Mikkeller & Friends, Copenhagen

Mikkeller & Friends
I’m a huge beer geek. Over the past 4 or 5 years hunting down craft beer has become one of the things I try to fit into every trip to a new place. Luckily in London it’s getting much easier to find the stuff. There are some truly top drawer craft beer bars popping up, serving the finest beers from around the world and it’s an exciting time for anyone looking to explore what beer has to offer beyond Stella, Guinness and their like.

Outside of the US, where the scene is decades older than our own, top of my craft beer places to go list for some time has been Copenhagen, and the Mikkeller bar in Vesterbro specifically. Owner and renowned brewer Mikkel Borg Bjergsø has been making boundary-pushing beers under the Mikkeller name for about 8 years now, often collaborating with other notable brewers around the world and exporting his creations to more than 40 countries. His bar has become something of a mecca for beer freaks passing through Europe (or indeed making a special pilgrimage) and one look at the outstanding tap list and rare bottle list is enough to see why.

I’d heard he was opening a new, much bigger bar called Mikkeller & Friends down the road from the existing bar, with a whopping 40 taps, and an adjoining bottle shop, but I figured I’d have to just get there when I could at some unknown, possibly non-existent point in the future. It was the nicest of surprises then when on the last day of our holiday in Berlin recently the wife let it slip that we’d be going to the new bar’s opening party the following weekend as a special birthday treat, sans child and with everything paid for already (apart from the bar tab).  Cue that Christmas Eve when you’re 6 feeling…

A couple of days before the opening of what promised to be one of the World’s best craft beer bars, the on tap list was announced on the Mikkeller website, and it was the stuff that a beer geek’s dreams are made of, boasting among other things Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial  Stout aged in bourbon barrels with vanilla beans and Westvleteren XII, two of the world’s most sought after brews, both of which are generally unavailable outside of their respective breweries in Munster, Indiana and Belgium respectively, unless you’re willing to part with serious cash on eBay. Coupled with that came the news that the bar would be offering 1000 litres of its regular house beers for free once the doors were open, and when that was gone they’d be serving the crazy stuff until closing time.  With 1500+ people saying they would be attending on Facebook it became abundantly clear that this was going to be some party.

We turned up an hour or so before the scheduled opening time of 3pm to find about 40 or 50 people already queuing outside the basement bar in the bitter cold with a palpable buzz building. I’d experienced this kind of queue at plenty of gigs before, but this was definitely a first. Opening time eventually arrived and the throng poured in. By some miracle we got seats, picking up some free beer from the bar on the way. The place is very open, but cosy with a clean and sophisticated Scandinavian feel, lots of light wooden furniture and shiny turquoise floors.

Free beer is always nice, and the three different brews on offer all slipped down very nicely, warming up the crowd like a support act before the headliner (the insanely brilliant list of amazing beer) came on. The Nørrebro Wit was the best of the bunch, with a classic wheaty citrus flavour and a little bit of bitterness, balancing nicely with honey sweetness.

Mikkeller

We got chatting to some Aussie law students studying in Copenhagen and after a couple of free beers the bar started serving all the rare and hard to find stuff and people started to swarm. Battling my way through to the bar, there was a bit of a crush going on, and I realised that the level of beer geekery I was immersed in was higher than I had ever experienced. This was beer mania. I felt like a loser for half a second before hearing a guy next to me order 4 measures of Dark Lord. At 150dk for 20cl (getting on for £20) that was an expensive round even by Danish standards, and he was clearly taking things at least as seriously as me.

And then it was my turn. It felt a bit surreal ordering a Dark Lord, like finding a copy of The Quarrymen acetate and having the money on me to buy it, but I went for it, along with a Zombie Dust American Pale Ale (also from the Three Floyds brewery) and Mikkeller’s Spontandoubleblueberry lambic fruit beer. The Dark Lord was poured first and popping my schnozz in the top of the glass to get a whiff of what was going on in there was a truly memorable experience. The powerful vanilla and bourbon aromas immediately blew me away, and were complimented with a strong hit of espresso. Chatting to the guy next to me as the barman poured the rest of my order, I let him have a noseful as well and it seemed to have the same effect on him.

Back at our table I was more than ready for a taste of this much revered drop of thick black stuff, and if I’ve built this up too much it’s because the sampling of this beer was a real event for me. With the wife and the Aussies all having had a quick sniff I took a big sip, and my word what a beer it is. It’s like a dessert and a coffee rolled into one (and a beer obviously), really rich and viscous, with the vanilla even stronger than I expected, and the 14% alcohol not noticeable at all, making it dangerously drinkable for such a strong beer. It has all the classic imperial stout flavours: coffee, chocolate, roasted malts, and dark fruits, but with a nice sweet vanilla and burnt sugar note, a bit of bourbon, and a slight sour note in the finish (possibly from the barrel aging). I’m a big believer that the best things in life are meant to be shared and I must have let 4 or 5 people have a sip. It was a good conversation starter: “here, have a taste of one of the best beers in the world”. Well you’d talk to someone who said that too, right?

Whilst Dark Lord was the best beer we had there, the selection on offer was impeccable. The Spontandoubleblueberry was refreshing and bursting with blueberry flavour and that tartness you get with lambics. We also sampled a lychee version which was absolutely delicious, along with Daybreak, an Imperial Stout brewed by Mikkeller in collaboration with US brewery Hill Farmstead. Unfortunately Westvleteren XII, the number one rated beer in the world, never came on – which must have been a disappointment for some. It wasn’t pulling through the tap for some reason. Luckily a friend shared a bottle with me last year (thanks James) and they were selling it in bottles in the adjoining bottle shop for anyone desperate to try it.

Eventually of course when you’re drinking high strength beers you have to stop – too much of a good thing and all that. I had to have a quick look at the bottle shop before we left and I could have filled both of our suitcases with amazing beers that would prove very difficult to find in the UK. The beers in the bar and bottle shop aren’t cheap, but I came away with bottles of Three Floyds Alpha King and Zombie Dust for about £6.50 each, which is fairly reasonable given the distance they’d travelled and their rarity in Europe. We drank them in the apartment we rented for the weekend the following day and both were outstanding. As we left one of the staff handed us each a small glass of barley wine brewed by To Øl (another Danish brewery, with whom the bar is apparently a joint venture). He’d poured it from a giant Nebuchadnezzar bottle which I’d have struggled to lift I think. One for the road? Don’t mind if I do…

Back into the cold, where there were still plenty of revellers spilling onto the street, we stopped by the hot dog van parked outside only to discover they were serving hot dogs with condiments made with Mikkeller beers. I can’t say I could taste beer as I ate it, but the sausage was good and spicy and I’d gladly have polished off another. Nice touch.

kernel London Sour

By rights, the next morning should have been horrific, but a good night’s sleep and plenty of water before bed kept our hangovers to a minimum. We spent the day exploring and ate at Mother, which is something of a Copenhagen institution, serving great sourdough pizza and an Italian buffet brunch I’d recommend to anyone paying the city a visit. After a look around the Museum of Copenhagen and a nice walk by an icy canal, we ended up back in Mikkeller & Friends, and the vibe was entirely different to the previous evening, with just a few people there and the staff able to stop and chat. The guy I spoke to was friendly, knew his stuff about beer, and even remembered serving me the Dark Lord, asking what I’d thought of it and letting me know that they’d sold all they had of it within 40 minutes. Not surprising really, given its reputation and deliciousness. I tried a Kernel London Sour (only 2.3% – good hangover beer) with a dried gourmet sausage and cornichons, recommended by the barman and it all slipped down rather nicely, just as everything had the night before.

Mikkeller and To Øl have raised the bar with Mikkeller & Friends. I honestly can’t fault it. It’s a great place to go and enjoy the best that craft beer has to offer, and probably the best bar for beer I’ve ever been to. If only it were in London. Interestingly, there are rumours that Mikkeller will soon be joining forces with Brewdog (who already have several bars in the UK) to open a game-changing bar in Clerkenwell. With the fantastic Craft beer Co already offering a top notch craft beer experience in the same area, it could make Clerkenwell the best place to go for a beer in London. Exciting times indeed.

The Barras pub, Clonakilty

Pat, Tony, D and I decided to have a drive around the coast and found ourselves in the quaint town of Clonakilty. Of Clonakilty’s many pubs the most popular is The Barras which is famous for it’s live music events. Christy Moore, Noel Redding amongst others have played there. The pub is a full on traditional wood floor, low ceiling, real fire place with pictures of The Luisitania disaster and the Irish hero Michael Collins(probably Clonakilty’s most famous son) adorning the walls alongside musical instruments etc which create a great atmosphere. As with most pubs we found the place is a tardis, tiny entrance then thin and very long inside. As we were going out for dinner in the evening we shared a pizza between us and the obligatory Guinness’s. We will be going back next time we are across the water to get in some live entertainment. We all agreed that we need more proper pubs back home like The Barras.
Pat, Tony, G&D.

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The Beulah

Our local pub, The Beulah, has been closed for many, many months. I suspect it became a casualty of people staying at home to drink, the trend for people not wanting to drive too far and increased competition across the food and drink sector. In truth, the previous owners juts didn’t get it right – the food was so-so and even the beer and wine wasn’t even worth writing home (or even a blog) about. In this day and age if you don’t get the basics right, it’s game over.

So we were pleased to see it had re-opened, under brave new management, a few weeks ago. I say brave because I believe the hospitality trade is one of the hardest industries to make a living in these days. It’s always been tough and it’s even tougher these days. We’d heard good reports from other members of the Troffers (‘keeping it simple’ ‘generous portions’ etc) so we thought we’d have a wander on and were very pleasantly surprised.

Little cash had been spent on the fabric of the pub, although it was tidy and presentable. We know from Kendells that you don’t need to pour cash into the building initially, just get the food, drink and service right. First up was a very well kept pint of Landlord and those of you who are beer drinkers will know that’s no mean feat in itself. Secondly we ordered a couple of simple midweek dinners: I had a ribeye steak and J had a burger. Both arrived reasonably promptly on plates bursting with food – big salads and twice fried chips (oh yes) completed the picture. I have to say it was very agreeable and great value. The menu is entrepreneurially priced with 2 for £10 Sunday lunch deals and a free bottle of wine with 2 steak meals.

A second pint of Landlord had me thinking we should do this every week and no doubt by the third I’d have been coming every other night. I think it’s well worth all West leeds dwellers supporting this pub with excellent prices and good, solid pub grub on offer. I look forward to many repeat visits.

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List of stuff.

Aplogies for just a list but I am going to be a tad controversial……………………we need to make the site more interesting because it’s getting a bit like a food diary…………..

Memorable;

Breakfast at The Wolseley www.thewolseley.com

Fried haggis with duck egg the best breakfast I’ve ever had! Fantastic building with heritage, place to be seen, EXCELLENT SERVICE OLD STYLE. £20 head.

Gaucho,  Park Row, Leeds.

Guacho is a chain of upmarket Argentinian Steak Restaurants which have opened in Leeds. Loads of style, some money gone into this place!! Cow hide(Fresian) almost wall to wall. Got to say the starters were a tad disappointing

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but the steaks were just fabulous. Weights, cuts all brought to your table so you can choose before cooking………

There were 5 blokes so we chose a mixed selection of 6 different cuts. Sublime!!

We stook to a middle of the road Pinot Noir but must admit lots of it. However their selection of special Malbecs means I’ll have to go back for a sample with D(plus anyone else who fancies it).

£368 for 5 but with a choice of tip or not to tip it was mean of me just to add 10% as the service was the best I’ve experienced in Leeds ever!

 

The Star Inn, Harome.

Bank Holiday Sunday and D, Chester and I decided to go to the meet D’s sister Jane in Hutton Le Hole(they were on hol). Country walk and a pint at the village pub, best pint of Black Sheep in a long while. We then went to Sandsend walked the beach in the drizzle and decided the old dog was tired and wouldn’t mind a kip in the back of the car whilst we had a quick lunch at The Star… One of their new staff is an old aqcuantance from Pudsey so we were found a table  in the posh bit even though the place was rammed as usual, despite our protestations of being under dressed. 4 fab courses later which included the deli starter, 5 small portions from their own deli, monkfish for mains and an assiette which included a chocolate pot, rice pudding creme brulee, rhubarb sponge and a ginger ice cream..all delicious..a selection of 5 english cheeses to follow finished with coffee and a cognac fo D, it was getting dark so we set off back to Leeds with big smiles on our faces and Chester gently snoring in the back!

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Notable;

Cross Keys, Leeds.

Twice last month, once with my mate Andy and once with Luke. Great Pint the “Pint”. Pork Chops spot on and Fish and Chips perfect!

The Partridge, Kings Road, London.

Suppliers to Her Majesty no less. Super shop/deli/restaurant. Great to sit outside sip Chablis and watch the Sloanes!

The Terrace, Saltaire.

Best breakfast in West Yorkshire! D, Chester and I on a trip out to Ilkley stopped off. Sat outside on the main Bradford to Keighley road. Full English lots of toasts, brilliant!! Best still just £6.25 each.

Not notable;

Brasserie Blance, Soveriegn Street, Leeds.

D a and I were out with clients of mine. Food ok, company great, value ok. Enough said.

G.

Pin

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In Leeds there’s a local brewery that I think is taking the city by a very quiet storm. I first came across the Leeds Brewery in The Victoria or I think The Adelphi a year or so ago (it may be longer) with their excellent Leeds Best Bitter and their sublime Leeds Pale Ale.

Quite quickly, it seemed, they had a foothold in the competitive Leeds bar market with great bars/pubs The Midnight Bell, The Brewery Tap and Pin. Each place has its own ‘USP’-  apologies for the marketing terminology (unique selling proposition, if you’d like to know) – and they have firmly established themselves on the scene.

Good food and drink in cool surroundings seem to be the bare minimum and fair play to them I say. In Holbeck, The Midnight Bell does everything right and is part of a scene which includes The Cross Keys that helps to keep people down that part of town. The Brewery Tap is a bit odd, but it works. Huge plate glass windows aren’t conducive to a quiet drink in daylight hours at least.

That brings me to Pin. Tucked away on Dock Street, just around the corner from The Adelphi, it’s laid back and has something about it. I had lunch there today. Just a simple sandwich with a glass of Rose but the ambience and the quality of the food, drink and service made me want to spend more time in its modern/eclectic vibe.

I like the fact that these places take as much care with their food as they do with their beer. They deserve to be successful because there’s a care being taken with pretty much the whole operation that is sadly lacking in many of the city’s bars and restaurants.

But that’s OK, because I won’t be going there – I’ll be going to Pin, Midnight Bell and Brewery tap because at the end of the day, I like places that care about their customers and what they do.

The St Kew Inn. 17th Oct 2009

Departed from our usual entry to Cornwall via Rock and on Dawn’s recommendation went to the St Kew Inn for lunch. Great journey down in glorious sunshine, arrived at about 12.15p.m.Village looked impressive so our expectations were raised. We were not disappointed. Drinks outside to start with; Ale from the barrel for Tony , chilled Rattler for Tess, Guinness for Dawn and Pat.img_1593_1
Then to the restaurant for food. Only us in there to start but others followed.Main Courses included mussels with fries and crusty bread (not as good as Tony‘s, sauce( a bit lightweight.) Warm salad of ham hock with puy lentils and waxy potatoes (delicious), ham, two eggs and fries for Tess, and local ham with cheddar and apple chutney sandwich for Pat.
The desserts didn’t disappoint. Bread and butter pudding, plum and almond sponge with almond cream(light and tasty) and cheese platter for Tony. There was so much Tess had to share it with him. We will return, probably next July on our way down again. As an aside there was a massive umbrella in the gardens and we mean massive. We must return to see it up!
T & P , T & D.
 

A hood down Dales day out. 15th March 2009

The sun was playing out good style this moning so we decided that we should get Chester into the back of  the car, get the hood down, sunglasses on and set off. We decided to go over the moors past the Cow and Calf, scenic route to Burnsall. Burnsall was packed as everyone else must have decided to take advantage of  the glorious weather so we ended up at  The Craven Arms,  Appletreewick again.  Sat outside, G had a couple of pints of Hetton Pale ale(yummy), Roast beef  lunch was spot on. D decided on the Steak and Ale pie which was delicious(broke her Lent abstinence of alcohol but we decided it didn’t count…). Suitably fueled we walked along the riverside path to Burnsall, Chester was very brave and had a swim, guess what we ended up at another pub….yes, the Red Lion. We sat outside overlooking the river and D had tea, coffee and cognac  for G. The other diners meals looked pretty good. We strolled back to Appletreewick, it was still warm enough to drive to Betty’s in Ilkley with the hood down, a box of  fancies to take home for the kids.

Home to a fire in the garden(kids had had a BBQ), finished off  the day with a little nightcap. A beautiful day!!

G, D and Chester.

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