FIRST THINGS FIRST: let’s break down the divers ingredients of this patchwork beast. Base beer: Gypsy Tears, a sour stout of 8.5%. Concocted by: Stillwater Artisinal in collaboration with Mikkeller. Brewed at: Fanø Brygghus. The Special X: Aged six months in red wine barrels.
Second things second: let’s allow each of those potent morsels to sink in. Take your time.
Third things third: with appetites whet, let’s turn to drink itself. As is obvious by now, the Barrel-Aged Gypsy Tears is a new and unorthodox take on a stout, nearly unrecognizable as such for its twin variations on the theme: 100% brettanomyces fermentation and a lengthy bath in red wine barrels from Brunello. Yet for all its eccentricities the beer keeps itself in order from head to toe dregs, beginning with a deep, deep red pour that turns blackened-brown at the core with a sturdy tan cap of fine bubbles. Its animating spirits intensify from there through an aggressively vinous bouquet with plenty of lambic-style funk lurking underneath. The malt and chocolate-heavy tones of most high-gravity stouts can also be peripherally discerned, teasing the flavor into several tangents without resolving around any single motif. A little perplexing, admittedly, but not overwhelming. The body, though fairly full, is still lighter than most big stouts and rather dry indeed through the brett-heavy midpalate. Oak, tangy grapes, and some roast malts poke up towards the finish before the carbonation spikes, ushering in in a tannic flourish and further sourness. Hops are somewhere in the mix, but sandwiched between the wine at the front and the dry bite at the back they’re difficult to isolate. Likely for the best, given the complexities at work.
Arcane collaborations of this sort often result in a messily stitched-together monster, loveable to its makers and unpalatable to the rest. Happily for us, Stillwater, Mikkeller, and Fanø are more adroit surgeons—their product is more pleasingly proportionate than its pastiche of parts would suggest. And though it’s naturally preferable to try a base brew before experiencing its barrel-aged variations, these wine-tinged Tears seem to flow more freely than the others. Do not shy away.
Served: On tap (Mikkeller Bar, Copenhagen)