BrewDog Leeds opened this week, seemingly against the odds. I’ve previously discussed the difficulties this bar had obtaining a licence, which raises its own issues as to whether all drinkers should be tarred with the same brush.
In the time since it was announced, I’ve had several doubts about BrewDog Leeds. It’s a terribly small site. It’s at an end of town that’s already loud, boisterous and overcrowded on weekend evenings. It’s just another bar in a chain.
All of those things are true. First, the size issue: I think it would be uncomfortable to have more than around 60 people over the two floors. But there are a couple of nice booths upstairs, comfortable stools, shelves to rest a beer dotted around and, overall, the space is used to its full potential. And cosy can be friendly: on the shareholder night, we chatted to our neighbours about the beers and got to know people we hope to see again, as the trains rolled by outside the windows.
It is at an overcrowded end of town. However there are good places to eat nearby and some pretty decent bars on Call Lane, although five year-old memories of others do still make me shudder.
It’s also not a million miles away from North Bar and you could easily do Leeds’ new holy trinity of small craft beer bars (North, Friends of Ham, BrewDog Leeds) in an evening and still make it back to the last train.
And yes, it’s a part of a chain. This one looks exactly like the others: reclaimed gym floorboards on the walls, brick bar, stripped-back grey industrial chic. But that works well and right now the BrewDog bars remain a great chain with an ethos that credits its customers with an interest in and enthusiasm about good beer.
I’ve not been to a BrewDog bar that I didn’t like, where I didn’t get excellent service, or where I wasn’t a little excited by the selection of beers, particularly the imported ones. On the opening night, I enjoyed beer from Ballast Point, Mikkeller and De Molen, and even managed to squeeze a couple of BrewDogs in around the edges.
So if you live in Leeds, be sure to add BrewDog Leeds to your list of regular haunts. If you happen to be visiting Leeds city centre for a few beers, that holy trinity of North, Friends of Ham and BrewDog Leeds is worth the pilgrimage.
Next month I’m going to Sweden and should be there for the opening week of BrewDog Stockholm, provided the ship full of gym floorboards and trendy beards makes it through the Øresund strait. It’ll be another bar in a chain, but I still can’t wait.
BrewDog Leeds, White Cloth Hall, Crown Street, Leeds, LS1 7RB @BrewDogBarLeeds
At times Copenhagen can seem like a Guardian-reader’s utopia: all bikes, roughage, serious television drama and Scandanavian design. Naturally, to complete the picture, it needs its own gastro-oriented food market to rival Borough Market or Mercado De San Miguel in Madrid.
Copenhagen’s version is Torvehallerne, which opened on a square near Nørreport railway station in September 2011. There’s an open area and two covered markets full of units selling a wide range of fresh fish, meat, cheese, vegetables and various prepared foods.
One Danish speciality we’d read about was smørrebrød: open sandwiches on rye bread. On one stall in Torevehallerne (Hallernes) we sat at the bar and ordered some impressive-looking smørrebrød with a glass of Mikkeller beer.
It wasn’t clear which beer it was (“fadøl” just means draught beer) but I think it may have been Green Gold or, if not, a similar IPA.
In any event, it was a very nice beer and went especially well with the breaded fish, cured herring and even, at a stretch, the roast beef-topped smørrebrød. It was particularly effective with the herring, which was delicious, but nonetheless it good to have a strong acidic beer to balance the taste and ultimately clear the palate.
Also at Torvehallerne on the weekend we visited, Carlsberg were giving away free four-packs of their new beer, Carlsberg Copen*hagen, a beer sold in a clear bottle apparently designed to be “gender-neutral” in its branding and marketing. The bottle I drank was a slightly skunked light pilsner with little to commend it over, say, Corona. In stark contrast to the Mikkeller and smørrebrød, it was far from the best Denmark had to offer.
The one place I regret not being able to devote more time to in Copenhagen is Ørsted Ølbar. It’s a really nice basement bar (for some reason almost all the bars seem to be lower than street level) opposite a park and a short walk from Nørreport Station.
We visited it mid-afternoon at the end of a long walk, when it was quiet and the light shining on the distressed wood of the tables inside was beautiful. The barman was happy to have a chat about the extensive range of keg beers on offer and offered to let me try a couple before buying.
I had thought that Ørsted Ølbar had some cask beer, but what appeared to be traditional handpumps were in fact keg fonts. There’s a bit of an “English” pub feel to the bar, although this isn’t overdone.
The bar has a number of “Ørsted” beers, although they’re all brewed by different Danish microbreweries. Ørsted Bitter Bitch was a pleasant, sharply bitter IPA brewed (according to Ratebeer) by Det Lille Bryggeri. To Øl Sleep Over Coffee IIPA was very bitter with an upfront coffee taste: two forms of bitterness, really.
Finally the barman recommended a bottle of Mikkeller 10 from the cellar. This was a superb IPA in a beautiful bottle made with 10 hop varieties: Warrior, Simcoe, Centennial, Cascade, Chinook, Amarillo, Nelson Sauvin, Nugget, Tomahawk and East Kent Goldings. The fresh tropical aroma had a bit of lime to it, and the rainbow of hops in the taste somehow achieved a great balance to a properly bitter beer.
If I go back to Copenhagen, which I really hope to, I’ll make a point to leave time to visit Ørsted Ølbar. If you’re going, I recommend you do the same.
It should come as no surprise to anyone who regularly reads this blog (hi, you two) that one of my favourite pubs is Mr Foley’s in Leeds. As I’ve mentioned before, the careful selection of interesting cask, keg and bottled beers that makes Mr Foley’s what it is, has until now been down to the manager Dean Pugh.
In a trans-Pennine transfer, Dean has now moved on to manage the newly-opened BrewDog Manchester, becoming @BrewDogBarDean in the process. A few of us went to see the new bar at 35 Peter Street on Saturday.
I was impressed. If you’ve been to one of the other BrewDog bars (I’ve visited Glasgow and Edinburgh) you’ll know what to expect: an interesting range of keg beers, no cask beers, an excellent selection of imported bottles, good music and a stylish slightly industrial decor using reclaimed materials. Manchester is over two floors, and I think it’s probably one of the biggest of the bars.
Kate and I enjoyed a few great beers. On keg we had:
BrewDog Dead Pony Club, the rew 3.8% session ale, which had a lot of fruit flavour with a significant amount of grapeskin;
BrewDog Dogma, a pleasantly sweet dark honeyed Scotch ale; and
Mikkeller 19, a deliciously sweet and complex IPA using 19 single-hopped beers (and a successor to Mikkeller 10).
The bottles we enjoyed were:
Mikkeller Belgian Tripel, a pleasant example of the style brewed with coriander and orange peel;
Mikkeller Single Hop Citra, a single-hopped beer that Kate found enjoyable in its own right (rather than just a tutorial on the characteristics of the hop);
Port Brewing Mongo, a big, citrus-fresh Californian double IPA; and
BrewDog Anarchist Alchemist, the new 14% “triple IPA”, which tastes like Hardcore IPA with a bit more barley wine character, but not so much as to be overpowering.
With all those strong beers, it’s a good job that there’s some food on offer, and the burger and pizza menu (three of each) designed by Masterchef winner and occassional BrewDog collaborator Tim Anderson, is very tempting. I tried a slice of a tasty veggie pizza with breaded aubergine and had a Milwaukee burger: an excellent pork burger with pickles and sauerkraut.
Manchester is already well-served with great pubs, from the Marble Arch to Port Street Beer House. But if I were a Mancunian I would be very happy to welcome BrewDog to the city: a nice place to spend an afternoon with some great beers and good company.
Following the visit, I’m pinning my hopes on the BrewDog Leeds licence application being successful. The recent AGM presentation suggests that, if it the licence is granted, BrewDog Leeds will open in September 2012.
If you’re reading this blog at all, I assume you’ve heard of Mikkeller, the Danish microbrewery which has since 2006 been producing a vast range of innovative beers in a range of styles, inspired by and building on the work of the most interesting American craft breweries. I also assume you know that Mikkeller does not have a brewery of its own, but produces its beers at other breweries in Denmark and beyond.
I further assume that, knowing this, and having tried Mikkeller beers, you would already be excited to go to the small, stylish Mikkeller Bar in Copenhagen. So, what with you being so well-informed, I’ll just make a few observations on it, why you should go, and why we visited three times when we were in Denmark:
- It’s beautifully designed, as you can see from the pictures on Mikkeller’s new website. It’s clean and minimalist, but also stylish and quirky. The high tables look like drawers and the furniture makes the best use of the space.
- It’s a small bar with good music at an appropriate level, which makes it feel cozy (hyggelig?), where the light colour scheme and bare design might otherwise make it feel cold.
- They have the type of snacks that can be dealt with by a single member of staff, so nothing hot. However the porter sausage is superb.
- There’s free wifi, which seems designed to allow you to send tweets to provoke jealousy.
- It’s on Viktoriagade, not too far from Copenhagen Central Station (København H) and is in the trendy Vesterbro area. Vesterbro seems to be one of those post-industrial up-and-coming areas has quite a few good bars and restaurants (on which more in a later post), although bear in mind that this sits alongside a (not unusually unpleasant) red light district, particularly on Istedgade.
And then, of course, there are the beers. There are 20 taps with a fairly wide range of styles of beer beyond just Mikkeller, including a number of Danish breweries. Most people seem to enjoy the beers in the smallest, 0.2l measures, in dinky stem glasses.
On keg we enjoyed:
- Mikkeller G’Day Mate APA, a nice fresh fruity pale ale with hints of grapeskins and apples;
- Heretic Evil Cousin IIPA, an excellent fresh slightly sweet IIPA with a building bitterness;
- Triple Rock Pacific Gem Single Hop, which had a slightly wateriness and a sweet almost Belgian taste;
- Hill Farmstead Genealogy, a powerful imperial stout from Vermont with a dark espresso foam head which nonetheless had a lot of fresh American hop flavour lifting it;
- De Dolle Bos Keun, this year’s version of the hoppy Belgian Easter pale ale;
- Mikkeller It’s Alight, a refreshing if slightly watery session strength version of Mikkeller’s Orvalalike It’s Alive, which had a little lemony sharpnes on the finish;
- Mikkeller 1000 IBU, which despite its fearsome reputation was an enjoyable big sweet malt and hop bonanza not unlike Stone Double Bastard;
- Mikkeller Big Worse, simply a good, bitter US-style barleywine; and
- Mikkeller K:RELK, a pale ale with limes and orange on the nose but a relatively restrained flavour.
The bottle menu is pretty astonishing, and we also enjoyed a 2007 Orval, in which the leatheryness was cut through with a pleasant gueuze-like citrus sharpness. Following the wine-aged beers we had tried with Garrett Oliver, we also decided to buy a bottle of Hill Farmstead Flora, a wine barrel-aged version of their 5% wheat saison. This was a wonderful, refreshing and refined drink, with all the charms of a Saison Dupont but rounded off with a little white wine.
If I were given to hyperbole, I might say that Mikkeller Bar is the craft beer equivalent of Copenhagen’s famous Noma restaurant. I will say, though, that if it were a restaurant it would similarly merit three Michelin stars: “exceptional… worth a special journey“. Or two special journeys, or even three.
We’ve booked a short break in Copenhagen at the end of the month and, for my sins, I enjoy reading about and preparing for this type of holiday almost as much as going on it. I always get a city guidebook such as a Time Out Guide well in advance, although in the absence of a specific beer guide such as an “Around X in 80 Beers” sometimes there’s not quite enough dedication to beer for my liking.
The following is therefore merely a summary of my pre-reading on beer in Copenhagen, principally for my own benefit, with pretty much all of the opinions being someone else’s. All the information below is gleaned solely from the internet and is therefore caveated up the ying-yang.
I would be very grateful for further hints, tips, advice, corrections, warnings, persuasion and dissuasion as appropriate. I’m very grateful to those who’ve provided recommendations on Twitter already, with special thanks to @Ryan_Witter , @dannybrown76 , @Marc__T , @thornbridgedom and @maltjerry.
I probably won’t get to all these places, and don’t want to ruin the holiday by trying to, so prioritisation is key. A couple of atmospheric bars with good Danish craft beer and nice, reasonably-priced food is all that I’m really looking for. The ones I’m most keen on from first impressions are asterisked.
http://www.bishopsarms.com/K_benhavn/Presentation , Ny Østergade 14, 1101 Copenhagen
Swedish chain gastropub with 400 whiskies, English cask, Swedish and Danish amongst the keg and bottle, English pub décor, free WiFi, slightly expensive food, allegedly. Distressing absence of apostrophe.
Carlsberg Visitors Centre*
http://www.visitcarlsberg.dk/ , Gamle Carlsberg Vej 11, 1799 København V, Valby
Admission Tuesday-Sunday 10.00-16.30
Carlsberg owns Tuborg, Mythos and Tetley, amongst others. In a move familiar to the people of Leeds, the company moved principal production from this old brewery in Copenhagen in favour of a new site 200km away in Frederica. However, unlike the Tetley Brewery, the Copenhagen brewery in the Valby area of the city remains open as a visitors centre and a smaller-scale brewery brewing “special beers aimed at connoisseurs”. Some reports state that Carlsberg Elephant Beer, a strong (7.2%) pilsner inspired by the elephant statues at the gates of the brewery, is still brewed onsite. Ratebeer doesn’t really like it. Allegedly.
http://www.charlies.dk/ , Pilestræde 33, 1112 København, Strøget
Monday 14.00-00.00; Tuesday-Wednesday 12.00-1.00; Thursday-Saturday 12.00-02.00; Sunday 14.00-23.00
Small, cosy, English-style pub with an emphasis on cask ale and session beer. Not sure I really want to go to Denmark for cask Black Sheep, Brains and Ruddles County, but looks like a nice pub nonetheless with some good Belgian beers, spirits etc. Really annoying style of website. Distressing absence of apostrophe, again.
http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002657200741 , Halmtorvet 29 c, 1700 Copenhagen, Vesterbro
Sunday-Thursday from 15.00; Friday-Saturday from 14.00
Another Vesterbro craft beer bar with around 10 taps. Indicative beer list from time of writing includes the likes of Fanø, Beer Here, Croocked Moon, To Øl, Grassroots. A good opportunity to try a range of Danish craft breweries beyond Mikkeller, perhaps?
http://lordnelson.dk/ , Hyskenstræde 9, 1207 Copenhagen K Strøget
Monday 15.30-22.00; Tuesday-Thursday 15.30 -00.00; Friday 15.00-late; Saturday 12.00-late
Basement bar with a British owner, but a focus on Danish microbreweries. Potentially smoky. Has its own cider. 14 draft beers currently include Beer Here, Herslev, Andrik, Warwik, Sirius. Some cask. Free WiFi, newspapers and magazines, board games.
http://www.mikkeller.dk/ , Viktoriagade No. 8 B-C, 1655 Copenhagen, Vesterbro
Sunday-Wednesday 15:00-24:00; Thursday-Friday 14:00-02:00; Saturday 12:00-02:00
It goes without saying that Mikkeller is probably the Danish brewery (albeit a gypsy brewery) that I’ve tried the most and am most excited about. Mikkeller Bar has 20 taps of their own and guest beers. Hosts the Mikkeller Beer Celebration in May. The décor is also really stylish, allegedy.
http://www.norrebrobryghus.dk/ , Ryesgade 3, 2200 København N, Nørrebro
Monday-Thursday: 11.00-00.00; Friday-Saturday: 11.00-02.00. Kitchen open: Monday-Thursday: 11.30-15.00 & 17.30-22.00; Friday-Saturday: 11.00-15.00 & 17.30-22.30
Allegedly the best of the city’s brewpubs and also recommended in the Time Out Guide for a modern take on a traditional Danish smørrebrød (open sandwich) lunch. In the multicultural Nørrebro area of the city, north west of the main shopping area. The highest and most widely rated of their beers on ratebeer include styles such as a US-influenced Imperial IPA (Nørrebro North Bridge Extreme), a strong coffee stout (Nørrebro La Granja Stout), a honey porter (Nørrebro Skärgaards Porter) and a Belgian Old Ale (Nørrebro Old Odense Ale), brewed with Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione and possibly spiced with “fir trees”. Allegedly.
http://oelbaren.dk/ , Elmegade 2, 2200 Copenhagen N.
Monday 21.00-01.00; Tuesday-Thursday 16.00-01.00; Friday 15.00-01.00; Saturday 16.00-01.00
10 taps, 100 bottles. Indicative tap list at present includes Beer Here, Mikkeller, Flying Couch, Herslev, Southern Tier, Aecht Schlenkerla. Bottles appear to be a good range of Belgian, American and German. Website suggests the bar is up for sale but the bar appears to be open as the list is regularly updated. Allegedly.
http://www.olbutikken.dk/ , Istedgade 44, København V, Vesterbro
Tuesday-Friday 13.00-19.00; Saturday 11.00-16.00
One of the most recommended beer shops in Copenhagen. Allegedly. Note to self: 20kg baggage allowance. See also: Barleywine, Admiralgade 21, http://www.barleywine.dk/ .
http://oerstedoelbar.dk/ , Norre Farimagsgade 13, 1364 København K, Strøget
Monday 16.00-00.00; Tuesday-Torsdag 15.00-01.00; Fredag 15.00-03.00, Saturday 13.30-03.00, Sunday 14.00-23.00
Next to a park and near the central shopping streets. From the pictures looks like a nice pub-come-brown café with a dart board, table football, sofas, tellies showing sport, and handpulls. Danish beers listed on Ratebeer as being previously available here include Mikkeller, Flying Couch and Det Lille Bryggeri, some of which are Ørsted-branded, as well as a selection of imported beers from Belgium, the US and elsewhere from the likes of Stone, Boon, Nøgne Ø.
http://www.vinstue90.dk/ , Gammel Kongevej 90, Copenhagen, Frederiksberg
Sunday-Wednesday 11.00-01.00, Thursday-Saturday 11.00-02.00
A beer bar with an interior preserved from the 1920s that sells itself on a “slow beer” thing, where it takes 15 minutes to pour a glass of Carlsberg. Google Translate offers this:
The whole secret of Slow Beer is very opskænkningen. The beer is the same Carlsberg beer, available in many other places, but a Slow beer is quite different. The beer poured without the use of carbonic acid with a Czech studs cock, which only pours foam. The glass is completely filled with foam, which is allowed to settle. When the foam has calmed down and fill up again with foam. This process is repeated 10 to 15 times, and that’s why it takes about 15 minutes to pour a Slow beer. The method originates from the days where you pumped draft beers by hand – as they still do in many places in England and Germany. The finished Slow Beer is a very soft and round with letbittert beer foam.
My head hurts.
Now: what did I miss and what should I have left out?