It’s a fine morning on the idyllic streets of Copenhagen. A bold nordic sun beats down upon row after row of well-worn bicycle frames and red-bricked Rococo buildings. Beyond the odd chime of a bicycle bell and the low hum of meticulously maintained trains in the near-distance, peace and tranquility reign throughout the Danish capital. This will all soon change. Beer lovers of the world will unite and take over a building filled with untold drinkable wonders collected from around the globe.
Founded by Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, a high school teacher, and journalist Kristian Klarup Keller, Danish brewery Mikkeller are known for their incredible brews and collaborative spirit – an ethos that connects breweries, beer lovers and communities from around the world. Every year they raise a glass, or several, to this collective founded upon craft beer with their Copenhagen Beer Celebration. We’re back home after a weekend of volunteering at CBC 5 – don’t worry we took many breaks to rehydrate and load up on hotdogs – and we’ve returned with tales of amazing craft beer to tell.
This year’s celebration is the 5th to take place since Mikkeller began brewing back in 2012, and the biggest yet. 65 of the best and most unique and celebrated microbreweries from around the world showcased their rarest and craziest one off beers per session.
The UK brewing scene was represented in fine fashion by a number of breweries, including Brew By Numbers, Brewdog, Buxton Brewery, Siren Craft Brew & Beavertown. Buxton’s Barrell-aged Double Axe Edge (a flavourful and worryingly drinkable DIPA) was never far from an HonestBrew glass, or any container we could find to transport the precious deep amber brew for that matter. Siren showed off a diverse and exciting range of beers, including highlights such as their harmoniously hoppy Peligrosos IPA and their delicate Earl Grey infused Vermont Tea Party. Beavertown unleashed Dr Jekyll (Muscat Barrel Aged, Bretted, Gooseberry Belgian Pale) & Mr Hyde (Scotch Barrel Aged Imperial Stout) upon surrounding beer hunters. It was a pleasure to meet both beers brewed in collaboration with To Øl.
Despite contemporary British brewing being well-represented, there were notable omissions on the festival floor. The absence of breweries such as Cloudwater (especially following the success of their incredible DIPAv3 ) and Weird beard in the wake of a series of unique and critically acclaimed beers was noticeable. Clearly it’s only a matter of time until such producers knock down Mikkeller’s doors and join the party.
To Øl have joined forces with Mikropolis bar to create, Brus, a brewpub, restaurant, shop and bar in Copenhagen’s most lively and versatile neighborhood. We haphazardly navigated the picturesque but rainswept streets on Sunday evening to reach the warm, welcoming glow of the venue and sample some of the brews on offer in the taproom -including a highly memorable black IPA. We also took a look round the brand spanking new brewery in the back (it was so shiny!). Make sure to visit Brus while it’s still possible to get a table. The venue hosts the restaurant Spontan and its head chef, Christian Gadient. Gadient is Denmark’s youngest Michelin-starred chef, and it seems he will soon earn another. Together To Øl and the culinary prodigy want to create a whole new experience of drinking and dining in a brewpub.
Luckily our luminous green t-shirts marked ‘staff’ earned us the opportunity to sample some Hill Farmstead & 3Floyds before the excited crowds raced through the doors for Sunday’s evening session and converged upon the brew stands. Queues ran the length of the building, and unsurprisingly so. Hoppy IPAs and potent imperial stouts went down far too quickly. Our glasses were filled with passing glimmers of what could be if such uncomparable breweries were willing to export out of the USA.
Thankfully a final trip to WarPigs on our last cloudy morning in København ensured a couple more unforgettable brews for the road, including a serving of Zombie Dust. During our visit one of 3Floyds’ senior brewers was visiting from the states and had whipped up a batch of the world’s number 1 rated pale ale. Not a bad recipe to know off by heart.
Fabled American brewery 3Floyds and Mikkeller built WarPigs from scratch in an abandoned factory to host top authentic Texas Barbecue and American-Danish style brews. It’s no wonder we spent several hours there over the weekend. This included a trip on to the Copenhagen’s former meat packing district following our first day of the festival. Thrash metal was supplied by S.O.B. (Stormtroopers of Beer) and incredible WarPigs brews were enjoyed by all as the the sun set upon day 1.
Broadly speaking an array of imperial stouts and sour beers wowed us all. Fruity & refreshing Scandi goses and sweet boozy darker beers – the vast majority of which were wonderful – highlighted that while IPA may still dominate the hearts, minds and palates of brewers and beer lovers, tastes are growing more eclectic and the thirst for new styles is growing with a good deal of urgency. We loved the Tiramisu Stout from US brewery Angry Chair which was dessert beer that tasted exactly how it’s name suggests. Another unmissable beer was Omnipollo’s Blueberry Cheesecake Stout collab with Dugges; silky, creamy and full of distinct dark berry and roast coffee flavours. On the other side of the spectrum rested Stockholm Brewing Co.’s refreshing Wild Cherry Red that poured a lovely shade of pinkish red and was packed with tart stone fruit flavours.
CBC is undoubtedly Europe’s biggest and best beer festival. The experience of not only helping out as volunteers (we ferried water, served bottleshop customers, poured beers and cleared out the kegs amongst other tasks) and navigating the many breweries in attendance was totally unique and truly unforgettable insight into what’s happening in the world of contemporary craft beer. Mikkeller’s spirit of collaboration and inclusivity permeates the beautiful capital city as beer lovers from around the world gathered to enjoy the best brews out there. We can’t wait to see you all next year!