know that feeling you get when you find money in your pants while doing laundry? It doesn't even matter if it's five dollars or a hundred, it gives me a little thrill. I know full well that it's not really found money. I haven't actually gained anything, just rediscovered what I already had. Still, it feels like a small present, given to me, by me, from the past, like a time-traveling St. Nick.
I've found that same phenomenon happening more and frequently for me, lately, though with a little twist. Instead of finding a five-spot in my pants while folding towels, I've been finding great beer in the back of my fridge, while tossing leftovers and re-organizing condiments. Every few weeks I'll have one of those "Oh, man; I forgot I had that!" surprises, thrilled at the prospect of delicious beer, made all the more special by its unexpectedness. Drinkable serendipity.
It's almost to the point where I'm seeding these moments - buying nice bottles and stashing them at the back of the fridge, willfully forgotten, awaiting their opportunity. Most recently, there was an added element of delight upon the discovery of a forgotten bottle of Mikkeler Divine Rebel 2010. It was shortly after Night After Monsters, where Mikkel Borg Bjergsø had made an appearance, and many of the so-called Gypsy Brewer's beers had been poured. It was one event smack in the middle of a bunch of missed events, including the entirety of Houston Beer Week and all its festivities. I'd been a little bummed, and more than a little jealous. (Re)discovering this bottle in the back of my fridge was a bit of salve on the beer-envy-burn.
The Rebel poured out an extremely cloudy, dark hazelnut color. Striking turbidity made it appear to have a column down the center, as the light failed to penetrate further than half an inch or so. Sedimentary layers settled at the bottom of glass. Unsurprisingly, there was no head, and very little apparent carbonation.
The aroma came on with caramelized, almost burnt raisin and slightly toasty malts. It reminded me strongly of toasted raisin bread - fresh and bright, yet with a savory sort of depth. Surprisingly, considering the nearly 14 percent ABV, there was barely any alcohol vapor wafting out of the glass. A very slightly woody richness underscored everything, along with whiffs of citrus, burnt sugar, and some slightly spicy pipe tobacco notes.
On the palate, wood comes on strong, followed by a deep, coffee-hued nuttiness. There's a wonderful, mouth-filling, almost umami quality at play, creating an amazingly rich palette, perfect for displaying the array of heady flavors going on here. Booze comes on in the back, ebbing and flowing with each breath, mimicking the hot exhalations of a red wine drinker, save for the bitter, chicory bite creeping up the throat. Dark, char-like flavors sweep in at the finish, almost like the crunchy, blackened exterior of a properly toasted marshmallow. Some fruit flavors lighten things up a bit (raisin, cherry, a bit of caramelized pear), but they all swirl around underneath this general, constantly morphing sense of depth. The whole experience tangentially reminds me of the Rothko Chapel (see here for a tangential explanation, from a seemingly former life).
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If you couldn't tell, I really enjoyed this beer. It was big, boozy, a little sweet, and a little bitter. It had amazing depth and surprising subtlety, as each of the flavors played off the others, taking turns in the spotlight. I'll admit I was a little surprised at how much I like it. While I'm generally a fan of Mikkeler (I've enjoyed everything I've tried), I don't feel the same way about Brew Dog. Any brewery that markets beer packaged in stoats seems to me to be more about marketing itself as "extreme" than about making truly delicious beer, and that notion comes through in a lot of their offerings. This one, while arguably worthy of the "extreme" label, is nothing if not delicious. If you can find it, drink it.
If you can't find it, find something equally great. Stash it in the back of your fridge and forget about it for a while. A few months maybe. A year. More. When you finally rediscover it, you'll be surprised by the little wave of joy that washes over you. Life, after all, is about the little things. Even if those little things are 13.8 percent ABV, which isn't that little, after all.