January 24, 2013
The American Dream Project: Mikkeller tasting panel doing beer science
The Mikkeller American Dream Project.
A “research” on the development of the best lager in the world: the Mikkeller American Dream.
The Mikkeller Tasting Panel has been studying, tasting and admiring this beer for months. The concept was decided: the four educated tasters open, smell and drink one bottle every week for at time span of 126 days. From the same batch. Every Sunday the beer was put in a fridge, every Monday tasting and making notes. This rigid rule of cooling down and drinking at a specific time of the week was to give the four tasters (and the beers) the same base for evaluation.
The purpose was to describe the development of this hoppy lager for a rather long period of time. What changes are distinct, in what way does the beer change over time and of course to determine what happens to the beer regarding drinkability. Putting these observations into graphs is a rather scientific approach to evaluating beers. That is not an aim in itself, the objective was to describe the changes from a common base and these observations will be used and taken into consideration when brewing (this style of beer) in the future - and overall: to better the quality of Mikkeller beers.
The panel set up some ground rules for tasting: 4 aromas, 4 different tastes and 4 “others”. These 12 different variables were not just made up; they were taken from a master tasting scheme worked out by Dirk Naudts (see above) from De Preof Brewery in Belgium. De Proef brews a lot of Mikkeller beers, and due to the skills of Dirk, and of course Mikkel(ler) himself, Mikkeller has been able to do both hop series and yeast series. Both series brewed with a consumer educational purpose: What does hops, yeasts and beers in general taste like? This American Dream project also serves this educational purpose. Mikkeller wants to emphasize knowledge as a part of being a beer drinker.
Three overall categories were determined:
a) aroma: honeydew melon/honningmelon, perfume (tropical fruits), Resin (pine) and Citrus (Clementine)
b) taste/smag: Grass (and hay), Bloodgrape, hazelnut and malt sweetness.
c) other/andre: Bitterness intensity, bitterness in aftertaste, density (fedme) and dryness (tørhed).
The numbers for measuring these categories over time were determined at the first tasting; the scale was from 1-8.
This is the overall evaluation from all 4 members of the tasting panel
And of course there were changes in the above mentioned parameters.
Aromas are rather volatile, the “taste” and “other” were more constant or constant over a longer period of time. But interesting to notice the obvious decrease in aromas is stopped by a sudden increase between day 63 and 70. All aromas but honnydew melon, instead this increases in the first week or so.
The evaluation of taste (smag) is obvious, taste changes, taste fades. The sweetness from malts (light green) actually increases in the taste. This is just a fact, not really something we want from a beer like this. The light blue line indicates the fresh sourness, bloodgrape like taste, increases within the firs weeks and the starts falling.
The decrease of flavours are not alarming, on the contrary this shows that a well brewed hoppy lager last for several months (when kept well).
Keeping beers well (namely away from sunlight) is very important for a hoppy beer. Sunlight can really dammage a beer. Light generates a process and changes construction of the alpha acids in hops. This can cause a skunk-like aroma - not wanted in a beer.
To avaoid this "skunkification" Mikkeller does a few very important things: bottle in brown bottles and adds tetra hop extract in the brewing process. Brown bottles allows the less dangerous lightwaves to enter the bottle and the addition of tetra hop extract gives the beer a much better resistence to sunlight. The structure of these hop molecules are not that easy to brake down, they a immune to the sunlight damaging effects.
Drink you beer fresh, the self-evident result of this American Dream "investigation". That we new before we even started. What we learned form this is how changes appear, when they take place and what they course.
These observations are by nature not objective ones. But the "rules of engagement" and the aquired skills from our tasting panel does create a scientific approach that justifies a good use of these observations.
Mikkeller has learned quite a few things within these 126 days of American Dream evaluation. Knowledge we will take along when brewing Mikkeller beers in the future. We will keep this scientific approach in mind and we will gladly inform of everything we do.
Even though it is mentioned that the consistancy of tastes are rather great in the American Dream, we will not try to fool anyone into to conception that this beer lasts for ever. We are all going to die, hoppy light beers fade away - these are facts we will have to deal with. When living and drinking beers we want to learn as much as possible and take new learnings into consideration in all aspects. Now we know a little more.
And then again... Theis of the tasting panel put it well after this project was stopped. It's still a great beer, but it is something else now, maybe slightly dusty.
Thanks so much to the tasting panel for giving us the possibility for new learnings!