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).
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
The 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
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%
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%