Remember how disappointing it was to realize celebrity chefs rarely cook much of anything, and certainly never touch your insignificant speck of a dinner, even if their name is on the sign out front? It took me a long time to accept that just as Santa Claus can’t fly Legos to all the world’s decent little children in a single night, Saint Fieri can’t oversee each order of Guy-Talian Nachos sold in Times Square while simultaneously tending to all the Motley Que Cherry BBQ Ribs sold in Bakersfield.
So with Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse outposts in Connecticut, Chicago, and New York, you have a one-in-three shot—at best!—of the great man himself handling your beef on any given day. Sucks, I know. And that kind of false promise extends to the beer world, too, where it is speculated that quite a bit of Samuel Adams Boston Lager gets shipped out of Cincinnati without Jim Koch ever having dipped his own personal billion-dollar toes into the brew kettle.
It’s refreshingly honest, then, that Mikkeller boss Mikkel Bjergso freely admits he doesn’t like to actually brew beer. He told the New York Times he prefers “making recipes and hanging out,” explaining that once he’s got the specs nailed down, he’s happy to outsource the dirty work to some other chump. And Mikkeller beer, even the aggressively weird stuff, tends to be excellent: the system works. This makes sense, because recipe development and ingredient sourcing would seem to be the most important elements of the beer-creation process. It certainly requires skill and training to do the hands-on brewing, but I don’t know that it takes any particularly grand vision.
Mikkeller is best known for expensive, bombastic, wild-ass beers that are variously aged, soured, and otherwise adulterated (they made a fucking popcorn porter). Bully for them. But their most approachable, interesting, and downright useful brews come from their Single Hop IPA line. These are useful first and foremost for being excellent beers that a normal person might be able to afford and enjoy, and they also provide the lay drinker a valuable lesson about hop variation.
There are few hard and fast rules outside of Germany, but for the most part, beer is made from water, yeast, grain, and hops. The grain is very important and highly variable, though it’s usually some kind of barley, with wheat, oats, rye, and corn (both popped and not) all having their places. The water and yeast matter a ton, too, but the consumer is more likely to notice the hops. This is why the coolest parts of beerfests and brewery visits often involve trying the same base beer—usually a pale ale of some kind—brewed with different hops.
Simcoe was developed by Yakima Chief Ranches in 2000, and it has since become a favorite of American IPA brewers and drinkers. It’s marketed as a dual-purpose hop that enhances a beer’s aroma as well as its bitterness, and some beer weirdoes names their pets Simcoe. It’s a big deal.
Mikkeller Single Hop Simcoe IPA opens with an assertive blast of pine before tropical fruit and citrus emerge. The general fruitiness focuses over time into grapefruit, lemon, and pineapple flavors, underscored by a slightly funky earthiness. There’s a nice caramel-cookie malt note throughout as well, which provides a bit of balance before the deeply resinous finish.
This great IPA proves a beer’s flavor needn’t be dependent upon which particular brow sweats over the kettle, especially when the labor is provided with a careful plan and an excellent batch of famous hops.
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Image by Jim Cooke.
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain.