MIKKELLER CAN ALWAYS be counted on for permutations. Be it a popular recipe aged in divers barrels, several host breweries for twists on similar recipes, or even different recipes for the ‘same’ brew, the mad chemist from Copenhagen and his co-conspirers always have something unpredictable in the works. One such tangent is the perennial holiday porter called Fra via Til. Or Til via Fra. Or From/To Via? It’s difficult to say, but it seems that the variations in name reflect annual tinkering with the recipe. Consistencies include chocolate and toasted malts, about 8% ABV, a handful of seasonal spices, and a quaint label featuring ‘To’ and ‘From’ lines for gift-giving, hence the name. Some fun. Thus it’s a little difficult to say precisely which vintage this was, but best guesses are that it was 2010 based on the label’s composition: ‘From’, ‘Via Mikkeller’, and ‘To’. All that done, let the present be opened.
The beer’s color in the glass is an earthy brown, dense and dark but not quite black. Carbonation was a touch subdued on the palate but still robust enough to generate a head of leathery tan and some nearly nitro-stout level of ‘fall’ as the bubbles matured and settled into a dense creamy shell several fingers tall. This tapers off to a thin layer that lasts for the rest of the beer without leaving much lacing. Molasses is far and away the dominant aroma, underpinned some by dark cocoa powder and a mustier smattering of wintry spices. On the palate it retains a pronounced sweetness up front–not in the tacky or grainy way of molasses, but rather, a concentrated caramelization and toasted nutty sweetness of malts that is rich and forceful without being too aggressive. Hops shadow the malt throughout, balancing them without ever seizing the spotlight (perhaps aside from a brief herbal fling on the back end of the aroma). Considerable cellar time has diminished their presence further, especially as the beer has begun to oxidize and give off a few very light cardboard notes and boozy phenols in the finish. The aftertaste returns to the beer’s central focus: heavily roasted malts, now bolstered with a coffee or blackened toast kind of bitterness quite distinct from lupulin. Spices such as coriander and anise subtly enhance the core flavor while not suggesting too many strong flavors of their own, resulting in a highly focused porter that’s not especially evocative of the Christmas spirit. That in itself is no criticism, though: despite a relatively limited set of flavors in the foreground, a broad foundation of support keeps the palate engaged and inquisitive without ever becoming overstimulated.
Regardless of vintage or variation, From Via To beers probably peak around this time (two-plus years). While its narrow focus keeps it from being truly world class, it is still a present any porter fan would delight to find beneath the tree.
Served: 750 ml bottle (code 7501008)