Everything you need to know about our favourite gypsy brewer...
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What do you get when you cross a Danish physics teacher with a love of beer and a small kitchen in Copenhagen? The result – Mikkeller.
Dubbed the ‘Godfather of Gypsy Brewing’, Mikkel Borg Bjergsø is a craft beer vagabond whose experiments in home brewing led him to forge one of the world’s most celebrated breweries, open three bars, a bottle shop and create over 600 incredible beers. Talk about a side project getting out of hand.
Mikkeller – Where it began
Mikkel set off on his journey into craft beer like the best of us – buying the cheapest, blandest beer he could get his paws on, all in the name of having ‘a good time’.
Then he tried foreign beer – Hoegaarden and Chimay to be precise – and his perception of beer changed forever. So much so, he joined a beer club and even decided to take up home brewing.
By 2006 – while still working the 9 – 5 as a maths and physics teacher – Mikkel joined forces with childhood friend Kristian Keller to brew beers they both love. The pair turned Mikkel’s Copenhagen kitchen into a tiny home brewery, got some books on American beer and started some mad experiments with yeast, hops and malt.
Word of the beery experiments in the Copenhagen kitchen begun to spread.
The big break came when French press coffee was added to an oatmeal stout; creating the beer, Beer Geek Breakfast. This seemingly simple addition saw the beer voted number one stout on the Ratebeer.com international forum and Mikkel's kitchen creations thrown under a global spotlight.
Despite Keller leaving in 2007 to pursue a career in music journalism, Mikkel was ready to take the brewery to new levels of craft beer hedonism and the rest is history.
So what’s the mission?
Mikkeller began by challenging Danes’ taste buds with intense taste adventures. Today they’re doing the same thing, except the rest of the world’s got involved too.
Not long into his journey, Mikkel decided that having a permanent brewery wasn’t for him – they’re expensive to fund, run and getting to travel the world and collaborate with other breweries is, well, kind of cool; hence the ‘gypsy brewer’ moniker.
This approach is also being adopted by a new wave of craft brewers including two of Mikkel’s former students who started To Øl and his own brother Jeppe who recently visited us as Evil Twin Brewing.
Hopping from one brewery to the next has taken Mikkel to Australia, China, Russia, Brazil and the US; while deciding who to brew with is based on expertise in particular styles, the availability of local ingredients and the quality of the brew kit.
Now a team of ten, Mikkeller’s most recent addition is Philly-based art director Keith Shore whose inky outlines are what makes the Mikkeller bottle labels and merch so recognisable.
Okay I want to drink the beer. Where do I start?
From Beer Geek Brunch Weasel that uses that uses cà phê Chồn which literally translates as ‘civet faeces coffee’, to wild fermented ales, the Mikkeller line-up is an ever changing merry-go-round of incredible beers.
Here’s five of our favourites and why you should try them:
If you’re a fan of beers with a zany mouthfeel then you’ve found your ticket to ride! Spontaneously fermented and packed with coffee beans, this beer has a lovely dryness but also manages to be sour at the same time. A great palate cleanser, buy a bottle for swigging in between courses.
Single hop series – Pallisade:
One of seven beers from Mikkeller’s Single Hop series, Pallisade is a 6.8% IPA. A copper coloured beer that’s a whirl of dried fruit flavours such as apricot, expect a kick of caramel sweetness as a lasting reminder of Pallisade.
A nod to the Trappist beer Orval, It’s Alive is one helluva beer. Aged in white wine barrels with lychees, the use of Brettanomyces means the beer continues to age in the bottle and has all the funk you’d expect from this wild yeast.
Black Tokyo Horizon:
Black Tokyo Horizon is the bastard love child of three signature stouts and the ultimate threeway between Mikkeller, BrewDog and Nøgne Ø. This decadent beer offers up layers upon layers of coffee, chocolate and malty goodness. Best consumed slowly from a teku glass.
Hr. Frederiksen Væsel Brunch:
A very special beer that’s in short supply…there were only 200 made! This is an easy drinking, pitch black Imperial Stout that’s reminiscent of a hoppy black IPA. Packed to the rafters with the taste and aroma of dark chocolate, brown sugar, burnt toffee and those all-important coffee beans.
Head over to our online shop to check out the full range of Mikkeller beers we have available.
It would totally make my day if I got to meet Mikkel in person.
You’re in luck! Mikkel’s nomadic wanderings are bringing him to Aberdeen on Thursday the 3rd of October for our Meet the Brewer event.
Our Aberdeen bar is fully stocked with some unmissable Mikkeller brews so come along from 8.30pm where you can try Monk’s Elixir, BA Green Gold Chardonnay, Spontanseabuckthorn and Super Galena IPA plus loads of bottled beers.
We also have a few tickets left for our Mikkeller beer dinner, also on the 3rd of October at Musa Aberdeen. Expect four Mikkeller brews plus two other beers from like minded phantom brewers To Øl. Tickets are £65 and in very short supply. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to book or call now on 01224 571 771.
You can stay up to date with the world of Mikkeller at mikkeller.dk