Our search for the world’s best coffee beer takes us to Europe for our most recent tasting. Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, inspired by a new and profound love of great imported beers he tasted in Copenhagen, started up Mikkeller brewing with his friend Kristian Keller. After some success home brewing, they achieved beer nerd fame following the creation of Beer Geek Breakfast. Since then Kristian has left but the brand has gone global. Known as a “gypsy brewer” for lacking brewing facilities of their own, Mikkeller brews creative, intriguing beers from myriad locations in Denmark and internationally.
With the origin of their success in coffee beer, it is no surprise that Mikkeller not only continues to brew Beer Geek Breakfast but has introduced a number of other coffee based beers, taking the style to new realms. In our previous review of these beers (Part 1 and Part 2), the dominant beers were usually those that used coffee and additional adjunct flavors such as chocolate and/or barrel aging. In this search for the best coffee beer we review Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Breakfast, Black Hole, the Koppi Tomahawk x Coffee IPA (Odoo Shakiso Edition), and the barrel aged Beer Geek Brunch Weasel (Calvados Edition). Each beer incorporates top tier coffee with wanton abandon. Two oatmeal stouts, one Russian imperial stout, and an IPA. Which will come out on top and will any best our previous best coffee beers?
Beer Geek Breakfast:
Pouring medium brown with solid head retention, the original, Norwegian morning meal named baller beer shows what made Mikkeller famous. Cocoa, coffee and raisins makeup the nose. The taste starts like it smells. The 7.5% alcohol by volume ninja-poofed out of the room. All that remains of this oatmeal (breakfast, get it???) stout is a thick body, and big flavors blending with the roasted chocolate and slight astringency that stem from the malt and hops. Breakfast is a tasty combination of malt and big java. A delicious beer unafraid of coffee.
Russian imperial stouts are an immensely popular style in craft beer at the moment. The huge roasted malt flavors naturally produce chocolate and coffee notes in a well made version, so it would be natural for a brewer to augment that with the addition of more coffee. This is a behemoth of a RIS at 13.1% ABV. To cover that alcoholic burn, the Hole brings massive dark fruit and bitter chocolate followed by coffee and lot of sweetness. It finishes with big, surprising hops. Nothing subtle here, no oatmeal for smooth body, simply a brewer making a massive stout with coffee. Make this your last beer at the tasting.
Beer Geek Brunch Weasel Calvados:
Combining the world’s most expensive coffee with an imperial stout and finishing it in fine brandy barrels amps the expectation level on this one to Bieber like giddiness. Can Mikkeller deliver? With big vanilla and sweetness from the brandy, coffee and dark fruit from the malts, the über rare Kopi Luwak coffee gets lost in the mix. A very tasty beer Weasel’s most extreme ingredient can’t hold up to the Calvados brandy barrel. Making this a very expensive barrel aged stout at 20.00 for a tiny 8.5oz bottle.
Koppi Tomahawk x Coffee IPA (Odoo Shakiso Edition):
An ale with a hop-centric profile and coffee? Sound like a bitter mess? It did to me but this thing was really good! Without all the roasted dark malts bolstering the ingredient, fancy coffee has its chance to shine alone. And the flavors that came together are killer. Good hop/malt balance with the Columbus (Tomohawk) hops, and lots of nutty, even fruity coffee notes. Weighing in at 6.9% ABV, this blood orange IPA finishes medium dry with strong carbonation.
As a few of these pictures indicate, the tasting of the stouts happened one lovely night at a rooftop pool in Aspen. The IPA was tasted on its own. Comparing the stouts, Brunch Weasel Calvados was clearly the most flavorful, complex brew. No surprise there. As a coffee beer however, it lacked the potential that its rare beans offered. Non-BA Breakfast however, showcased great coffee flavor along with a wonderful oatmeal stout experience. Black Hole ups the ante with bolder, more complex flavors. While this was my favorite beer of the three, it didn’t feature the coffee as well as the original Beer Geek Breakfast. All three blend coffee into great stouts, whichever you choose. As for the Coffee IPA, this was such a stunner. I have never heard of this pairing, so all credit to Mikkeller for trying it and pulling it off with such success. Not going to be to everyone’s taste, but this is an amazing combination you have to try for yourself.
Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, the gypsy brewer, offers some of the most creative beers on the market. Mikkeller’s coffee beers are not only some of their best, but some of the better coffee beers we have sampled.