One of Europe’s biggest (and perhaps best?) craft beer festivals, the Mikkeller Beer Celebration has long been on my wish list. Many people I met have named it their favorite festival, so of course that fueled my curiosity and this year I decided to check it out myself! On May 10th my friends and I hopped on a flight to Copenhagen for 48 hours of craft beer heaven at MBCC 2018. While we were there we also visited a few of their best craft beer bars. One thing is for sure: we weren’t disappointed! The festival is absolutely deserving of its reputation, but Copenhagen itself is also a delightful city, so if you decide to visit, don’t miss out on all the other wonderful things it has to offer.
Mikkeller Beer Celebration 2018
The Mikkeller Beer Celebration Copenhagen started as a much smaller festival in 2012 in the Sparta Hallen in Østerbro with less than 40 breweries attending before moving to the larger Øksnehallen (Meatpacking District) in Vesterbro in 2015. This year it had grown to 100 microbreweries with an estimated 2500 visitors per session, attracting beer fans from all over the world. The festival is part of Mikkeller Beer Week and spanned two full days (Friday and Saturday), with both days split in a morning and afternoon session of 4 hours each. Needless to say I treated myself to a Pink ticket, which included ALL the sessions! If I’m going, I might as well go all out and splurge a bit, right? I have to admit I was a bit worried about drinking for 8 hours a day, but the glasses are small enough at 5 cl to make it hard (though not impossible if you start at 10 am) to get drunk. On top of that I met so many nice people and had fun conversations, so I definitely took my time tasting everything. Thumbs up for that, I didn’t have a hangover the next day!
Kudos for organization
Though I am no festival expert, I have to admit this is probably the best organized festival I’ve been to. Considering the amount of people there, I was surprised how little time it took to get a wristband and a glass and to get into the venue. Also there are no tokens, which saves a lot of time and is probably why it is more expensive than other festivals (all you can drink!). Once inside you can immediately tell which breweries are high on the beer geek list: Omnipollo, The Veil Brewing, 3 Sons and Bokkereyder had a queue at every session. No doubt their beers are exquisite, but with such a fabulous line-up as you can see in the photo, I wasn’t going to waste any time queueing! The US breweries outnumbered the other countries by far, but there were also breweries from Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Canada, England and even Russia and China!
Festival beer app
How to know which beers to choose from all that deliciousness? For those beer geeks that like to make a list before going to the festival (moi!), a special app was launched with all the beers and breweries at each session and with a link to Untappd, making it easier to keep track of your favorites and what you’ve tasted. I like having done some homework so I don’t get stressed out for choice when the moment comes, but as usual I didn’t actually keep to the list; sometimes they were sold out or I got ‘must try’ tips from people I talked to. In the end I only tried about 50 during the whole two days. I’ll have to do better next time!
I won’t go all geeky on you and name all the fabulous beers I drank or what I thought of them. All beers were excellent and I’m far from being a connoisseur yet, but some did stand out for me more than others. I lean more toward full fruity sour flavors (like blueberry!) and coffee & chocolate smoothness, so you can guess what scored high on my check-ins. The part I think is most fun at a beer festival is trying a brewery you have never heard of or a beer cannot get at home (like The Alchemist’s Heady Topper, finally got to taste it!).
According to Untappd (without it I would never remember any of this) my favorites of the weekend were That’s the Ticket! by J. Wakefield Brewing, the caramel is divine!, and Querido y Perdido by Casita Cervecería, only a bit spicy but with loads of chocolate and vanilla. Other stouts I adored (to name but a few) were Powers in Numbers Imperial Stout by Pure Project Brewing, Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout (2013) by Cigar City and Friday by Cycle Brewing. I was really into the sours, too. Mutana Gueuze by Bokkereyder, Mama Bear’s Sour Cherry Pie by Crooked Stave and Stealth Mode by Bottle Logic Brewing blew me away with their sublime fruitiness. But to be fair, there wasn’t one I tried that I didn’t like!
That’s not all though. The organizers had really thought of everything. A coat check, food trucks (life saver!), good toilet facilities, merchandise and most important of all, plenty of seating inside and outside. I was a bit sceptical at first of the fact that the first session finished at 2 pm and the second started at 4pm, meaning we had to leave for two hours. In hindsight that is pretty genius though. The brewers have time to change the kegs (and eat) and we got to have lunch, go for a much needed walk and soak up some of the sights. Well done!
To get a coveted ticket, it’s best to sign up for the Mikkeller newsletter so you are the first to hear about the festival dates and when the tickets go on sale, usually beginning of November. You can purchase a ticket for a single session (around 65 EUR) or for all four sessions (for 250 EUR, the discount is minimal). For the die hards there is also a GOLD ticket that gives you early access to all four session plus you get to go to the 5th session on Sunday afternoon. Sounds fantastic, but at 350 EUR a pop I wasn’t convinced that would be worth the extra money. I’ll have to revisit that decision when the tickets go on sale for next year!
Copenhagen’s craft beer bars
If you have some spare time or if you are in Copenhagen outside of the festival weekend, they have no shortage of craft beer bars to kick back and relax after some serious sightseeing. I managed to visit seven of them that weekend as research for this blog article. The life of a beer blogger ain’t no picnic! (Though I estimate that these seven are only a fraction of the great craft beer bars they have in the city.) One thing is certain: Danes love their craft beer.
Mikkeller now has bars all over the world, but it all started with this one on Viktoriagade in May 2010. The interior is simple, but cozy. It’s not a big place, so there was a queue out on to the street during the festival weekend, but there is plenty of outdoor seating. They have 20 wonderful beers on tap.
Not far from the Mikkeller Bar, Warpigs is a big industrial-looking brewpub in Copenhagen’s Meatpacking District that serves authentic Texas barbecue and American-Danish style brews. It was established in 2015 by Mikkeller together with American brewery 3 Floyds (from Munster, Indiana). It was super crowded when I stopped by and I wasn’t brave enough to fight my way through for a beer, so I only went in for a look around. I can imagine it is a really fun place to hang out and eat with friends (I will also have to imagine good vegan food along with it).
A very different type of bar is Fermentoren, just down the street from Warpigs. It has a bit more of a pub feel to it. Lots of dark wood, low ceilings and candles. With 24 great beers on tap, you can spend all night there chilling with your friends. They have quite some terrace space outside, biergarten style. They also have their own brand of Fermentoren house beer, brewed by Dry & Bitter Brewing.
Right in the center of town you will find this beer heaven with 61 beers on tap! They were hosting a Brouwerij Kees tap takeover the day I visited. I have never seen so many Kees beers on tap in one place before! They must have had about fifteen of them. Nice modern American style bar, with a big upstairs and downstairs. Not the most efficient service, but then again, maybe they were hungover from Mikkeller Beer Week. I know I would be!
Like Mikkeller and BRUS, I found this bar to be of typical Scandinavian design. Simple, basic wood furniture, no frills, but still inviting and cozy (yet they call themselves a dive bar!). Needless to say awesome craft beers on tap. I tasted my first beer by Sand City Brewing (from Northport, NY) here! The selection of American craft beer in this city is amazing!
Voted best brewer taproom in 2017 by Ratebeer, BRUS is a beautiful modern brewpub with 32 beers on tap and a fantastic bottle selection. It’s very spacious inside and has plenty of outdoor seating, and you can walk around the brewing installation and fermentation tanks, really cool! They also serve tasty food.
This was the last bar we visited before our wonderful city trip came to an end. I absolutely loved this hidden gem! The craft beer bar is downstairs, while the upstairs floor houses a cocktail bar, which is perfect if you are out with friends who are not into craft beer. They have 20 taps featuring beer from around the world, including Nitro! I almost fell off my bar stool when a couple came in asking for Corona. Nope, not here! If you can’t decide what to order, try their tasting flight of 4 beers (100 Danish Krone; from Sunday to Thursday until 8 pm).
Other great places to visit in Copenhagen
Copenhagen is an easy city to get to from the airport (metro line M2) and once you’re there you can do almost everything on foot. We were lucky to have absolutely splendid weather and warm temperatures, so we really got to see the city at its best.
If you like shopping the area around Stroget is the place to be. It’s a long shopping street that branches off into smaller streets with lovely little boutiques. Nyhavn is a must-see and if you have time, I recommend taking one of the boat tours that go from there. A great way to see the city!
We didn’t make it to any museums this time, but we did visit the Christiansborg Palace, which currently also houses the Danish Parliament. Part of the palace is open to the public (reception rooms, Royal stables, palace kitchen and the underground ruins). It gives a good impression of the history of Denmark and the monarchy, definitely worth a visit!
Another fun stop is Tivoli, the city’s amusement park, which opened in 1843 and is the second oldest amusement park in the world still in operation. There are almost as many shops and restaurants as there are rides, so it caters to all ages. It is open until late (11 pm) and I recommend you stay at least until nightfall. It is even more magical when it’s lit up!
All photos were taken by Tina Rogers.