12/29/12 and 12/30/12
An Italian home brew shop owner, a SABMiller rep and two Minnesotans walk into a bar. No joke--that's just the sort of beer geek pull that is the Mikkeller Bar. Hampus of the Malmo Bryyghus sent us on our merry way to this exquisite find in the Vesterbro section of Copenhagen. On our first visit, we were literally standing on the corner across a narrow street, map in hand, saying "It must be here!" The trick is to look on the outside of the street's bend to the subterranean Mikkeller. Or, check for a slew of bicycles parked irregularly but away from neighbors (a sign kindly asks bikers to park appropriately).
Packed on a Saturday night, we left for dinner and our first foray to Fermentoren. Returning on Sunday, it wasn't much less crowded. It thinned enough later that we scored two seats at the small bar with the tap list in full view. Primarily an outet for Mikkeller beers, we drank our fill of the house brew. The fresh hop Green Gold and an IPA called Tiger Baby were my favorites. But I also had excellent offerings from To Øl, Stillwater and a fantastic collaboration ale by Amager, Kissmeyer and Mikkeller.
While at the bar, one patron excitedly exclaimed that "We can't get beer like this in our country!" He was from Italy and we chatted briefly about drinking Rome before his beers arrived. He was either a bottle shop or brew shop owner, hard to understand, but clearly knew and appreciated beer. Literally, it was better than Christmas morning for this Italian.
Then came trouble: we looked at the extensive and well curated bottle list. And, yes, I said curated: a wide range of select specialty beers, including but not restricted to Mikkeller brews. Brew Dog's Tactical Nuclear Penguin was daring us for just 600 Kroners (about $120 US). I was about to take the plunge when I did some last minute research on BeerAdvocate (again, love free WiFi), which changed my mind. I didn't mind the price (cheaper than at Delirium last summer), but repeated reviews were from disappointed drinkers. Then I turned to the very front of the bottle list and looked at the staff recommendations. A bit more research and we ordered a more reasonable splurge of 225 Kroners: Mikkeller's 2012 Nelson Sauvingnon. Exquisite.
A young Swedish couple at the end of the bar ordered the same beer but the 2009 version. Daniel, Agnes and us became quick friends sharing sips of our respective bottles while chatting about the Scandinavian brewing world, Daniel being an SABMiller rep with a fine taste for beer. For me, our night epitomized a peak moment of beer questing: old and new friends laughing and learning in an environment of beer respect while drinking the art.