Craft Beer in Copenhagen
One of Europe’s most lauded craft brewers, and so a visit to Mikkeller Bar (Viktoriagade 8) is a must. Enter down a few steps into this cellar bar with it’s minimalistic white walled interior, mis-matched furniture, and candles. You’ll see the beers on tap listed on a blackboard, described in the bar’s own leaflet as ’20 taps from Mikkeller and the best breweries in the world’, and who could wish for anything better?
Before launching into the Mikkeller selection, I tried a couple from Danish micro Vesterbro. Vesterbro Wit was a hazy golden take on the Belgian wheat style, with a lingering herbaceous hoppy aftertaste. Even better, Vesterbro Pale Ale (6.5% abv) was a hazy amber Citra hop classic, with a passionfruit palate and a Citra bitter finish that lasted and lasted. Excellent.
I’ve read an interview with Mikkel, where he explains his philosophy. By hiring other peoples breweries in which to brew his beers (chiefly in Belgium, I believe), he doesn’t have a big bank loan to pay back on his own brewery. So Mikkel can avoid brewing ‘safe’ beers with mass appeal, allowing him to experiment and to push some brewing boundaries. A perfect illustration of this is Mikkeller Rauch Pils. A dark gold proper pils with a clean taste and good bitterness, but with an assertive smokiness from aroma to finish. Surprisingly balanced and drinkable! Mikkel brewed his Mikkeller 1000 IBU to show the world what a beer is like if you add far too many hops! Dark copper, with, unsurprisingly, a big hop aroma. There is a big, big taste – some sweetness – but mainly just huge aromatic hop bitterness. As expected, the hop finish just lasts and lasts. Another memorable beer that stimulates you to evaluate what’s in your glass. I finished off with the excellent Mikkeller Saison Solstice (6% abv), reddish copper with an orangey hop aroma, and a refreshing fruity hop flavour.
Just around the corner from Mikkeller Bar is the beer shop Ølbutikken (Istedgadde 44). The beer selection isn’t the largest, but is exceedingly well chosen. There’s one table near the door, where you can sit, relax and sample anything from the shop for a small supplement.
Black Swan (Borgergade 93)
Hidden away a good ten minutes walk from the city centre, but well worth the trek, the Black Swan is a local’s corner bar. It serves a rotating selection of ten Danish micros on tap, as well as a Lithuanian Weizen (Svyturys), and a Belgian Wit. The bottled selection includes brews from Belgium and the USA.
Look in through the arched windows with their fairy lights, and you’ll see a warm Scandinavian interior, with beautiful framed photos, and candles on every table. (Infact all pubs in Copenhagen have candles on the tables, it might be some kind of local licensing requirement!). Us Brits will feel at home, since the Danish owner is a Stoke City fan (I never did find out why) and the barman when we visited was from Newport, South Wales.
In the name of research I tried some of the Danish draughts. Ugly Duck’s Nelson Sauvin was very good, and properly exhibited its single hop character. Beer Here’s Karma Citra was a dark brown brew, with a most pleasing passionfruit flavour from my favourite hop variety. To finish the evening, what better than a glass of Beer Here’s Milk Stout? Dark and not too sweet, the enjoyably roasty flavour lasted long after the last swallow.
We enquired about food, and my Welsh chum directed me over the road to the King Tut takeaway, suggesting that I bring it back to eat in the bar. Pizza and kebab ordered, the King Tut staff, bless them, said ‘go back to the pub, and we’ll deliver it to your table’.
Other Bars and Beers that we Loved
My pre-tour interweb research suggested that the Bishops Arms (Ny Østergade 14) was ‘just a chain pub’ or some kind of ‘Scandinavian Wetherspoons’. Well ok, it is part of a Scandinavian pub group. And it is a kind of open-plan imitation UK pub with its wood panelling and plate rack, tiffany light shades and picture of Queen Elizabeth II, BUT the beer selection is excellent. You can choose from about 200 beers, including eight on handpump and twenty more on tap. The draught offerings are multinational with many unusual brews and, during my visit, two from Mikkeller. The display fridges are packed with bottles, I spotted Cantillon and Left Hand amongst many that I didn’t have time to try. They also stock 400 whiskies!
Charlie’s Bar (Pilestræde 33) is a small, narrow beer temple. The main attraction is the guest ales from the UK on handpump – these included Fuller’s Vintage Ale and a couple from Thornbridge – and every spare inch of wall space is filled with pump clips. The keg selection included Dublin micro Porterhouse, St Georges Kellerbier and the local Hancock’s Pils.
Near to the gates of the Tivoli gardens is the brewpub Apollo (Vesterbrogade 3). The gleaming coppers are proudly on view, and the conservatory-style walls and ceiling give a light and airy ambience. The two permanent beers numbered a dark gold Pilsener (4.6% abv) with a good balance of malt and hops, and a 6.0% abv IPA. The two specials were Amarillo Pale Ale (5.6% abv) which was amber and bitter. Since it was early in the day, I didn’t have the fortitude to try the 9.4% abv Øresundsporter anno 2013, which is a pity!
I like a bar with a strong theme to their beer selection, and found it at Lord Nelson (Hyskenstræde 9). All 14 taps, plus the small bottle selection, are from Danish micros. The bar itself is low ceilinged, candle-lit (of course), and populated by ‘alternative’ types. I tried the superbly hoppy Amager Kåååd (6% abv).
Over the water in the Christianshavn area of the city, lies its oldest pub, Rabes Have (Langebrogade 8) c1632. A little unpromising from the outside, but persevere and you’ll be rewarded with a lovely old interior, with roses and candles on the tables. The taps are nothing more than the ‘usual suspects’, but bottles from Amager are the reward for those who look a little closer.
Call me ‘a sucker for a tourist trap’ if you must, but I couldn’t resist going to Vinstue 90 (Gammel Kongevej 90). The A-frame outside announced ‘Slow Beer Here’, and so it proved. They serve an unconditioned Carlsberg lager that foams so much that it takes around ten minutes to pour. While you wait, it is recommended that you try a different beer! When the Slow Beer finally arrives it is pale gold with a white ‘ice cream’ head protruding comically far above the glass. It tastes just like an uncarbonated Carlsberg lager which is, of course, what it is. The bar itself was smoky and full of locals, and the friendly and characterful licensee showed us to the atmospheric back room with its wall-mounted cases of knick-knacks. Candle-lit too, you’ll be surprised to hear.