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Mikkel Borg Bjergso, a 38-year-old former high-school science teacher who runs the Danish brewery Mikkeller, stuck his face into a bag of hops and inhaled deeply.
It was a rainy February afternoon, and Mikkel, who makes some of the world’s most inventive beer, was visiting de Proef, a Belgian brewery in the town of Lochristi.
The hops had been processed into unctuous pellets that resembled cat food, and they released a ripe botanical stink heavy on lemon grass and cannabis. “That’s nice,” Mikkel said, crumbling a few pellets between his fingers and nodding approvingly at the sticky green smear they deposited on his thumb. They were specimens of a strain called Polaris, developed by growers in Germany, which Mikkel had asked de Proef’s proprietor, Dirk Naudts, to purchase for use in a new Mikkeller beer. “They’re very fatty,” Naudts said.