We recently took a trip over to Copenhagen for Mikkeller Beer Celebration. One of the most talked about beer festivals among beer heads, it’s been on our hit list for a few years now. The stars aligned and boom, we spent a couple of heady days in the Danish capital enjoying all that Mikkeller and some of the best breweries in the world had to offer.
The festival itself is held at the tail end of Mikkeller Beer Week, the preamble to the main event takes in a host of events around the city in various Mikkeller and associates’ venues. The main event is held over two days and four sessions of four hours each Friday and Saturday.
Below is a map of all the spots we highlighted to hit from bars (blue), restaurants (green), clubs, cafes and the festival site itself (yellow)
We flew into Copenhagen on a sunny Thursday afternoon and made our way to our Airbnb in the Nørrebro district, a trendy enough part of town populated with 20/30 somethings and on the day the footpaths were full of people basking in the sunshine (by the sounds of it, the first bit of good weather they had in a while).
Our first stop was a 5 min walk from base camp, Mikkeller & Friends and the adjoining Koelschip. The plan for the evening was simple, short stops in each venue and half pints and small plates in each spot.
They say the first one always tastes the best, so thankfully Jester King Brewery were doing a tap takeover in Koelschip, the part of the bar dedicated to spontaneously fermented beers. I went for the SPON Peach & Apricot and we sat in the sun with some local cheese and meat boards from the limited snack menu available in the bar.
Our second spot was a brisk walk south, past the cemetery to another Mikkeller joint, La Neta, their take on a Mexican Taqueria. A really cool aesthetic and colour scheme along with lively soundtrack made for a breezy stop for some tacos and a gluten free Weird Weather IPA from Mikkeller. Top spot.
Next up was another Danish heavy hitter in BRUS, the To Ol brewpub. BRUS is pretty massive and a short hop from La Neta in Nørrebro. 3 of the 4 sides of the building have ample outdoor seating for the tail end of the evening to enjoy the last bit of sunshine for the day. Inside the whiff of mashed grains gets you ready for some seriously fresh (straight from the tank) beer. I chose the NEed Wheat, a New England style wheat ale as we strolled around the inside taking in the set up of the brewing operation then mingled with many of the festival goers and BRUS seemed to be a big draw for the heads getting in to town for the festival the next morning.
A slight case of beer fatigue was starting to set in so we decided to go off-script and change things up by visiting a nice little underground cocktail bar called The Barking Dog to sip on some mezcal cocktails and burn the ear off the bartender talking shop.
After a little break in play and with the weather turning, we added some needed soakage in the form of sliders and headed off on our pilgrimage towards the meat packing district, stopping at a couple of notable spots on the way.
Our third Mikkeller bar of the day was next with a visit to Mikropolis for the famed Beer Geek Breakfast Stout by Mikkeller followed by Ørsted Ølbar for an excellently named Hippy Juice by Beer Here. Penultimate venue for day one was Warpigs, the brewpub and BBQ food joint owned by Mikkeller in the meat packing district. We arrived just before last call so we made sure we’d return the next day to sample the BBQ.
Our second day in Copenhagen revolved around the early session of MBCC from 10am to 2pm and after a slower start to the day we arrived at Øksnehallen, a large convention centre in the meat packing district. On arrival we got a small 5cl tasting glass and a map of the room where the bars were set up. 100 breweries were laid out in clusters around the massive room and each had two beers pouring per session. All beer was included in the price of the ticket which made it a free for all in terms of trying as many beers as possible.
Top of the agenda was Alchemist Brewery from Vermont, home of the New England style that has become so prevalent over the last two years over here. Famed for their highly sought after Heady Topper (the archetype of said style). Alas, Heady wasn’t available at this session so we decided to go for the next best thing in Focal Banger which lived up to the hype.
Over the proceeding two hours we ventured around the hall and tried a handful of beers and ciders. The festival organisers encouraged the attending breweries to bring their most “out there” creations and they certainly delivered. Oude Geuze Boon, a collab between Boon and Mikkeller was next, a very dry spontaneous fermented Geuze. Another firm favuorite in Kernel Brewery was a must and their Damson Saison was seriously refreshing.
After a brief food break in the sunshine of the courtyard enjoying an arepa, it was back to the grind. Visits to the stands hosted by Bellwoods Brewery of Toronto, Arizona Wilderness Brewing, Prairie Artisan Ales, TRVE Brewing Company and Slim Pickens Cider & Mead showed off an impressive range and proved that there’s really no other event in the world with such an impressive range of breweries and beers. The final sup was provided by Funk Factory Geuzeria and this one was the bees knees, a hazelnut milk stout packing a punch at over 9% ABV. Our race was run…
While being a great beer event, one could feel a little let down by the non-beer showing at the festival. The food options were pretty good and there was even a cheese stand with hop and coffee flavoured cheeses
There was even the option to get a tattoo, if you were that way inclined
But there was still a sense of the lack of entertainment, there was no music at all, no talks or educational elements. In general, not much craic beyond the chatter of what beers you were drinking at any given time. This was evident when, on a couple of occasions, a tasting glass was smashed and a roar from the crowd was let out. People needed something to shout about.
We wrapped up slightly early to beat the crowds down to Warpigs and get some much needed soakage. We didn’t manage to beat all the crowds, as there was still a 45 minute queue to get a tray of BBQ.
Beef rib, brisket, chicken wings along with mac & cheese, potato salad, pickles and some greens, big feed! Big price too….just shy of €90 for the tray, enough for 2 people to share, no drinks included! Following a bout of the meat sweats and general malaise, an afternoon break followed the walk home.
The evening of the second day we made plans to check off the remaining bars. First up was Himmeriget and their impressive draught and can selection, enjoyed on the bench out front and some people watching.
Our next venue was yet another Mikkeller spot, this time their take on a ramen bar; Ramen to Bíiru. A big bowl of ramen was washed down by their own Tiger Baby, purchased from a vending machine in the queue for food.
By this stage, the legs were weary and the adventure had neared an end. We bookended our trip in Mikkeller and Friends, our local and had a couple of nightcaps before we hit the hay for our flight the next day. The final sup came via Mikkeller in ‘Pineapple-ing Through Dimensions’, a farmhouse ale conditioned on pineapple puree.
Copenhagen is a beautiful, relatively small city with loads to do and high quality food and drink. MBCC is a must for any beer fan and can be a short two days or a full week if the funds stretch. It’s a pricey town, especially if you’re drinking the good stuff. The pint measure is 400ml and I paid just shy of €20 for the first 1/2 pint of Jester King. Not all beers were that much but every now and then, there was a sting. As mentioned above, the festival could do with some added fun elements beyond just a free for all of 4 hours of solid drinking.