4 Ways To Cosy Up This Winter

The endlessly scorching summer of 2018 feels like a distant memory. Spring is around the corner, but February and March can get pretty bleak.

With rising energy costs, the winter can be an expensive time of year. How can you stay warm and cosy in your home without cranking the heating up to the max?

This was the topic of the first in a series of Ikea Live Lagom workshops. What small changes could we make for the biggest impact?

Don’t let the cold in

Are you letting the cold air sneak in through gaps in door and window frames?

If drafts are leaving you shivering, that means you’re letting warmth escape and essentially letting the money you spend on heating drift into thin air.

Long-term fixes can cost a lot of money, but there are things you can do in the short-term to block those gaps.

If you’ve got any big-ish pieces of fabric lying around, you could give them a new life as a draft-excluder. This could be old curtains, bedding, off-cuts – anything.

Draft Excluder

Everyone got involved at the Cosy Homes workshop at Ikea Southampton

Cut a rectangle as long as the width of the offending door or window, fold it lengthways and sew up the side. Then you can stuff it with any old fabric. Can’t sew? Roll it up, stuff it and tie the ends off like a big sweetie! A child can do it!

When we made ours at the Cosy Homes workshop, we used old duvets, cushions, shirts – it doesn’t even matter if it turns out lumpy because it’s going to sit on the floor.

Thick curtains can also trap in heat. For extra insulation, team them up with the Hoppvals cellular blind. Air is trapped in the blind’s honeycomb structure which helps to keep the cold out.

IMG_4550

These plush, thick blackout curtains from Ikea keep drafts out. They’re full-length so if you need to shorten them, use the off-cuts for other projects (I used mine for a draft excluder!)

Create a cosy glow

Warm lighting might not technically keep you warm, but it can help you to wind down and relax in the evening.

Candles and tea lights can create a cosy atmosphere, although since they have a finite lifespan, you’ll need to keep replacing them.

Whilst I love filling my room with candles on a Sunday evening as I prepare for the week ahead, I appreciate they’re not for everyone – especially those with children and pets.

Sjopenna

The Sjopenna gives off a warm glow and the LED bulb has the highest energy efficiency rating, saving money too!

Fairy lights are a great way to create a similar effect. I usually pick some up during the sales after Christmas. Modern LED fairy lights can last twenty times longer than older ones and the low power consumption means many will run off AA batteries so you can put them anywhere you like. Rechargeable batteries are now a lot cheaper than they used to be and will save you money in the long-term.

Smart bulbs can give you control of the warmth and even the colour of your lighting from your mobile or remote control. I have several Tradfri bulbs connected to my Samsung Smartthings system which means I can include them in ‘routines.’ For example, my wake-up routine turns the coffee machine on downstairs, which is on a Tradfri plug, and also turns my landing light on, set to a warm orange so I can see but I’m not immediately blinded. When I leave for work, my ‘goodbye’ routine turns everything off so I’m not wasting power. 

Layer up

We’re not talking about pulling on an extra jumper here, although that would probably help you to turn down the heating by a couple of degrees.

Layering different fabrics is a very Scandinavian way of cosying up over winter. Some households even have different textiles for different seasons which sounds like a perfect way to keep your home looking fresh!

Rug

I was after this plush and colourful rug for a while so I was super happy to find it in the Ikea sale

A nice thick rug can insulate from below and make your floor a lot more pleasant to walk on. It’s also a relatively low-cost way to introduce some colour.

I have several Tanum rugs in my bathrooms which protect my feet from the cold floors in the mornings. They’re hand-woven by skilled craftspeople in Bangladesh from the offcuts of fabrics used to produce other Ikea textiles so no two are alike.

Style up sofas and chairs with soft, snuggly throws – perfect for a night nestled down in front of the television with the rain lashing down outside. My favourite is the Lisamari which brightens up my grey sofa and is so soft and warm I often fall asleep under it.

img_4547.jpg

The Lisamari throw is perfect for cosy nights in

Keep your duvet to yourself

If you’ve ever stayed in a hotel in Scandinavia, you’ve probably noticed that your double bed will be topped with not one but two duvets.

In parts of the world where winters can be bitter, it’s a simple but genius way to make sure you spend the night sealed up in your own little cosy cocoon.

If your significant other runs at a different temperature to you, it also allows you to have your own individual ‘tog-rating.’ This way, one doesn’t end up too hot or too cold to suit the other.

Definitely something I’ll be trying when our winter duvet has its day.

Disclaimer: I am not paid by IKEA, although they have kindly helped me on my Lagom journey with free merchandise. 

Find out more about Living the Lagom life.

 

 

 

Advertisements

What Can You Get With £100 At Ikea?

The first step on my Live Lagom journey was an in-store induction where I met Outi and Vale who lead the program in the Southampton branch.

The purpose was to introduce the Lagom concept and set our intentions for the year.

The 2019 cohort was joined by some of the previous participants who shared inspiring stories of the changes they had made and how they were reaping the rewards.

Lagom isn’t just about the changes you make for one year that the Live Lagom ambassador scheme runs for. Lagom is for life and the class of 2018 were proof of this.

Lagomers old and new can also be found on the Live Lagom Facebook group which is always buzzing with conversation and advice.

At the induction, we were invited to talk about our lifestyles and our homes. Everybody already seemed to be doing a great job in their efforts to live more sustainably. However, each one of us could very quickly identify areas in our lives where we could be doing even better.

A quiz revealed that many of us, including myself, could be making savings or reducing waste in ways we hadn’t even considered. One of the biggest surprises for me was how much money we throw away on energy due to inefficient lighting or insufficient insulation.

I had so many ideas for ways to Live Lagom but I needed to focus on one area. Being a keen home-cook, I decided to make the kitchen my target.

I make most of my food from scratch and I love to experiment with dishes from all over the world. This means lots of ingredients. How could I be more organised and minimise waste?

In particular, I have always been frustrated about buying salad leaves and fresh herbs. They always come in non-recyclable bags and I often end up discarding leftovers because there’s only two of us in my household.

I’ve attempted to grow my own but it’s always ended in failure. Could the supposedly ‘fool-proof’ hydroponic kit be the answer?

With my goal in mind, I arranged to meet Outi in-store to spend my £100 Lagom allowance. Here’s what I managed to pick up:

IMG_3148.JPG

KRYDDA/VÄXER Grow kit w 8 pots, 1 tier

This contains:

  • An LED cultivation light
  • A Krydda cultivation unit
  • An insert for the cultivation unit
  • A nursery box with lid
  • Growing media plugs to start seedlings
  • Growing media for planting the seedlings as they grow
  • Fertiliser

Everything I need to get started with my farming-in-miniature! The LED light has a special colour spectrum to mimic sunlight – necessary in a country like the UK.

VÄXER Seeds

These are only £1.50 for three packs and you get so many! There are a few options to choose from so I picked one of each. I’m confident they’ll last quite a while – according to the instructions on the packet you only need to plant between one and three each time but you seem to get loads!

KORKEN Jar with lid

I got a few of these to store herbs and spices which I buy in bulk. They have airtight lids so they’re also great for storing home-made sauces and pickles or small quantities of leftovers.

IKEA 365+ Dry food jar with lid

I always have a supply of rice and porridge oats. Like a lot of dry foods, I buy in bulk to save money and waste. Keeping them in clear containers will help me to keep track of how much I have left.

EFTERFRÅGAD Food vacuum flask

I am a big fan of home-cooked packed lunches (I can’t remember when I last bought lunch at work). You know exactly what you’re eating and it costs a lot less. I’ve always had plastic containers which eventually break or hold onto strong colours and flavours. I have two of these on rotation now and I love that they’re totally leak-proof and the metal is easy to get really clean between uses.

IKEA 365+ Food containers with IKEA 365+ Lids

As well as rice and oats, you’ll always find flour and pasta in my kitchen and these larger tubs are perfect for keeping moisture and bugs out. I tend to have several varieties of flour so once the bags are open I stack them all up in one container.

As you can see, £100 was plenty to get started on my Lagom journey. I actually needed a bit of help from Outi to spend it all! I’m confident that my final purchases will help me to meet my sustainability goals in the kitchen.

 

Living the Lagom life

Lagom (pronounced [²lɑːɡɔm]) is a Swedish word meaning “just the right amount”. The Lexin Swedish-English dictionary defines lagom as “enough, sufficient, adequate, just right”. Lagom is also widely translated as “in moderation”, “in balance”, “perfect-simple”, and “suitable” (in matter of amounts). Wikipedea

Lagom is a lovely word. It even feels nice to say, like lagoon. Peaceful. Simple.

Lagom is not a word to describe my lifestyle.

My lifestyle, outside of the 9 to 5, revolves around food, drink and cycling. This involves a lot of stuff. ‘Just the right amount’ is a concept that rarely enters my head as I spot another ‘essential’ bike jersey or add another ‘must-have’ ingredient to my precariously stacked spice shelves.

So, in September last year when I received an email from IKEA inviting applications to join their Lagom community, I was intrigued. Could they help me to clean up my act?

Saving more, wasting less and living healthily can be easy and affordable. And that’s what our Live LAGOM community is all about. Lagom Community invitation

Well, since the program kicked off in November I haven’t managed to kick the cycling kit addiction or streamline my shelves in the kitchen. However, I’m already making changes to bring Lagom into my life in ways that I hadn’t expected.

This year, follow me on my Lagom journey. I’ll be sharing some of the changes I’ve made and hopefully inspiring some of you to bring a little Lagom into your life.

Join the Live Lagom Facebook group for friendly chat and advice

Disclaimer: I am not paid by IKEA, although they have kindly helped me on my Lagom journey with free merchandise.

Kitting up for an adventure

A few months ago I entered a competition on Facebook with Specialized, one of the world’s biggest bike brands, to win a space on their women only Get Out of Town weekend. Specialized have always been a really female-friendly brand in an often male-dominated industry and seem to be doing lots to encourage women to ride in the communities where they have stores. I was thrilled to be randomly selected as one of the winners because it meant that I would be heading out to Somerset to stay with them for a weekend of gravel riding on their new adventure bike, the Specialized Diverge.

Being a bit of a kit obsessive and also scarily organised for a change, I wanted to share with you what I’ll be taking away. There’s going to be two days of riding so it’s also a really good opportunity to test out my new Kitbrix bag which has been sitting in my front room waiting for its first mission.

So, what to take for two days of September weather? I picked out two of my favourite kits in a sensible weight for the cooler temperatures – not super-summer-light and not super-heavy. Morvelo (left) is one of my all-time favourite brands. There’s a reason I own about six pairs of their bibs – they’ve got a pad that’s every bit as comfortable as the Rapha ones, they come in awesome prints and they have the most sensible strap design. Instead of the traditional ‘braces’ a stretchy strap goes up the middle which you can pretty much forget about. Another reason I love Morvelo is that they often make base layers to match their outfits. What they don’t make to match their outfits often enough is socks so dhb steps in and fills the void with a toasty Thermolite pair.

The Rapha outfit (right) is a bit more mis-matched and I debated with myself over whether I want to bring my Brevet jersey out. Now that I’ve decided it’s Brevet weather it’s probably getting worn to death and I’ll end up getting sick of the sight of it again but that’s a mark of just how good it is. With a zippy pocket large enough for a gilet as well as the standard three rear pockets and a front pocket for a brevet card it’s just perfect for those changeable days when you end up carrying all your various layers. I teamed it up with the matching socks and non-matching but ever-so-comfy souplesse bibs (I guess they match the souplesse base-layer at least).

You might notice that I do love a good base layer and there’s two reasons. The first is that they just make your outfit that bit more comfortable in any conditions. A good base layer is soft against your skin and wicks sweat so it keeps you dry and warm. The second reason is that I can unzip my jersey with absolutely zero self-consciousness. Any woman who rides in conventional bib shorts will know that the only (well, if you’re not a pro) way to go to the loo is to take your jersey off. Not being a fan of putting clothing on the floor of public facilities I often remove mine outside and the base-layer lets me retain some dignity. Likewise if I’m riding on a hot day and need to unzip. Base layers just make sense.

You’ll also see that each outfit has a cycling cap and regular Instagram followers might have picked up on a slight obsession. Caps are the best bit of kit ever. They can keep the sun out of your eyes, keep your head warm, keep bugs out of your hair but, most importantly, they’re just cool. You will never have too many caps. There’s simply too many amazing designs just waiting to be discovered.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

How to accessorise? Well, on both days I’ll be wearing my new favourite sports bra from Odlo which is one of those stretchy pull-over ones which I thought would only be good for yoga but which I seem to be wearing for everything. Maybe not great for larger busts but suits me fine! Then, super-important, Grip Grab AquaRepel arm and leg warmers. At this time of year when mornings and evenings are cool but daytime can still be super-warm, don’t decide between shorts and longs. Just wear sleeves and legwarmers you can take off and stash in a pocket as the day heats up. These have the added advantage of being water resistant. I’m also playing safe with mitts and gloves – the Hurricane gloves will keep my hands from seizing up if it’s cold but light enough that I can stash them if I want to switch to the mitts.

The Kitbrix

So all this kit, plus helmet and shoes….will it all fit in the little Kitbrix? I wasn’t convinced, but I’m happy to report that it did with room to spare! The robust little waterproof bag quite happily zips up and I can even get a couple of t-shirts, snacks, pants and socks, small toiletries and PJs in there (I’ll wear the same jeans over the weekend)! The interior zippy compartments mean I don’t need extra bags to organise my stuff and the outside stretchy pockets will take my train tickets, purse and even my lightweight waterproof. Since I’ll be looked after by Specialized, I won’t have the usual tools and spares I would normally take for a cycling adventure but I reckon I could squeeze some in if I wanted to so I’m pretty impressed!

So I’m all set to Get Out of Town on Friday! I’ll let you know how it goes!

 

Beavertown Extravaganza

London Printworks. Once Western Europe’s largest print facility which supplied Londoners with the Evening Standard and the Metro. Now a vast events space with six rooms arranged over split levels, the original machinery left in situ. What better place for Beavertown Brewery to host the inaugural Beavertown Extravaganza.  Well, where else in London can you fit over 60 of the world’s greatest brewers, thousands of thirsty beer geeks and a double-decker bus?

For veterans of the Mikkeller Beer Celebration in Copenhagen, the format is familiar; there’s an entry fee of £55 for the session but this covers all your beer, access to all talks and seminars and the souvenir 100ml tasting glass is yours to keep.

As festival venues go, the Printworks rivals the Victoria Baths in Manchester; the original industrial features made it a memorable space and there was even a gallery where visitors could chill out and appreciate a collection of beer art. There was plenty of room to catch some fresh air and a who’s who of London’s finest street-food meant there was no chance of going hungry.

Unlike other festivals which sell tickets for half-day sessions, the Extravagnza was a whole day event which seemed to have the effect of creating a more chilled out atmosphere. Gates opened at 11 on the Saturday and the beautiful weather meant the outdoor food-court was a sociable place to wait for the main festival to open at 1. No beer available but the delicious Pressure Drop Cardamom Orange Porter ice cream from Blu Top was a pretty appropriate pre-beer treat.

IMG_20170909_114420

Each brewery had listed between two and eight beers for the seven-hour session and being a bit of a nerd, I’d prioritised and highlighted my favourites the night before but this organisation went out the window when I realised only two would be available at any one time. There was the usual stampede at the start with beer geeks making a bee-line for current favourites; I joined the queue for Omnipollo, always a crowd-pleaser with their soft-serve machine and masters of all manner of pudding-inspired beers. As expected, the hot tip was Trillium who had a queue stretching the entire length of the largest hall and predictably Three Floyds also drew a crowd. However, possibly because it was hard to tell what was going to be on at any time and maybe because the session was so long, the silliness died down as the afternoon went on and there was barely any queue at Trillium when I visited for the immensely flavour-packed Miles Away Sour Wheat Ale.

With so many high ABV, super-rare beers on offer, there was a surprisingly low level of drunken unpleasantness. The seven hour session seemed the perfect length to try as many beers as I wanted at a sociable pace and have time to enjoy a proper lunch of a Louisiana Crawfish roll and Halloumi Fries. Chatting to beery friends from Instagram with an empty glass in hand, I wasn’t in a hurry to dash to the next bar – I think other festivals could learn from this. And the beer itself? A perfect selection across all the styles – I can’t say there was a bad one. Well, apart from the Brewdog Paradox Absinthe Barrel Aged edition but that may also have something to do with memories of too much cheap absinthe in my student years.

A massive thanks to the organisers and especially the volunteers who ran a super-slick operation and stayed smiling throughout. See you next year!

The beers I tried (as I remember…)

Stockholm Brewing Co – Fläder Saison

Lervig – Hazy Days DDH IPA

Wild Beer Co + Side Project Indigo (Rainbow Project Colab)

Mikkeller Brewing San Diego – Karaoke Knight Bourbon BA Trippel

 Buxton x Omnipollo – Blueberry Slab Cake Ice Cream

Basqueland – Imparable Pomelo w/grapefruit

Brekeriet – Purple Rain

Omnipollo x Buxton – Yellow Belly Sundae Bourbon Barrel Aged

Trillium – Miles Away Sour Wheat Ale

Partizan + New Belgium – West Fork Saison with spruce tips and experimental hop 522 (Rainbow Project Colab)

 Burning Sky + Three Floyds Burial Vault (Rainbow Project Colab)

Green Cheek Beer Co – Attack with Love Hazy IPA

Gueuzerie Tilquin – Experimental Fruit Series #1 Cassis Tilquin

Põhjala – Pime öö Islay BA Imperial Stout

Garage Project – Rebel Counry Jameson BA Strong Ale

Cellarmaker – Manhattan Barrel Vastness of Space Cocktail Barrel Aged Imperial Stout

Heretic – Peach Tartuffe Berliner Weisse

Heretic – Evil Cousin Double IPA

Alesong – Guava Berlinner Weisse

Brewdog – Single Barrel #1770 Paradox Absinthe

J Wakefield – Boutit Boutit Imperial Stout

The Lost Abbey – Cuvee de Tomme Blended Dark Strong Ale with Sour Cherries

Crooked Stave – Petit Sour Peach

Pizza Port – Party Pat Barrel Aged

 

 

#festive500 2016

I’ve always been a fan of Strava‘s virtual cycling challenges. It’s not just the woven ‘swimming badge’ they sometimes offer as a reward or the kudos from fellow Strava-ists. It’s the sense of being a part of something global and accepting the challenge to ride that bit further or higher or commit to riding on an arbitrary day not knowing what the weather will be or how you’ll be feeling. I’ve taken crazy detours to and from work to top up my distance for the Spring Classics badge and taken the train to London to meet with complete strangers (now friends) to ride the Women’s 100 in the pouring rain on treacherous pothole-ridden roads. Even on the challenges I’ve taken alone, I’ve never been truly alone. One of the beautiful things about this time we live in means we can browse social media using hashtags and connect with fellow cyclists around the world. OK the wind on that #braverthantheelements was truly heartbreaking but damn! Those ladies in Canada on skinny tires in the driving snow! Chapeau!

Ready to go

The Rapha Festive 500 has been on my to-do list for a while but in the nine years since I moved to Southampton, I spent the first eight Christmasses on planes, trains and busses, dashing around family and friends dispersed across York, Newcastle and Glasgow, with my little troupe of bicycles taking a well-earned rest back home. This year however, was a bit different. My partner and I ended up stuck in Southampton over the festive period but we decided to turn a bad situation into a golden opportunity and made the commitment to ride the Festive 500.

The Festive 500 is an annual event taking place over the eight days between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. There’s no rules, no organised mass-participation course – all you need to do is get on your bike and ride 500km (just over 310 miles) during that period. Not a big ask in terms of distance but this is the time of year when everyone’s at their busiest and there’s the added risk of storms, floods and ice to contend with for those super-tough cyclists in countries where it’s actually winter. Lucky for us, since we would be visiting family in the New Year instead of over

All smiles on an exceptionally warm Christmas Day!

Christmas, we had little in the way of commitments. Out of the eight days, I would only be working two and although Storm Barbara threatened to blow our chances away it amounted to little more than a bit of wind on the first day.

The first ride filled us with confidence; although the wind was high enough to make some descents feel like an uphill struggle, it was relatively warm for December and we managed to get 129km in the bag straight away. By the end of day four, we had 411km under our belts and we were pretty confident. I had to go to work for two days but we still had December 30th and 31st to get those last 89km. That Festive 500 badge was pretty much a dead cert. Then winter arrived.

Is there anyone there?

Below-freezing temperatures overnight before our penultimate day had left a blanket of fog so thick visibility was limited to a matter of metres. No worries – the weather forecast predicted it would be gone by midday so we waited. And waited. And checked the forecast again. The forecast had changed – the fog wouldn’t actually lift until 16:00! In that case, we were left with one option. We had already agreed that riding the winding roads of the New Forest would be an accident waiting to happen so begrudgingly we made our way to the local park, riding laps and desperately trying to avoid the dogs and children weaving across the paths on their shiney Christmas bikes until the fog miraculously began to lift. Our confidence grew and we were losing patience with the busy park so we finally decided that we were ready to risk getting out on some real roads. However, the temperature was dropping again and as we rode out from the city centre I began to develop a thin layer of frost and started to lose sensation in my hands until I could no longer operate the gears or brakes. Defeated, we had to call it a day and arrived back home with only 62km to go and one day to do it. Having initially thought 500km  over an unusually warm Christmas period would be easy, I was reminded what a fickle beast the British weather can be and how seasons can change overnight and knock all your plans sideways in one swipe.

Wrapped in a duvet, only just able to grip my latte. Uh-oh.

New Years Eve had come around all too quickly and whilst things had gone so well in the first half that I had visions of triumphantly finishing on 600km+, things were suddenly starting to look uncertain. With another severe weather warning for fog in effect until at least 10am, we kept ourselves busy at the supermarket before embarking on the last leg. Things were looking good – visibility was already improving by 09:30. Hurrying home to get changed, we were feeling pretty confident. Until the fog started to roll in again. So close to our goal, there was no question that we would bail now so armed with our best lights we set out for our last ride of the Festive 500. We thought our worst fears had come true as we rode further and further out of town and the fog once more enveloped everything around us, leaving us with only 10 meters of good visibility ahead. Mentally calculating loops in the more sheltered suburbs of Southampton as a last resort, we rode on in the murk but once we reached the shelter of the New Forest, the fog began to clear and suddenly the forest was beautiful. The battleship grey of the sky with rays of light desperately punching through, skeletal trees in silhouette, verdant fields contrasted with the gold of the last fallen leaves of autumn. This is why we ride in winter and in those final kms the sun bathed everything in a golden light and reminded me what I love about this time of year.

MADE IT! And the sun came out for us!
MADE IT! And the sun came out for us!

I started the Festive 500 feeling cocky. With an unseasonably temperate short-term forecast and six days ahead of me to ride 500km, I wondered if it would even feel like much of a challenge. When the weather changed after my two days back in the office, I suddenly realised that it wasn’t a dead cert at all. 500km in six days isn’t a challenge for me but getting through the changing British weather unscathed and riding even when I would normally think I’d rather not – that’s the challenge. Although it will probably be business as usual next Christmas and my bikes will be enjoying a break, I’m proud of my achievement this year and would gladly do it all again.

 

Celebrating beer in Copenhagen

It’s been a while since CBC and a lot has happened since then which has taken my attention away from writing this blog post. I actually started writing it soon after I returned from Denmark in May! I’ve devoted a lot of my time to training for my longest cycle-ride ever and decided to have a total career change which took a lot of procrastinating, research, debate etc.  I almost canned this blog post altogether but that would have been silly – I had written most of it before I got distracted by other things and I really wanted to share with you my thoughts on what I think has been the best CBC so far and some of the great new food and drink happening around Copenhagen. I hope you enjoy and maybe if you’re thinking of heading out there for CBC 2017 I can convince you and I’ll see you there!


It’s Tuesday May 10th and I’m on the 17:13 to Gatwick. ‘I’m beginning to regret bringing this beer’ says my long-suffering boyfriend. ‘Why?’ I ask. He replies with a serious tone ‘It’s fecking awesome but it’s going to break me.’ And so the journey to the fifth annual Copenhagen Beer Celebration begins. The beer in question? A rather exquisite 2014 Melange no.3 (16.9% ABV)from The Bruery. It had been on the shelf long enough; better to drink it now before the sheer volume of beer rarities and curiosities spoils our tastebuds once more. Bursting with dark fruits, this blend of Black Tuesday, White Oak Sap and Anniversary was aged on bourbon barrels to deliver a spicy vanilla loveliness. Perfect to take a while over on the Southampton to Gatwick train via Banham, possibly the stoppingest railway service in the entire UK, even the world. We weren’t in a hurry since we’d be flying the next day.

Landing in Copenhagen felt all too familiar. As a newcomer to craft beer five or six years ago, Mikkeller was one of my early discoveries; my first ever trip to The Cask was by chance on the same day as the Mikkeller Black tap takeover, with the keg lines given over to a selection of iterations of the Black series I have not since seen equaled. One sip of the tequila barrel-aged version was all it took and the Danish brewer had captivated yet another fan. Fast-forward to 2016 and I’m touching down for my third Copenhagen Beer Celebration and possibly fifth or sixth visit to Copenhagen (I’m starting to lose count).

IMG_20160513_151813

Since my first visit in 2013, CBC has grown almost at pace with the growth of Mikkeller’s empire in the city. 2016 was the first year in the new venue of the Øksnehallen in Halmtorvet, an impressive former meat-market conveniently located a short walk from the central railway station and more importantly my hotel. Despite the larger venue, high demand from beer nerds across the globe means tickets are difficult to get hold of, selling out in minutes for some sessions. It’s no wonder; each session promises an entirely different selection from the world’s very best breweries and the ticket price includes as many samples as you can drink in the allotted time-slot.

As well as the bigger, better venue, 2016 also saw even more incredible events popping up across the city which would make it worthwhile to turn up even without tickets for the festival including a death metal concert, themed dinners and meet-the-brewer evenings.

Dark Lord Day

Sleep-deprived and fresh off the flight what better way to get into the spirit of CBC than a visit to the original Mikkeller bar on Viktoriagade where they just happened to be celebrating a Dark Lord Day of their own, hundreds of miles across the Atlantic from the original event in Munster Indianapolis. Three Floyds‘s Russian Imperial Stout has become legendary not only for its huge flavors and expertly barrel-aged variations, but also for being a notorious pain in the arse to get hold of. It’s only available once a year at a festival held at the brewery and tickets sell out well in advance. This year, the ticket price included four bottles of the standard Dark Lord 2016 and only one of the barrel aged rarities. The opportunity to try four versions in Copenhagen was an opportunity that surely would have made aficionados back home weep then.

IMG_20160511_121555

Dark Lord – not a bad start to CBC week

At 150DKK for a third and 15% ABV, this was going to be one to savor but I just about justified the cost by considering that the 50cl bottles start from 666DKK in Copenhagen and the only other option would be a slightly more pricey flight to Indianapolis. Between me and the boy, we managed to try all four. The base ‘Dark Lord 2016’ was an expertly executed imperial stout with a background level of bitterness and a hint of tobacco. Of the special editions, the stand-out for me was ‘Quit Hitting Yourself’ which had been aged in Porto and Madeira barrels and had a super-sweet, rich fruitcake flavor with a hint of peach. ‘Ronaldo,’ aged in Madeira barrels with tart Michigan cherries, benefited from a sour spike whilst retaining the Madeira sweetness. For those with less of a sweet tooth, the muscat barrel aged ‘Dwarven Power Bottom’ had more of a cacao bitterness but was still so indulgent you could probably stand a spoon in it. If you go to CBC and wonder why the Three Floyds stand generally has a queue running the length of the hall, you have your answer here.

Hill Farmstead Day

As if Mikkeller hadn’t already spoiled us enough by bringing the legendary Dark Lord to Vesterbro, the very next day Warpigs, the BBQ mecca co-owned with Three Floyds, played host to Hill Farmstead. Another unmissable event; normally the only way to get hold of this brewery’s world-famous beers is to go to their brewery in Vermont. This one had even more of a crazy buzz than Dark Lord Day. We arrived 20 minutes early and the queue was already an hour long! Creeping forward in the queue, slowly, slowly, it started to become apparent that this was not going to be a case of choosing from a carefully curated selection of five or ten. Between the main bar and the fire engine serving outside, there had to be a choice of 40 or more. We frantically started to search Rate Beer for advice but it seemed there was no sensible way to choose. They consistently produce excellent beer and scores are generally in the high 90s. The only way to do it was to choose the ones with the best names and buy a lot of them – there was no way we were queuing for another hour! Sadly my Untappd history doesn’t reveal what I actually tried and there’s way too many to remember but the stand-outs that I do recall were the abundantly chocolaty stout Beyond Good and Evil and the slightly spiced vanilla porter Twilight of the Idols, both chosen for their names which are an homage to mustachioed philosopher Friedrich Niezsche.

Copenhagen – beyond CBC

Over the years we’ve been coming back to Copenhagen, despite it already being one of the most awesome cities on the planet, we just keep finding new things! Whether or not you visit for the festival, here’s just some of my favorite places you can visit all year round:

The Mikkeller Empire

Ramen To Biiru Vesterbro

Ramen To Biiru Vesterbro

The next time somebody comes back from Copenhagen showing off about all the lovely Carlsberg they had at the brewery and telling me what a great place Denmark is for beer because of it and ‘no I didn’t see…Mikkeller…what’s that?,’ I may actually have to kick them so hard they go flying all the way back. How can anyone say ‘I love beer/I had so much beer in Copenhagen/isn’t Copenhagen great for beer’ and not at least have one Mikkeller beer?! OK, when I first made the trip back in 2013 there was only the original snug little premises on Viktoriagade and Mikkeller & Friends out at Stefansgade but in only three years they’re almost as ubiquitous as 7-elevens! The theme throughout the Mikkeller empire is still excellent beer but recent ventures have included a stand-alone bottle shop in Torvehallerne, ramen bars, a cocktail bar, fine dining at Øl & Brød, messy meaty dining at Warpigs and even a bar dedicated to Belgian Lambics.

Dat ramen tho

Dat ramen tho

If like me you’re a fan of Tonkotsu and Bone Daddies, Ramen to Biiru is simply a must-visit. Although both branches are fairly new, the dark furnishing and red neon lights add a ‘been-there-forever’ cosyness. Place your order on the friendly machine by the door and take your ticket to the till to pay – no chance of misunderstandings or that heart-sinking moment when you realize the waitress didn’t hear your request for 3 extra eggs. As is the case for all great ramen bars, the broth is unique to the chain and the recipe is a closely-guarded secret, but it’s rich and delicious and extra awesome if you order the yuzu special that’s frequently on the menu. Whatever you choose, you’ll get amazingly springy noodles and you can even choose the level of spice. As expected, there’s plenty of exciting beer to choose from including a light yuzu beer that comes in a frozen tankard.

Mikropolis is the answer to a painful dilemma which many of us will have suffered; beer or cocktails? So many arguments over where to go next on a night out could be avoided if there was one of these in every town. This joint effort between Mikkeller and To Øl is a cozy haven with 10 ever-changing beer taps, an expertly curated bottle selection and a choice of ten delicious cocktails, some of which come and go with the seasons. Expect unexpected ingredients including combinations using beer as a mixer presented exquisitely with fresh garnishes. Don’t expect the average Pina Colada or Sex on the Beach because you won’t find them here. Chin chin!

Himmeriget

Himmeriget

Himmeriget

In an understated old florist’s shop on Frederiksberg, nestled beside the chic Avenue Hotel, you will find an unmissable but easy to miss bar owned by Mikkeller’s Evil Twin, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø. This little gem retains the green tiles and is decorated with leafy house-plants here and there as a reminder of the unit’s former-life but instead of paper and florist-wire you will now see behind the counter ten ever-changing taps of incredible beer. Choose wisely because you’re really going to want to have a good long sit-down with the best bottle list you have probably ever seen. In fact, make sure you go with friends – you’ll probably not want to stop at one so it’s a good idea to have people to share with. Although Copenhagen can have a reputation for being expensive, the prices at Himmeriget are pretty keen and especially so considering the rarity of some of the bottles on the menu. We were excited to finally track down Prairie‘s Coolship Truck, a wild collab with Evil Twin that was made with the help of a mash-tun driven around on a pickup truck and was limited to only 800 bottles. As a barrel-age-everything kind of girl, I was also super-stoked to get to try the Pappy Van Winkle editions of Evil Twin’s Imperial Biscotti Break and Even More Jesus. If all that gets too much you are more than welcome to order a pizza to be delivered from the friendly local pizzeria.

Papirøen

Papirøen

Papirøen

Ever looked across the water from the The Royal Danish Playhouse and wondered why exactly are hundreds of people gathered around outside a scruffy old warehouse every day? Known as Papirøen (Paper Island), this one-time paper store now houses Copenhagen Street Food, a collection of 35 food outlets and bars serving exceptional food from around the world at ridiculously keen prices. Having spent the morning sight-seeing, we arrived hungry just before opening at 12pm but as we approached the building we thought we’d made a mistake. Some of the stands were setting up but where were the customers? Then suddenly from out of nowhere the whole of Copenhagen started to show up, filling every spare bench and deckchair and ledge with lively conversation and laughter. The space lends itself to sociable dining; tables are communal and the atmosphere’s informal with DJs playing upbeat music. They get sunlight from 11am to sunset so it’s no wonder their outside area is so popular during the summer months. It was difficult to choose just one thing but having spent a large portion of the trip drinking beer I was keen to eat something nutritious and wholesome. I was glad I picked a braised beef egg-roll from Brass. It’s a bit like a burrito but full of amazing meat, raw veg and sauce and instead of a tortilla the wrap is a thin egg omelette studded with onion seeds. I’ve literally become obsessed with perfecting the technique to make them at home. There’s also several cheesesteak outlets serving some of the best sweet potato fries I’ve tasted outside of Canada, sushi, Mexican, smørrebrød, burgers, vegan. It’s definitely somewhere you’ll want to go back to and now that the new Inderhavnsbroen bridge is finally open the trip is even shorter.

Torvehallerne

Seriously delicious tacos

Seriously delicious tacos

Being a bit of a caffeine-head, I made myself familiar with this temple of international foodie delights that is Torvehallerne on my first visit to CPH to visit the renowned Coffee Collective for a much-needed wake-up after the indulgence of CBC. It’s not a place you can just stop for coffee though; this indoor super market containing no less than sixty food and drink stands needs to be explored. Here, you will find traditional Danish produce such as the porridge bar Grod alongside innovative healthy food at PALEO and international delights from just about every corner of the world. If you love to cook and you’ve booked into a standard hotel, you’ll regret not having access to a kitchen when you see the beautiful fresh produce including hard-to-find ingredients from overseas. Make sure you don’t miss the food carts outside or you’ll miss Hija de Sanchez, the Mexican stand responsible for possibly the best tacos you will ever eat. The owner Rosio Sanchez was previously a pastry chef at Noma and the place had been highly recommended by Grand Tour Cookbook chef Hannah Grant when we met her in London. Recommendations or not, I challenge you to walk past and smell that masa without stopping for a snack. The seasonal menu changes daily but there’s normally three small dishes to choose from. While you wait for your order, it’s not too far to pop back inside to pick up a beer at the Mikkeller & Friends bottle shop, then enjoy at one of the picnic tables outside. Perfect.

Brus

IMAG0714The new concept beer-and-food-lovers-paradise from To Øl puts some of the best things in life under one roof and it celebrated its launch during CBC week. The beautiful old iron foundry and locomotive factory has been converted to a bar, restaurant, brewery and general store so you can even take home exceptional beer and ingredients. Flowing from the 33 taps you will find a combination of beers from To Øl, Mikkeller and a whole host of friends as well as house-made sodas and Mikkropolis cocktails. The restaurant is already developing a reputation as one of the best in Copenhagen; I found myself wishing I hadn’t had a hotel breakfast after all when I met with friends for the ‘Hangover Brunch’ and enviously eyed up some of the best eggs and avocado I’ve seen whilst sipping on my Bloody Mary.


My CBC beer list

In case you were interested, here’s the list of what I tried at CBC 2016

Blue session

7venth Sun – Sebastian’s Saint Sunwhere (collab with Freigeist and Saint Sunwhere) Brett saison with peppercorn & grapefruit 7%

7venth Sun – Rum BA Mangrove – double IPA 10%

All In – I Milk your Drinkshake (collab with Loc) – milkshake IPA 6%

Arizona Wilderness – American Presidential Stout BA – Russian imperial stout 11%

Arizona Wilderness – Barley Wine 9.8%

Boxing Cat – Bare Knuckle Barleywine – BA Cognac 13.2%

Casita – Sopresa – Sour wild ale 4.5%

Casita – Bebe Me – Ale with orange, lavender and chamomile 5%

Cigar City – Good Gourd Almighty – BA Bourbon Imperial Pumpkin Ale 9.4%

Crooked Stave – Persica – Golden sour with peaches 6&

Cycle – Wednesday – Cognac BA Stout with cinnamon and hazelnut 10.5%

Det Lille Bryggeri – The Stay Puft – Imperial stout with marshmallows, coconut, chocolate and seasalt 13%

Faction – NYX – BA imperial stout 12%

Fonta Flora – Razzmatazz – Appelation wild ale with raspberries 5.9%

Ghost Brewing – Black Magic Vanilla Sky – Imperial stout 11.5%

Hoppin Frog – Infusion A – Peanut butter chocolate coffee porter 6.2%

Jackie O’s – Dark Apparition – BA Bourbon Russian imperial stout 11.5%

Jackie O’s – Dark Apparition – BA Bourbon Russian imperial stout conditioned on vanilla and coffee beans 11.5%

Modern Times – Monsters Park – BA Bourbon stout with coffee 13%

Omnipollo – Anagram (collab with Dugges) – Blueberry cheesecake stout topped with soft-serve 12%

Sahtipaja – Babushka Maria Ay Caramba – Imperial stout 12%

Surly – Nein – Dark smoked hefeweizen 10%

Tired Hands – Lemmynade – Oak fermented lemon saison 5.8%

Westbrook – Lemon Coconut Weisse Weisse Baby – Berliner weisse 3%

Green session

7venth Sun – Yule Shoot Your Eye Out (collab with Point Ybel) – Brett saison with spruce tips, orange zest and cranberry 5.8%

7venth Sun – Red D’or – Raspberry belgian golden 7.9%

All In – Hustle – Hazelnut imperial stout 9.8%

Arizona Wilderness – Superstition – Oatmeal coffee stout 6.5%

Boneyard – Suge Knife – Imperial stout 13%

Boxing Cat – Thrilla in Manilla – Fruited Berliner weisse 3.7%

Brewski – Buen Coco Para El Papa Vale – Russian imperial stout 12.5%

Buxton – Blue Wolf – Black sour with blueberries and blackberries 4.2%

Cigar City – Cubana Espresso – Brown ale with coffee, chocolate and vanilla 5.5%

Crooked Stave – Salvador Cybies – Dark sour ale with cherries 9%

Cycle – Tuesday – Maple cinnamon coffee imperial stout (ABV unknown)

Det Lille Bryggeri – Humlemord 13 Hops Kill – DIPA 9.4%

Gigantic – Ume Umai – Black rice with plum beer 7.5%

Jackie O’s – Turtle Fudge – BA bourbon imperial porter 11.5%

Lervig –  Blabaer Tonka Sur – sour ale with local organic blueberry juice and fruity Australian hops 7.8%

Magic Rock – Bearded Lady – BA desert imperial stout with cacao, vanilla and cinnamon 10.5%

Mikkeller – We Bleed Coffee – Blend of three coffee stouts made with coffee from Dark Matter, Coffee Collective and Koppi (ABV unknown)

Modern  Times – Aztec Mummy – Tequila barrel aged gose 5%

Omnipollo – Bianca Blueberry Lassi Gose topped with soft-serve 3.5%

Perennial – Abrazas – Imperial stout brewed with ancho chilies, cinnamon, vanilla beans and coco nibs 10%

Poppels – Double Oatmeal Stout Coffee Edition 10%

Side Project – Biere du Pays – Tart Missouri table beer 4%

Tired Hands – Motherboard Hovership – Imperial blueberry stout 12%

To Øl – Mr Orange – ESB style ale with grapefruits, tangerines and mandarins 7%

Westbrook – 2015 BA Mexican Coconut Cake – Imperial stout 11%