Mikkeller Beer Celebration Copenhagen (MBCC) was a bucket list beer fest for me, and I proudly got to check it off my list with a glorious recent experience in Copenhagen.
For those who don’t know about Mikkeller (which I suspect is few), it is a Danish gypsy brewery founded in 2006 that contract brews their beer at various facilities throughout the world. In 2016 they opened a brewery in San Diego, and just recently they opened a second US brewery in New York City. They have Mikkeller bars all throughout the world: the first was in San Francisco (been to it), the second in Bangkok (been several times), several bars and breweries in Copenhagen, Odense (Denmark), Aarhus (Denmark), Warsaw, Torshavn (Faroe Islands) Bucharest (Romania), Tokyo, Berlin, Stockholm, Los Angeles, Oakland, Taipei, Singapore, Barcelona, Seoul, and Reykjavik (Iceland). Seriously. By the time this article is published, they will have probably opened another bar in some desirable location. Mikkeller has created quite the empire, and they did a lot to expand their name by beginning MBCC in 2012. The festival is a chance for many of the best breweries in the world to showcase their wares in Copenhagen. It has become a Who’s Who of the best craft breweries in the world. Unsurprisingly many of these breweries are American, and to be honest those were the the ones I was most excited about. I travel a lot on beercations and find my way into a respectable amount of top notch suds, but MBCC was my first chance to try beer from The Veil and Bissell Brothers. I also tasted tons of other rare, exclusive, and delicious brews which I will soon detail.
First, some stats for you. Over the course of two 4-hour sessions on Friday (Blue session) and Saturday (Green session), I sampled 99 different beers. Yes, you read that right: 99 different beers! I’m a little disappointed I didn’t make it to 100, but I had to exercise some restraint /s. I had 48 the first day and 51 the second. Those 99 beers were from 63 different breweries. The average ABV of the beers was 8.3% which is very high. The lowest was 4% (Oxbow Brewing Lobretta and American Solera Passion Foo), and the highest was 16% (Boneyard Suge Knight Bourbon Barrel). I’m a little surprised I didn’t have something higher than 16%, but that is still an incredibly boozy brew. The average rating I gave to beers was 4.21 which speaks very highly of the quality brought by the participating breweries. I’ll give the obvious caveat that it is impossible to accurately taste and evaluate 50 beers in one sitting, so feel free to take my ratings with a heavy grain of salt. I only handed out one 3 star, and I bestowed a rare 5 star upon Jester King Atrial Rubicite (one of my favorite sour beers ever) and Perennial Barrel-Aged Abraxas (2017). The latter was my first sample of the second day, and it was one of the most complex yet wonderfully cohesive stouts I’ve ever tried. The Untappd-defined beer style I drank most often was Sour – Ale (16) followed by Stout – American Imperial / Double (10). Combining similar styles, I had 28 various Stouts, 27 various Sours, and 24 various IPAs. Very basic-beer-bitch and predictable of me, I know.
Now for some thoughts on specific beers and breweries. I started off each day by heading straight towards the beer I was most excited about. Day 1 was the Perennial tent which had Vanilla Bean Abraxas (2017) and Maman (2017), both of which were incredible and received a 4.75 rating. As already mentioned, Day 2 was another B-line for Perennial where I had the privilege of tasting Barrel-Aged Abraxas. It’s safe to say that Perennial brought some serious heat to the festival. Unlike Stouts and Sours, I did not rate any 5 star IPAs, but the legendary Heady Topper and The Veil Greenbugatti both received a 4.75. The New England IPA haze craze was in full effect with most of the 24 IPAs and 3 Pale Ales I tried being of the cloudy low IBU variety. There were tons of pastry adjunct injected stouts which happily brought out the true fuckboi in me. Omnipollo showed some real innovation with their Mexican Vanilla Pina Colada which featured a frozen beer adornment on top of the hazy liquid, making for a frozen beer cocktail. Festivalgoers seemingly ate this up as Omnipollo consistently had one of the longest lines of all breweries. Perhaps the most unique and interesting beer I tried was Great Notion Blueberry Muffin. I’ll be damned if it didn’t smell and taste exactly like a blueberry muffin and in a very delicious way I might add. There was no cloying sweetness and only a small amount of sour that did not threaten the berry and bread flavor. There were a lot of breweries at MBCC I had never heard before, so it was cool to try out some new places. One that particularly stuck out was Sour Cellars from suburban LA. I tried their Jammiest Bits of Jam which was a wonderful combo of fruity, sour, and easy drinking. I could have sworn I tried another one of their beers, and perhaps that was the illustrious 100th beer that eluded me. I suppose I’ll never know…
Beyond the beer itself, the festival itself was set up very well minus one thing I’ll go into in a little bit. Øksnehallen is a large inviting event hall located in the former meatpacking district of Copenhagen. Entry was handled as smoothly as possible for what I guesstimate to be ~2,000 thirsty patrons. Breweries’ booths were laid out in a seemingly random order, but the super long lines were typically spread throughout the hall indicating that there was some thought put into where to locate the different breweries. Lines were generally short to non-existent and quick moving excluding some of the whalezbro beers. Everyone I encountered in the crowd and behind booths was very friendly. Speaking of behind the booths, a lot of brewers were present to meet people and talk about the beers they brought. A beer fest is always enhanced when knowledgeable people pour you beer as opposed to someone who knows nothing about it. Although I did not eat at the festival in order to maximize my drinking time, there were a couple food trucks available should hunger strike. In addition to physical logistics, the digital logistics were also on point. There was a MBCC iPhone app (not sure if it was available on Android) that listed all beers broke down by session and allowed you to check them in to Untappd from within the app, saving you time and effort between moving back and forth between apps. As someone who’s obsessive about checking in beers, this was a lifesaver in the hectic rush of drinking and moving from booth to booth. Major props for the app.
Now to the only not so great thing about the festival. It was crowded. Like really damn crowded. I would strongly advise someone with claustrophobia to not attend as it will not be a pleasant experience. If you were waiting in one of the long lines, you were constantly shuffling back and forth to let people by as they made their way to other booths. There was no space to form coherent lines longer than 7-8 people. Moving anywhere within the venue required careful concentration so you could preserve your precious tasting glass and not bump into others. There was some seating on the periphery, but I would not call it plentiful. People were generally courteous which was refreshing. It did get a little annoying having to fight our way from booth to booth, but after enough samplers it’s just part of the crazy experience. The cramped space was not ideal, but it definitely didn’t rain on my parade. The festival could benefit from moving to a larger venue or decreasing attendance by 10-20%. Fat chance of the latter happening, so hopefully a larger space can be found in the future. While it probably would not have the charm of Øksnehallen, it would make navigation much easier.
MBCC was incredible. A world-class lineup of breweries bringing their best beers to a historic building is a good start, and the proper logistics were put in place to ensure that it was an enjoyable experience. On top of all this awesomeness, I think the festival was a good deal, possibly the only one to be found in Copenhagen. At ~$90 per session for all-you-can-drink beer, it offered great bang for your buck value in the very expensive city. At bars I was regularly paying $15-20 for a pint of craft IPA, and I drank way more than 5-6 beers in each session including many that were super rare. I would not hesitate to go back to MBCC, and hopefully I’ll make my way there in the near future. Perhaps I’ll even see you there!