The Scottish Brewery BrewDog has been making a name for themselves as brewers of both unique and extreme craft beers. These guys are constantly challenging the status quo to develop new and exciting beers. Mikkeller on the other hand is a Danish Brewery that has taken a much quieter approach to promoting their beers (practically no promotion at all) and their beers are among the most widely sought after in the world. So what do you get when you combine these two powerhouses?.. The Devine Rebel.
The Devine Rebel is a collaboration project brewed at BrewDog as a Barleywine. 1/4 of it is aged in oak Speyside whisky barrels then conditioned in a steel tank. It has been fermented with both an ale yeast and a champagne yeast. Only one hop variety has been used. It is 12.1 %abv. What we have here is a heavyweight. It comes in a rather unassuming 355ml bottle – but shows its true colors the second you unleash this beast into a glass. This bottle was batch #243, and was capped on July the 5th, 2009 – it was tasted on August the 13th, 2010.
What’s a 1 year old barleywine from the likes of the most ridiculous and most artistic brewers on the other side of the Atlantic going to be like? I love the fact that there is only one hop variety here because a lot of the barleywines that I have had recently have been American Barleywines, which are massively hopped. I was also quite happy that this beer was partially aged in Speyside whisky barrels – I love Speyside whisky, and moreover also love oak aged beer!
I opened the Devine Rebel warm around 14C (57F), which is much warmer than you would typically enjoy a beer, but is also still much cooler than room temperature around 21C. These large barleywines deserve the warmth to let all of their flavors and aromas escape into your senses. The pour was exceptionally oil-like in consistency and fell heavily into the bottom of my tulip glass. It showed near zero carbonation – only the slightest film of misty head formed, but faded before I could even get a picture of it. What you are left with is a translucent amber brown beer with dark mahogany, gold, and copper streaking though it and a murky overall character.
This beer looked pretty menacing, as if its time in the whisky casks had jaded its outlook on life. It is over 12% abv, and was conditioned for many months, so carbon dioxide would have a hard time living in a beer of this structure. It is also very typical of a big barleywine.
The nose is deeply malty with layers of booze, mashed fruit, burnt brown sugar, candy and molasses. Give the beer some time and you can easily discern warm vanilla, oak, raisins and the softest hints of citrus hops. There is very little in terms of bitter aroma here, but huge amounts of malt and gooey sweet character. Right away you can tell this is going to be a rush to your palate.
And sure enough, it is. It only takes a small sip – let it rest on your tongue and glide across your cheeks as you would a fine spirit. The texture of the beer is silky, but very oily. It holds a viscus structure tightly in your mouth but releases huge punches of malt sweetness and depth at every surface it touches. Wide and complex caramel and dark toffee malt is the first thing that hits me in a warming and malty sensation. Rich baked fruits show up with the reminiscent flavors of plum pie, prunes, stewed pears, raisins and soft vanilla.
The up-front sweetness is balanced by a darker, more bitter sweetness in the way of molasses, oak, booze (almost brandy like), rhubarb, and a complexity of port and whisky. This beer has a lot packed in here, and there is little if any hops recognizable in the flavor – thus, this is a true English Barleywine, not an American Barleywine. I was hugely impressed by the weight and character of this beer, and would actually love to try it with a flourless chocolate cake, or even just pieces of high percentage cocoa chocolate. If you do have the oportunity to enjoy this barleyine, be sure not to serve it too cold, it deserves a summer vacation.