Surly’s Brett Mikkel’s IPA

Mike Mommsen / Heavy Table
Mike Mommsen / Heavy Table

Recently, Surly released a collaboration beer called Brett Mikkel’s IPA — not to be confused with Brett Michaels, the singer-songwriter. The style can described as a Belgian IPA, a dry-hopped sour beer, or something like a Belgian tripel — but a rose by any other name. … The yeast used, Brettanomyces, a kind of sour yeast, minimizes the banana flavor present in Belgian strains and replaces it with lightly zesty earth tones.

Although Surly hasn’t been prolific with souring, Brett Mikkel’s IPA is a far cry from Pentagram, one of its few sours that is more than a taproom-only one-off. Not tart or plumlike, the Brett Mikkel’s, like its summer-born cousin, is light and fresh with surprising depth. It has a pleasant, spicy aroma and a dark clementine color. With medium clarity and carbonation, very little Belgian lace, and low retention, the beer has a funky nose that  releases a yeasty, almost mintlike flavor that swells as you drink.

Overall, the body’s pineapple fruitiness turns bitter with a hop sting on the finish. For a higher-gravity beer (clocking in at 7.5 percent ABV), there is little to no alcohol burn and minimal mustiness (the horse-blanket-like flavor that can sometimes become overpowering with Brett fermented beers). Rather, the beer is reminiscent of bubble gum, but without excessive sweetness. The malt backdrop, although on the thicker side for an IPA, stands up to the funk and hop notes that tug at each other, using its caramel biscuit notes to create an overall balance.

Mike Mommsen / Heavy Table
Mike Mommsen / Heavy Table

The collaborator behind the beer is Mikkel Bjergsø, the famed Denmark “gypsy brewer,” called thus because of his lack of a bricks-and-mortar brewery. Mikkeller, his brand, focuses on sour beers, and Bjergsø has created brews with some of the United States’ best breweries: Indiana’s 3 Floyds, Florida’s Cigar City, and Texas’ Jester King (in addition to Evil Twin, the New York brewery run by Bjergsø’s brother). Mikkeller also collaborated with Brew Dog, a Scottish brewery infamous for making the first taxidermy beer bottle.) It’s a badge of industry respect to brew with Mikkeller because all the greats are doing it, and the Surly collaboration puts Minnesota’s craft-brew scene on the global map. Branding the result as a Brett IPA makes the blending of the two breweries’ classic styles clear.

Brett Mikkel’s IPA highlights a lot of things happening in brewing today: the blending of styles to the point of rendering them meaningless, cross-border collaborations, the boom in sour beer, and Mikkeller’s itinerant nature. This raises the question: What’s the next taproom “thing?” Because, let’s face it, in a near-saturated marketplace, there needs to be something more — and that something is, perhaps, at the intersection of all these things.

Brett Mikkel’s IPA is available in limited release in liquor stores in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Chicago. UPDATE: It is no longer available in Surly’s taproom.

Mike Mommsen / Heavy Table
Mike Mommsen / Heavy Table


  1. Liz Scholz

    Thanks for your comment, Beau! These are important things to consider as we mention the boundaries of styles are blurring and your questions point to that. Apologies for the confusion: Brett is a single-culture yeast and not a bacteria, this is true. However, not all sour beers are made using bacteria and, in fact, many are made using wild yeast strains like Brett, although they don’t necessarily have the same outcome.

    This beer can be described as a Belgian IPA for the sake of categorizing it in a style, due to the fact it is fermented with a yeast strain used in Belgians and it is dry hopped like an IPA – it is in line with how Beer Advocate describes it, here: Furthermore, a Belgian IPA is sometimes explained as the mix of an IPA and a Belgian Tripel due to its high alcohol content and candied sugar notes.

    Here is some more info for you on sour beers: “Brett, lacto and pedio are sort of the Three Musketeers of sour beers, producing some of the flavors that make beers distinctly funky, sour and tart.”

  2. Kyle Nabilcy

    I don’t know what the first comment was, but for the record: Brett does not result in sour. It is often found in beers that have a sour flavor profile, but Brett itself has nothing to do with souring.

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