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).

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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.

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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%

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The Revolution Is Now

As a leisure cyclist for 6 years and commuter for roughly three of those, I’m a relative newcomer to cycling as a

Never thought watching one woman ride round a track for an hour would be this engaging!

Never thought watching one woman ride round a track for an hour would be this engaging!

spectator sport. How exciting could it be? Of course, the success of Team GB at 2012 introduced cycling to a whole new audience and I was one of them. I was lucky enough to see the Olympic BMX finals, but it was the track that really got me hooked. During the BMX events spectators were allowed to use the bathrooms in the velodrome next door and this was the first time I’d actually seen a track in real life. It wasn’t the wall-of-death steep banking or the scale of the place that grabbed me. Walking in just days from so many Team GB golds it was the atmosphere and the memories of what I’d been following at every opportunity on the television (or sneaking glimpses at my desk). It was breathtaking and inspiring. The re-opening of the Lee Valley Velodrome in March 2013 means I am now only a short train-ride away from world-class events.

A regular event at the velodrome is the Revolution Series which features an elite championship for the men over the course of the series, sprint and endurance events for men and women and a ‘Hoy’s Future Stars’ competition for the junior hopefuls. There’s UCI Points up for grabs to add to the drama.

Lining up for the men's keirin. Max Levy (in the white) won both the race and best kit (I think anyway)

Lining up for the men’s keirin. Max Levy (in the white) won both the race and best kit (I think anyway)

The series takes place over 6 events hosted in Manchester, Glasgow and London. The Revolution attracts some pretty big names – Ed Clancy, Peter Kennaugh and Jack Bobridge to name a few although the girls have put on the most engaging performance lately. At stage one back in October I witnessed some incredible racing between two personal cycling heroines, Marianne Vos and Laura Trott. The most recent event was extra-extraordinary thanks to the awe-inspiring attempt at the hour record by Dame Sarah Storey. OK she didn’t quite get the overall record but she still came away with the Masters (senior) and UK records and I think we could all feel it when she finally got the opportunity to sit in a comfy chair and instead slumped lifeless to the ground. I haven’t witnessed such an electrifyingly enthusiastic crowd since I was at the Olympic Taekwondo when Jade Jones took gold.

Of course, I don’t go to the velodrome for the booze. Being a sports venue it’s got to please everyone but at least has a local pale and IPA from Meantime at £5 for a pint. Not badly priced in a venue but not a particularly flavorsome offering. I always look back to the first Revolution hosted there with fond memories, back when the beer was provided by Look Mum No Hands. Thankfully we’d made a stop at Bottle Dog for a few sneaky walking beers, one of which was Snakecharmer from local brewers One Mile End who, unlike Meantime, don’t seem to be afraid of chucking a few hops in. At a modest 5.7% ABV this was a flavor-packed juicy sweety with ultra fruity hops.

Of course, if you didn’t plan ahead there’s always the Tap East, resident craft beer haven in the soulless temple of consumerism that is Westfield. On the 6 cask and 10 keg taps you’re likely to find a number of dull crowd-pleasers for the broken-down shopper to toss down their parched gullet in an attempt to forget the apocalypse is happening around them. However you’re also likely to find at least one or two little gems. On the day we were there the best thing on the bar was Drink Me – Pimiento & Rosemary from the Scouser Mad Hatter Brewing Company which was an incredibly well-executed wit enriched with aromatic rosemary. It made me want a Sunday roast to eat with it even though I don’t really even do roasts. Yummy!

We definitely saved the best till last and the beer of the weekend was on the way back to the train at The Craft. Having missed the Wild Beer tap takeover the previous night, we headed in and to our delight there was still plenty left including the beer I was most excited about. As the girl who can clear a chip-shop-sized jar of gherkins in less than 48 hours, I had high hopes when I found out that one of my favorite breweries were making a beery tribute to my favorite snack and they did not disappoint. Cool as a Gherkin, at 2.9% ABV, is a beer I could happily drink all day and beyond but I’d be just as happy with a bourbon chaser on the side. Tangy, sour, dill gherkin deliciousness –  what a way to end an amazing weekend.

 

 

Ride for your beer!

It’s a Saturday morning. It’s dark and the torrential rain is beating at my window. I see the clock hands creeping around to 6am and try to ignore it but the alarm goes and I know it’s time for action. I peer out the blinds at the rain bouncing off the pavements and cars, convince myself that the day will only get better and somehow get myself and my long-suffering boyfriend fed and out the door to make the 07:33 train to Brighton. If you follow my Instagram, you may have been slightly confused that rather than posing with my usual weekend morning train beer I was clutching a bottle of choco-milk but I had a mission to fulfill with a promise of beer at the end because this was the day of the Spin Up In A Brewery.

Casks lined up to mark out bike parking

Casks lined up to mark out bike parking

In its third sell-out year, the Spin Up offers led rides from the heart of Brighton on or off the roads through the picturesque Sussex countryside to the Dark Star brewery in Partridge Green. Having looked at the weather reports I left my trusty mountain bike at home and headed to the Velo Cafe with my road bike. Getting an earlier train meant we somehow missed the ridiculously heavy downpour that started the moment we came through the door which meant we could enjoy a coffee and cake in dry clothes watching the apocalyptic weather, keeping everything crossed hoping it would clear up before the 11am start. Thankfully with about 15 minutes to spare the sun put in a welcome appearance which made for a very pleasant ride. The volunteers leading the rides were pretty awesome and didn’t leave anybody behind, stopping the group to make sure everyone had a chance to catch up at opportune moments like at the tops of climbs. The views were stunning once we got out of Brighton and the highlight was the most exhilarating descent I’ve ever encountered on the road over the whole one year I’ve actually been riding a road bike – it never seemed to end!

The leaders managed to get us all up to the brewery in just over 2 hours which gave everyone just enough time to park the bikes, grab a pint and get inside before the heavens opened again. Not so lucky were the mountain bikers who turned up covered in mud not very much later but with smiles on their faces having earned their complimentary pint!

Post-ride refreshment

Post-ride refreshment

The brewery itself had been transformed into a massive celebration of cycling and beer with disco lights twinkling off the shiny tanks and cheesy pop blaring out. The main event for me was the Roller Racing, courtesy of South Coast Sprints, which I suddenly decided was a good idea having declined the opportunity to compete every other time I’d encountered it. This time I was beer-fueled. It turns out maybe beer is performance-enhancing since, despite being surrounded by girls who looked like proper cyclists I somehow managed to hold onto 5th place (or at least that’s where I was at the time I left so there’s a chance somebody came along and bumped me further down the ranking). I’ve gotta say that rollers are totally addictive (seriously – they almost had to drag me off as I hadn’t realized when the race finished). If I’d had another chance, I kept telling myself, if I’d only done this thing differently, I could have finished higher but it wasn’t to be so I’ll be jumping on the bikes again at the next possible opportunity to chase that PB. As well as the roller racing, there was a dress-up photo booth, surprise giveaways from ultra-cool cycling label Morvelo and the LBS Rule 5, live music and so much amazing food from pit-master Andy Annat, Mr Bake and Pleb Pizza. Of course the 23 mile ride cancelled out any calories in the enormous rack of ribs and the white chocolate tiffin I devoured.

Getting ready to race!

Getting ready to race!

For £8 a ticket I can’t think of a better day out really. Dark Star has always been one of my favorite South Coast breweries and this was a great way to see where the magic happens in a non-standard-brewery-visit way. I was astonished by the generosity of the surprise goody-bag on exit containing a t-shirt, haribos, stickers and a delicious bottle of Belgian IPA which was greatfully consumed on the train home.I’ll definitely be back next year – I have a roller-racing record to break!

Stella tasting at beer geek paradise

Hello readers! After a massively long absence I’m back! I don’t quite know why but fitting in time to blog has been a massive challenge in recent months. Now that it’s almost summer, I guess this is where the fun starts and I’ll be updating my blog with more tales of beery adventures. The first big event for me was the Copenhagen Beer Celebration which showcases some of the very best breweries from around the world. As well as the two-day festival, the events during the weeks either side just keep getting better and better. The bars hosted tap takeovers, meet the brewer events and even a book launch. I took advantage of a rare opportunity to see where the magic happens and have a try of Stella 0-5 at Mikkeller HQ.
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We began (obviously) with Stella 0. Only 1300 hand numbered magnum bottles in total were produced for the Danish beer-festival back in 2009 and also as a tribute to Mikkel’s daughter. It is a mix between a barley wine, a double India pale ale and an American strong ale. The first thing to note about Stella 0 was the rich honey and malt in the aroma which meant the incredibly bitter hops were a bit of a surprise. The huge hops gave way to a very woody, mature finish with a hint off burnt caramel that was just enough to round it off without being too sweet.
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So following on from 0 came Stella 1 of which only 1170 bottles were ever produced, again for the Danish beer festival. Billed as an ‘imperial porter with a difference,’ I wondered what this ‘difference’ could be when I heard grumblings of a ‘wet dog’ aroma around the table. As the bottle made its way round to me I was inclined to agree. But what a beautiful beer – rich, dark brown with a thick tan head. Ignoring the ‘aroma,’ the flavor was all about the roasty dark malt. It actually had a bit of an alcoholic burn on the tongue with the sweetness all the way at the back.
Next came Stella 2 and our bottle was actually number 200 of a second bottling of only 200 magnums. It’s a sour aged on white wine barrels which I was kinda not thrilled about since I’ve not been that impressed by white wine barrel aging in general of late. This was the beer to change my mind. With a cutting sour, almost vinegar aroma, it was a real stark contrast to the richness of 2. The sour cranberry flavor was super sharp without being spikey and really deliciously fruity with a sweet finish. According to our guide it wasn’t this sour originally so I guess the time in the bottle has done it good.
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Next came the best of the lot and possibly one of my favorite beers of the weekend, Stella 3. What makes 3 the most awesome Stella of all is that they took the already exceptional Black aged it several times on Eagle Rare bourbon barrels (which also worked well for Texas Ranger). It was so incredible they could only produce 170 bottles making it the most limited edition of the series and it’s also had the longest barrel aging and has the highest ABV. It looked pretty hypnotically dark with a really really deep tan head and the amazing sweet bourbony, nutty aroma was drifting around the table before the bottle even reached me.  The alcohol was warming in the way that bourbon is but there was also the satisfyingly bitter hoppy ending. So smooth and well rounded by that gorgeous vanilla sweetness and bitter black cherries throughout.
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Stella 4 was another hugely dark beer with a massively indulgent foamy head and for me it came close second behind number 3. It’s a dreadfully decadent, chewy milk stout with a bready malt aroma and so much sweetness it’s almost sticky. Interestingly, this is the only milk stout by Mikkeller that has been barrel aged so far. Interesting because it turned out so damned good for sitting in those Grand Manier barrels for 6 months. Limited to 558 bottles, I’m so glad to have one of these sitting in the kitchen for a very special occasion!
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So, the last two were brand the brand new never-before-seen Stella 5, a stout with blackthorne and Polly, a sea-buckthorne stout, both limited to 800 bottles each. 5 was another beautifully dark beer but with a pretty thin head. A gorgeous color to look at with an unusual fruit aroma laced with Christmas spices and possibly a little roasted meat. Although the flavor was sweet and fruity with slight sour and spice, something bugged me about the weird meatiness. Unfortunately, Polly also had the same kind of flavor with the addition of sloes to dial up the fruitiness and the sour dialled up just a little more. Now me, I love a challenge. Was this a challenge too far? Maybe. Luckily our ever so lovely guide in this beer adventure was super-generous with the beer and half-finished bottles were being passed around for a long while after the official tasting – I even managed to sneak seconds of the super-rare 3. Thanks so much to Mikkeller HQ for opening your office to us beer geeks and introducing us to some cracking beers – I hope we get another chance to pop in next year!
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Beer Geek Paradise
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beer

Biere Here (at last!)

Having been born and raised in York, the UK’s very finest city for beery pubs and general great nights out, my current home town of Southampton has always been a hugely miserable let-down. If you follow my Instagram you’ll be more than familiar with my almost weekly escape armed with a good train beer to somewhere, anywhere that’s not Southampton. If you’ve ever been misfortune enough to witness the drab concrete wasteland of this godforsaken pit you may have been hard-pressed to find a decent drinking establishment. Even if you did, the chances of finding anything more exciting than a ‘well kept pint of Landlord‘ or some other uninspiring real ale are slim. Don’t get me wrong, there are some decent breweries emerging but they are a lot more scarce than in the North and pubs favor the big familiar names over smaller, more interesting brewers. That has been the story until now. But things have started to change…

The opening lineup

The opening lineup

On Friday I was lucky enough to witness the opening of Southampton’s very first micro pub, The Butcher’s Hook, quite possibly the most hotly anticipated new pub I have ever witnessed. Rumors that a small unit in Bitterne Park had been taken on by a pair of aspiring publicans seem to have started way back in autumn 2013 and progress on the re-fit has been slow and steady but my goodness – the wait has been worth it. Local beer enthusiasts Anthony Nicholls and Daniel Richardson have restored the one-time butchers’ shop to a miniature gem and I would say easily the best pub in town.

Following the warning on Twitter that it may get a little cozy, we arrived for the 6pm opening, made ourselves comfortable near to the stillage and watched the pub steadily fill up with real ale aficionados in their favorite vintage CAMRA shirts, hipsters and anyone else from the general area until there was a queue out the door! In the constant rush the proprietors remained charming and attentive as they darted back and forth from the stillage, serving beer to the punters right where they were sat or stood. Seating is communal (think Wagamama) which means you could even make a new friend and all the folk we ended up chatting to were just lovely.

When we say micro-pub here we mean really micro but somehow there were three cask and two keg beers

We drank it dry

Yes Southampton’s thirsty – we drank it dry in less than two days!

available along with a fantastically well-chosen selection of bottles. I was excited to see beer from two of my favorite Northern breweries, Hardknott and Magic Rock on tap for the first time ever in Southampton, It wasn’t all about the imports though and two of the most exciting new local breweries, Vibrant Forest and Dancing Man also had beer available. Spoilt for choice? Anthony and Daniel certainly seemed to know their beers and never seemed to run out of energy helping their customers choose. Oh and did I mention that they also have day-jobs? Initially they will only open all day on weekends then in the evening on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays but if demand continues at this rate I’ve no idea what the plan is. If the opening night was anything to go by, there is a thirst in Southampton for more interesting beer and they’ve certainly got something for everyone. We had such an awesome time on the Friday night that we were eager to return on Sunday until we saw the following tweet on Saturday: ‘We stillaged as much beer as we possibly could and you drank the whole lot.’ I don’t think these guys have anything to worry about except for keeping up with demand. I cannot wait to go back to see what they have on next.

Lucky for me, if we manage to clear the Butcher’s Hook out of beer again, there’s another ray of light on the beery landscape and it’s just round the

I wasn't shy with the pickles

I wasn’t shy with the pickles

corner from me! Among the clubs, takeaways and shops of London Road, a rather special little burger joint has appeared. Chalk Valley is the latest of a string of burger restaurants to open recently around here but what sets this one apart is that all of the meat is traceable and grass-fed and happy cows make happy meat. The pork and lamb are raised at proprietor Will Buckley’s farm near Stockbridge and the suppliers for most of the rest of the menu are proudly displayed on a chalk-board above the door. With so much care and attention put into creating an ethically and, where possible, locally sourced food offering, they clearly did not want to let the side down with the drinks so for their excellent organic beer selection they turned to northern favorites Sam Smiths! Yet another first for Southampton so at last I can go out and enjoy a bottle of Sam Smiths’ delicious cherry beer (an old favorite) with awesome food and (dare I say in case you all go and clean them out) ….unlimited pickles!

Bierebelle doesn’t have her head in the game

wpid-wp-1380728417789.jpgNo Game day beer last week.Or the week before. I apologize. There are many reasons for this.

1) I was far too busy mocking the other half about his beloved Miami Dolphins’ defeat at the hands of my New Orleans Saints

2) A game-day trip to Wembley for Vikings vs. Steelers meant I spent one Sunday evening on coca-cola (come on you wouldn’t drink Carlsberg at £4.70 a pint).

3) I went to Copenhagen for a few days.

Copenhagen more than made up for Wembley on the beer front. One in particular really stood out which you should really pounce on with all paws should it ever appear in a bar near you. Mikkeller Cù’t Cà Phê Bia Port  Barrel Aged, encountered at Mikkeller & Friends and ordered embarrassingly by the number of the tap it was on (you try pronouncing it). It smelled like everything good in the world. Port, brandy butter and a steaming cup of joe were evident in the sweet aroma of this deep black viscous beauty. I believe Nostalgia plays an important role in our tastes and although this is not a Christmas beer it embodies all my favorite flavors the festive season. Sticky Christmas pudding soaked in brandy sauce (by Birds,out of a carton, obviously) followed by the coffee creams nobody else wanted foraged from the bottom of the Quality Street tin. I’ve skipped the dinner and gone straight for pudding. Sticky lips and warm belly. Christmas is early.

Of course, since Copenhagen I realize the blog’s been a little quiet but I have also been to York and Manchester because I’m a very busy girl. More on Manchester later… Normal game-day service will be restored soon.

Pan-galactic wit?

Oort Cloud

Oort Cloud

Week three of the NFL season sees the Arizona Cardinals pay a visit to the New Orleans Superdome to face the mighty Saints. Unfortunately for my Gameday Beers series, getting some Arizona beer over in the UK has been pretty impossible so I had to think outside the box a little. This week I’ll be torn away from my game at half-time as I set out to the local theater to see a live performance of the awesome radio adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy so I figured instead of a game-related beer, I could get away with something a little different this week and go for the space-themed Belgian Wit, Oort Cloud (5.1%ABV) from relatively new brewery Rocket Science. Since I’ll be taking-off to the theater very shortly and I have one eye on the game, I’ll need to keep this blog brief.

Out of the bottle, it looks like a typical Wit, cloudy and golden yellow like a field of corn but it’s got a really fresh aroma with pine and grapefruit – very lively compared to some Wits I’ve had. The slight carbonation really opens up the banana sweetness combined with a slight hint of herbs and bitter lemon. It’s pretty light for the style but super-refreshing.