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Mik MaleWinter in the summertime? Not quite, and certainly not weather-wise, but in terms of beverages, I subscribe to the same philosophy that sees ice cream to be enjoyed anytime, especially a cold-churned double scoop in winter’s harrowing chill, or a king-size bowl of hot ramen that’s fit for summer’s dog days… I couldn’t resist my latest beer purchase even if it were crafted for another season.

Imported from Denmark, Mikkeller’s beers have always been fascinating to me—his story is unique and his custom-built beers appeal to the wine lover inside me. I picked up a Ris a la M’ale—a three-seventy-five that read more like a Northern European dessert than a traditional fruit-laced ale. Belgian ales have softened the American palate for this kind of exploration.

Resisting my initial temptation to use wine glasses as makeshift vessels, the fiery red contents were split into beer mugs. Putting my nose near dunking-close to the lacy head, I picked out the adjunct ingredients that would make a tasty and tart kerse floppen (Dutch cherry tart), garnished with a little toasted almond. It only got better once sipped; flavors were forward in the mouth, with an exact amount of sweetness brushing against the tang that all in all provided added depth in its doughy build, and helped transform the beer into a balanced liquid dessert.

The playfulness of ingredients—ale brewed with cherries, almonds and vanilla, among other spices—is consistent with this brewer’s style. While not all his concoctions are a hit with my taste buds, the Ris a la M’ale definitely scored major points as a finish to a nice dinner with my family.

Stout SignNo longer able to ignore Stout, with a beer-thirst peaking and word-of-mouth about the restaurant itself spreading like a SoCal wildfire whipped by Santa Anas, there was more than enough reason to dine out at the burger and beer purveyor. Standing guard on the corner of Cahuenga Boulevard, sandwiched by Hollywood and Sunset, Stout’s original location was the it-spot for lunch.

My friend and I were seated at the last remaining table. Stout was similar to Little Bear in that it was a Beer-friendly environment; that didn’t stop me from looking to see what wines had been relegated to the back page. (Rant warning)*

Skirting the wine, we made our tap selections on the first go with our server. Upon her return, two beers-a-tray, we had decided on the Stout and Morning After burgers with a side of zucchini fries.

StoutNot too many sips into the Mikkeller, two orbicular sandwiches touched down with a share bowl of fried zucchini dividing our table. We took a respectful look at our burgers before digging in. Wedged between the perfect semicircles that would shame mathematicians, were two candied slabs of rosemary bacon atop a blend of Alpine—Gruyere—and blue cheese, coating the grain-fed beef patty with roasted tomatoes and a daub of horseradish cream. In the best way it reminded me of a classy Sourdough Jack minus the sourdough. A perfect medium rare with a soft grind showing off a depth of smoky sweet nuance that was near great. There was something lacking, however—texture. With no snap to juxtapose against the mushy core, the complimentary flavors had no direction and ran amok. The Stout burger was solid, but frustratingly, had the potential to be a lot more. The fried zucchini were an excellent accompaniment, with a creamy green core that was a sight to see, but like anything fried, a little went a long way.

In need of a digestif after the heavy midday affair, only our wallets felt lighter after leaving the beer-first establishment. Attentive service, lively crowd and stellar beer list staved off an average review, as Stout obviously excels in certain aspects. Regarding balance, there’s still a ways to go.

*If you have a top-notch wine list, beer and sake should be integrated seamlessly and the same goes for an expertly crafted beer list. Why does the imagination stop when wine is involved? It’s not okay. Who would want to have a Westmalle Dubbel or Achel Bruin at some joint, and then order a plonk Chardonnay for their girlfriend—and not feel a pang of conscience about it? Craft begets craft! 

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