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Posts Tagged ‘Mikkeller’

I got an invite to a beer launch in Oslo a few weeks ago, but I could not fit it in my schedule. I answered back that I’d be happy to try the beers anyway, and a week before Christmas I had two cans delivered at home.

The idea is simply to combine two Scandinavian brand names to get extra coverage for both. One of them has many decades of changing fortunes, the other a relative newcomer. Scandinavian Airlines used to be the pinnacle of sophistication ca 1963, while Mikkeller is a big worldwide hit ca 2015.

The airline asked the brewer to make two beers for the business class of their long distance flights. The result: Sky High Wit and Sky High Red Lager.

The beers are supposed to compensate for changes in how we experience food and drink on a plane. I cannot comment on that aspect, but I took the two cans along to our cabin in the mountains, 950 meters above sea level.

The wit is true to type, hazy yellow with a fluffy head. A refreshing beer with tones of citrus and flowers. Light body, easy to drink, should have a broad appeal.

The lager is more robust. It has a lovely deep red color and a beige head. A rich aroma with malt and spices. Full bodied, lots of flavor, including caramel, red currants and burned sugar. EVen if the flavor is a bit diminished in the air, there should be plenty left.

Very decent beers, I am not convinced that they should be reserved for the business class segment.

And if SAS were truly bold, they would throw out Carlsberg and ask Mikkeller to brew a house beer for all their flights.

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One of the legends of the European craft beer scene is Mike Murphy. He is an American with a home brewing background, and with an impeccable resume from Italy and Denmark he arrived in Stavanger five years ago. Lervig was established in 2003, and started brewing in 2005. They were stumbling a bit the first few years, and Mike had some serious quality issues to tackle when he took over in 2010. You can read more about Mike’s career at the Die by the BEER blog.

I had not met Mike before, so when Cafe Sara had a Lervig tasting this week, I was very happy to attend. The place was not as packed as the last time I was there, meaning there was more interaction between the public and the stage.

Mike took along James Goulding, who also works at Lervig, particularly with their beer festival.

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James and Mike

 
Lervig was built with a capacity to brew lagers on a scale to compete with Carlsberg in the regional market, and with the current production of 1.5 million liters they can still grow for a long time. Two thirds of the 1.5 million liters is craft beer, the rest lager beers.

We had a sample of several of their beers, including a pleasant Sorachi Ace Lager, showing that single hop beers does not need to be limited to IPAs.

Given Mike’s background and good network, they collaborate with a number of breweries. My own favourite is one they have made with Magic Rock – Rustique. An IPA with Brett, aged in Chardonnay barrels.

During his days in Denmark, Mike brewed some beers from Mikkeller, and when Nøgne Ø needed all their capacity for their own beers, Lervig has taken over the brewing of the Beer Geek series of beers.

The aim for next year is to get a better national distribution in Norway, but they are also working on markets like the UK, Italy and Spain. Emerging markets like Estonia and Poland are also interesting, and if you’re lucky, you might even find Lervig beers in Thailand.

Lervig beers to look out for next year? A Lindheim/Mikkeller/Lervig Kriek with sour cherries from the Lindheim orchards. And a Lervig/ Evil Twin collaboration brewed with two very Norwegian ingredients. Frozen pizza and money. I kid you not. I think the brewery tap they are planning in Stavanger will be a place for pilgrimages in the years to come.

I have met the head brewers of the other top-tier Norwegian craft breweries before – nice to finally have a chat with Mike Murphy as well.

Next week it’s Anders Kissmeyer and Nøgne Ø at Cafe Sara/Verkstedet. Definitely the place to be in Oslo.

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When I travel, I do not always set up a tight schedule to see all the sights. I prefer to spend some time getting the feel of the place, and as a foodie, this means that I often end up at a food market. There are lovely old markets in Florence and in Stockholm, there is the cornucopia of produce from near and far in Borough Market in London. Oslo has one under construction, with its own micro brewery on site. But Copenhagen beat us to it. Last year, about 50 years after the fruit and vegetable market closed down on the same site,  Torvehallerne opened on Israels Plads.

Even before I arrived, I knew it had one major success factor covered  – location. A stone’s throw from Nørreport station, it is easily reached by train or Metro, not to mention bus or bicycle.

The layout consists of two moderately sized halls with lots of glass. On both sides and in between there are open air stalls.

This is not the place for endless rows of stalls hawking the same strawberries, they have gone for diversity rather than volume. Sure, there are several of the outside stalls offering similar seasonal produce, but inside there is an impressive range. Spanish tapas and Italian antipasti. A shop full of goods from the island of Bornholm. Fresh fish and seafood, old-fashioned open sandwiches. Artisan cheese, smoked venison. Wine, olive oil, vinegar and cognac straight from the barrel. Snacks and ready meals to eat on the spot or take away, perhaps for a picnic in one of the nearby parks.

And, this being Denmark, there is beer. Fynsk Forår from the Ørbæk brewery on Funen. Draft Mikkeller. The full range of bottled beers from Svaneke in the Bornholm shop. Bøgedal beers on tap and in bottles at the organic shop. Catalonian beer in the tapas bar. Even an outside stall with a miniature version of a German Getränkemarkt with quite a few bottles worth considering.

This is not the place to go to eat and drink on the cheap. But I would not mind a place like this for weekend shopping. I had plenty of beer already, but I bought two kilo of asparagus. White fleshy ones from Germany. Tender green ones from Denmark. Yummy.

Open every day. Direct transport links to the airport so you can drag all the good stuff with you.

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So. This event was announced last autumn, the tickers tickets went on sale – and were snapped up in November. We were promised two magnificent days of great beers and top class food, something way beyond what we have experienced before.

I won’t go into any detailed review here, but I feel like summing up my experiences:

First of all – the beers. Full score on this. There were world class brews from a number of the best breweries in the world. The hosts had actually toned down their own offerings from Mikkeler and Evil Twin to make room from all the others. Some were household names, like de Struise, Nøgne Ø, de Molen and BrewDog. Some were legendary, like Three Floyds and Cigar City. Some of them were new to me – Broadies (from London) and Farmer’s Cabinet (from Philadelphia).

There were sour ales and barrel aged ales. Barley wines and stouts. IPAs and Apas. Even examples of Gose and Berliner Weisse. Some of the line up was changed from the Friday to the Saturday. Some were festival specials, some were rarities very few of us had tried before.

So, for the beer selection and the beer quality, I can only applaud.

With all the tickets sold out many months ago, there were no long lines to get in either. We were let in, given a few tokens and a wristband showing our dining time.

The crowd was different from your average beer festival. Lots of friendly people from around the world, everyone seriously interested in beer. No stag parties, no one there to proclaim their undying love for their regional brewery.

A laid back and friendly atmosphere.

What about the venue? Early in the day, it was quite bright and airy.  A sports hall, with a large area set aside for benches and tables. But everyone were shooed away from the tables around four, as they were preparing for the first dinner seating. Only half of the tables were needed for each seating, but it meant a quite packed crowd for the second half of each day.

The setup of the brewery stands did not allow much in the way of presentation. Some of the stands along the walls had some posters and artwork, but the tables in the middle had a setup that looked more like a homebrew festival. This might have been a deliberate decision, but I would say that the best breweries in the world would have deserved a more professional presentation. The Haandbryggeriet festival a week ago had a setup where all the breweries were able so present themselves in a much better way.

The food was hyped a lot, anticipating a close-to-NOMA-experience, or, at least, what in the programme was called an uncompromizing gourmet experience, with food and beer pairings.

The Friday meal was nice enough, with a piece of tender meat, mashed potatoes, a green sauce with aromatic hops and some watercress. Honest food, but not gourmet quality.  And this could have been served all day without any time slots with us walking up to a counter and asking for a plate when we got hungry. This would have meant no need to rope off more than a small part of the hall, leaving ample seating for everyone.

And the food available at other times? Fairly average Danish sausages with a variety of mustards based on beer. Period. No salads, no cheese, no cured meat, nothing resembling gourmet at all.

One main ingredient in a beer festival is water. Sure, bottled water with the Mikkeller logo is fun.  But running water is also needed. Water for drinking, water for washing your hands and even your face. Water for rinsing your glass. Even water as in toilets. And as this was in an athletic venue, there were toilets roped off somewhere. Too expensive to clean? Come on!

And where were the hosts? They were briefly spotted, but a highlight would have been a trumpet fanfare and some words of welcome at noon on Friday. Maybe a stage with some round table talks with the beer personalities present, too? If less space was allocated to sit down dinners, there could easily have been a stage at the back of the hall. some of the showmanship we have seen from Mikkeller at previous festivals in Copenhagen would have been nice.

 There were some seminars this time around, but they were not widely publicised. The one I went too, on blogging, was poorly attended, and just when the discussion was starting, we were shooed out again.

There was, on the second day, a poster advertising free wi-fi – but the password wasn’t working.

Maybe the critical words seem to harsh, so let me get back to my main points:

  • Great beer
  • Great breweries
  • Great people
  • Fine venue, with some adjustments.

Given that, everything else can be tweaked and adjusted the next time. And it is very much a matter of very high expectations when you use big words when building up the advance buzz.  

The real test if I liked it: Will I be back?

Yes, I will.

 

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Up early in the morning for a few days of beer festivals. Meeting people from the international beer scene. Bloggers, drinkers, pourers, brewers. The occasional reader of this blog, too, I hope.

No Diaego products will be consumed. Though I plan to have a few from BrewDog.

Blog posts to follow next week, but you could also follow me on twitter at @KnutAl

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I was in Copenhagen for a few days last week, for once not connected to any beer festival. I thought I was just going to visit a few bars, but it never hurts to check out your network.

It turned out there was a celebration going on. One of the very top raters at ratebeer is Henrik Papsø, and he was inviting to a celebration of his rating number 20.000 at the Mikkeller Bar. Yes, 20.000 unique beers sampled, rated and published in the database.

There were three beers specially brewed and available on tap, as if the range of world class beers was not enough already.

Papsø had gathered a merry crowd of friends in the early evening. As this is a rather small public bar, there were also other guests around, including a Norwegian couple who were actually looking for a Carlsberg. They thought 20.000 was an impressive figure, and wanted to know his favourite. (They also tried to negotiate with the bar staff to have a glass of something they could identify as beer.)

The best of the three specially commissioned beers was Hr. Papsø on Acid, a barrel aged beer  from Amager Bryghus with mysterious ingredients.

But  fifteen world class beers on tap at once is a bit much. Really.

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I really don’t have time 7 February. I have a family that needs me, too.

But then Amund at Håndverkerstuene informs me that they will have the following Mikkeller beers available:

On tap:

  • Mikkeller Green Gold
  • Mikkeller Cream Ale
  • Mikkeller Czechet Pilsner
  • Mikkeller Fra Via Til
  • Mikkeller Not Just Another Wit

 

Bottled:

  • Mikkeller Draft Bear
  • Mikkeller Funky Easter
  • Mikkeller Fra Via Til
  • Mikkeller Texas Ranger
  • Mikkeller Black Hole Red Wine barrel aged
  • Mikkeller Black Hole Peated Whisky barrel aged
  • Mikkeller Black
  • Mikkeller Czechet Pilsner

And it’s only five minutes away from where I work.

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