There are many, many, many, many reasons why it’s great to be a beer lover in the Bay Area. (Did I mention Sierra Nevada is opening a tap house in Berkeley?)
One of the best is that Mikkeller decided to open its first bar outside of Denmark in our very own City By The Bay.
Mikkeller has become a big star in the international brewing community in a relatively short time. Mikkel Borg Bjergsø began brewing beer with a friend in his kitchen in Copenhagen not even a decade ago. His background as a math and physics teacher gave him a natural curiosity to experiment with different ingredients and techniques.
They eventually began entering their brews in local competitions, and as their awards grew, so did their reputation. Mikkeller’s first international splash came with Beer Geek Breakfast, a stout brewed with French-pressed coffee. It’s success resulted in an American distribution deal in 2006, and Mikkeller was on its way. Today they distribute to more than 40 countries.
What makes Mikkeller unique is their fascination with individual ingredients and how they change a beer’s character. The Single Hop IPA series uses the same base recipe brewed in different batches with different individual hop varieties. Their Yeast Series uses the same methodology; only different yeast strains are used to ferment each batch of the same beer.
Mikkeller is a “gyspy-brewer” or a “phantom brewery,” meaning they don’t actually run their own brewery. They collaborate with brewers around the world and use their facilities, which has led to collaborations with breweries from San Diego to Maryland to Australia, to even China.
Mikkeller Bar SF opened in August, and judging by the crowd on a recent Saturday night, they’ve done it right. We managed to find the last two seats at a very large bar in a warm brick-walled industrial space, buzzing with the energy of many happy patrons.
The biggest challenge for me was to make one selection from the 42 taps. My mid-40’s eyes had a bit of trouble with the extensive list in the somewhat dimly lit space, so after a very quick scan I settled on their own Mosaic Imperial IPA, a single-hop brew made with Mosaic hops.
It was delightful, hoppy and balanced, with just enough prickly carbonation, served at just the right temperature. Mikkeller brags about their tap system. “Our custom ‘on the fly’ gas blending system is one of only 4 in the world and allows us precise control over every beer in all conditions.” Of course, all beers are served in style-appropriate glassware.
We’d had dinner earlier that evening, so we skipped the food menu. We saw many satisfied diners, though, quickly polishing off house-made sausages, cheese plates, snacks and sandwiches, served on metal cafeteria trays.
If Mikkeller Bar SF is any indication, our friends from Denmark are serious about beer — how to serve it and how to enjoy it. All of us Bay Area beer geeks are better off for their arrival.