It’s been a crazy few months in Portland, Oregon, one of America’s great beer cities. The Rose City lost a couple of big players in Burnside Brewing and Bridgeport, but gained a significant one in Mikkeller. The internationally acclaimed Danish producer is officially setting up shop in the Pacific Northwest.
For the record, Mikkeller has eight American establishments. Only two, however, are producing beer. For a brewery known for experimentation, this could be a downright godsend. Portland offers near-outstanding agricultural terrain, from hops to all kinds of fruit, produce, and forage-able goods. Should Mikkeller decide to produce as well as pour here, we could see some very interesting products roll down the line.
There have already been a few collaborations. Oregon sour beer specialists Cascade teamed up with Mikkeller to release the Bean-to-Barrel Triple. The beer is a blend of sour ales, Oregon and French oak, and cocoa nibs from Bean Geeks Craft Chocolate in Copenhagen. Another, aptly named F–king Classy, is a clean and surprisingly flavorful brut IPA made in tandem with Gigantic Brewing. It’s one of the better versions of the still-emerging beer genre.
So far, Mikkeller’s spot is just a pop-up, set in the old Burnside Brewery off the famous street the former place borrowed its name from. With space to brew and lots of eager collaborators in the Portland picture — not to mention Mikkeller’s distribution prowess — it’s an exciting period for fans of the Scandinavian label. The momentum only continues with the recent announcement that the pop-up will include food from famed Momofuku Las Vegas chef Shaun King. It is slated to be a full-service restaurant with a Japanese streak, per the chef’s background.
For those who don’t know Mikkeller, here’s a quick primer: The brewery launched as essentially a garage operation in Copenhagen in 2006. Brewer Mikkel Borg Bjergsø tinkered with recipes from home in between teaching math and physics. The label now encompasses 40 countries but remains relatively small and experimental in terms of production. Their immediately recognizable labels are colorful and feature the playful artwork of Keith Shore.
Mikkel Borg Bjergsø’s brother, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, is the brains behind Evil Twin Brewing. It’s industry legend that the siblings’ opposite personalities drove them apart. Both are fascinated by beer and known for collaborations, just not with each other. Evil Twin was considered a gypsy operation for many years, turning out one-off brews with friends in the industry before opening a production space in Queens earlier this year. The Danish empire continues.
If you haven’t tried any Mikkeller beers yet, here are a few to start with:
Easily one of the most fragrant beers in existence, the Winale is a fruit-driven gem. Made with grapes, this Belgian strong pale shows lovely apple, prune, and pie fruit flavors. It’s wonderfully balanced and you can easily enjoy it now, but based on how it’s engineered, it’ll probably do just fine in the cellar for a few years.
If you’re a great European brewery, you have to nail the pilsner. Mikkeller does that and more. This one is pristine and the ideal swig in between bites of brats or salty chips. It’s also great as a standalone, as all good pilsners are.
It’s no surprise that the Mikkeller’s San Diego outpost is turning out one of its best IPAs. The city has a proven ability to get the best out of West Coast hops. A model IPA, this beer is a great mix of pine and tropical fruit, without the typical bitter backend.
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