Sunday 8 September 2013

Craft Beer in Copenhagen...

Back in late January myself and a couple of mates decided to head off to Copenhagen in Denmark for a short break to see for ourselves whether this fine city deserved it's growing reputation as one of the best places to enjoy top quality craft beer. Copenhagen has a reputation of being an expensive place to visit, but our research concluded that the beer was no more costly than the craft beer venues found in London (and what else mattered?) so that was enough for us. Like the UK, Copenhagen was gripped by a freezing winter at the time, but just like an ice cold San Miguel works wonders in 30 °C of Spanish sunshine, so does a full bodied, flavoursome 'Ugly Duck Imperial Vanilla Coffee Porter' with a whopping 10% ABV that warms you from the inside out in cold weather.

So armed with thermal vests, woolly hats and gloves we headed north.
I don't profess one bit to be a beer writer, so this is a personal and unprofessional recollection of the bars we visited and some of the beers we drank. When we planned our trip I can recall failing to find a 'pub crawl style' guide to the craft beer bars of Copenhagen, so I hope that this post may prove helpful if you're visiting the city. (all images my own)
On arriving in Copenhagen we ditched our bags in our hotel and took a leisurely stroll northwards alongside the series of picturesque lakes that are popular with bikers and runners. Our destination was Ølbaren (pic above - left) situated on Elmegade in the Nørrebro district of the city. It is a small venue with a dark interior and other than one friendly enough chap sat at the bar munching on a bag of nuts we had the place to ourselves. Behind the bar a well-bearded and knowledgeable, if rather expressionless, young man guided us through their beer offerings, which consisted of around 10 taps and a seemingly endless bottled beer selection. I started with the 'Ugly Duck Imperial Vanilla Coffee Porter' from Denmark's own Indslev Bryggeri. Full in flavor and even stronger in alcohol, this was a bold way to start a weekend on the beer, but it was truly delightful! A few interesting beers later I finished up with a 'Southern Tier 'Crème Brulee Stout' (9.6 ABV) before we headed back out into the cold afternoon.

Heading eastwards back across the lakes we ambled merrily over to Ørsted Ølbar on Nørre Farimagsgade  (pic above - centre) where the interior reminded me of a more traditional English pub with chunky wooden tables and candles in bottles for mood lighting. The place was slowly filling up with folk readying themselves for a big handball game on the T.V later that evening against Spain. The bar has around a dozen beer taps and over 150 bottled beers to chose from. The stand-out beer of our visit here was an 'Imperial Biscotti Break' (11.5% ABV) from the Evil Twin Brewing Company (pic above - right). Another heavy dark beer that was keeping the winter chill out nicely! By now, even at mid afternoon, Copenhagen was plunged into darkness.
From there we drifted with the steadily falling snow back across the city following a recommendation to try the Fermentoren beer bar on Halmtorvet (pic above - centre) in the trendy Vesterbro district. In our desire to see the city we chose to walk, but with sub-zero temperatures biting into us we had to seek refuge in the Bryggeriet Apollo (pic above - left) which is situated near the main station and next to the popular tourist amusement park, Tivoli. A microbrewery that takes it's inspiration from Germany's brewing traditions, it is just about worth a visit and their dark and weissbier offerings went down well enough. Thawed out, we made our way to the Fermentoren Beer Bar.

Set back from the road and entered downwards via some steps this bar feels more like a trendy city venue and you can understand why it would be popular with the hipster types often associated with the craft beer scene. We went there on both nights of our stay and on both occasions the bar tender was friendly, knowledgeable and helpful, particularly on our second visit when we experimented with various combinations of bottled ales and stouts to create our own black and tan (things you do, eh?). A couple of stand-out Danish brewed beers from this venue included the 'Purple Haze Black IPA' from Croocked Moon Brewery (8% ABV) and the 'Wookiee IPA' from Amager Brewery (7.2% ABV). If you mistakenly use the ladies WC (which is easy to do, let me assure you) you will have the 'pleasure' of having Burt Reynolds watching over you as you take a leak (a wall painting, not the real man).

The last stop of our first night was a short walk away at Mikkeller Bar on Viktoriagade. The tiny, intimate interior is deliberately understated and like a scene from an Ikea brochure in places, but as a craft beer brewers go, Mikkeller is groundbreaking and so this is the bar to be drinking in right now. The mecca of craft beer, if you will. By this time of the evening I'm afraid I can't recall what beers we drank, other than that we was gently working our way through their own delightful and varied beer offerings. Another thing worthy of note was their amazing cheeseboard (pic above - right).

Thankfully, after all that beer indulgence, we had less than a 5min walk back to our hotel...
The following morning we all jumped out of bed early, heads feeling fine from a good nights sleep (take note larger drinkers, real beer doesn't give you a hangover) and headed off for a few hours of being tourists...
We took our first beer of the day in the microbrewery, BrewPub, on Vestergade near the city's shopping region. We had been spoilt the day before and so we arrived with high expectations. We each went for the rather expensive tasting flights (pic above - left) to try and ease our way into the day and to sample as many of their own offerings as we could. Nothing stood out and the rather cold bar tender never improved matters. We left disappointed.
Slightly despondent, we trudged over to the Lord Nelson on Hyskenstræde (pic above - centre) which given the name and the exterior appearance, we had low expectations of. Once inside we found a dingy, dusty, dark and tired looking interior and we could well have turned on our heels and walked straight out at that point. It would have been a mistake: at the bar we found an excellent selection of Danish microbrewery offerings on draught as well as a decent bottled selection. This is a bar that concentrates on the beer and makes no attempts to become 'trendy' like it's Mikkeller or Fermentoren cousins across the city. Best of all was the large barman, who was pure entertainment throughout our visit. He was a fanatical Copenhagen supporter and you sort of got the impression he would turn on you instantly if you dared to question the good name of his club! He'd heard of Charlton, mainly through the Rommedah and Jensen connection.
After a good few hours we headed back over to Fermentoren and then finished up once again at the Mikkeller Bar, where, remembering us from the night before, we enjoyed some fantastic hospitality sat lazily at the bar, steadily being fed new and interesting bottles of beer from their own brewery, one of which was a chocolate and chilli flavoured dark beer called 'Mexas Ranger' (6.6% ABV). We got talking to a very large bearded chap (by know we'll take the bearded thing as a given) who it transpired was the founder of the Flying Couch Brewery. The night before we'd sampled his delightful 'Green Velvet IPA' (7% ABV) at the Fermentoren. A disappointing start to the day, but a great end.
The following morning we checked out of our hotel, but with half a day to kill before heading home we drifted over to the Danish microbrewer, Nørrebro Bryghus on Ryesgade (pic above - left) to try out their offerings. It perhaps came a little too late in our break to make an impact, but it is definitely worth a trip. I sampled the 'Pacific Summer Ale' (5.6 ABV), which was a refreshing American-style blond ale (pic above - centre). I can also thoroughly recommend their beef burgers, which really hit the spot after a heavy few days on the beer.

Last but by no means least we finished up at Ølbutikken on Istedgade (pic above - right). This isn't a bar; it's essentially an independent specialist bottled beer shop that has a small bench seated area where you can sample some beers and watch the world go by outside. Ideally placed close to the main train station, it was a great place to kill an hour or two. We began with a 'Supa Hero' (8% ABV) from the American brewer, Clown Shoes, before engaging in more attempts to create some black and tans (not particularly successful on this occasion, I may add).

Reluctantly, with trains and planes to catch, we headed home.   
I don't have a great memory, so I am grateful to my companions, Scott and Bolts, for their assistance in putting this post together. Copenhagen is a fantastic place to visit outside of it's growing craft beer scene, and my only disappointment is that we couldn't stay a few days longer, especially given that Mikkeller & Friends on Stefansgade rather frustratingly opened a short while after we left the city. My only word of caution is that Sunday still seems to be a quiet day in Copenhagen with some of the bars mentioned above not even open at all, which is not ideal if you're visit is over a weekend.

We have already made tentative plans to return again in February next year...

2015 UPDATE -- I recently wrote an updated version of the 'Craft Beers in Copenhagen' post which can be found by clicking here


  1. Great post. Unfortunately with my severely limited capacity for drinking strong beer, I would not be alive to write this comment if I had spent even a quarter of your visit with you. I do love Copenhagen, though - I've been there twice and it is one of the most friendly, relaxed and accessible cities around. Compared to other Scandinavian cities, Copenhagen is relatively inexpensive, I found it very much on a par with London price-wise.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Martin. I should point out that whilst some of the beers mentioned above are strong in ABV they are typically 33cl bottles and drunk slowly and sensibly with the emphasise on actually appreciating the beer rather than getting drunk.

    The quality of the beer also helps to keep your merry state manageable!

  3. Great post mate. I'm going to Copenhagen for a craft beer festival next May, your post has almost set my itinerary! I think I've even booked into the same hotel you guys were in. You weren't in the City Hotel Nebo opposite the train station by any chance?

  4. Thanks for the comment, Andrew. The hotel we stayed at was called The Savoy Hotel
    Vesterbrogade 34

  5. Just off to Copenhagen and this blog is very good, but doubt missus will let me visit all the bars. Lovely misspelling - larger ...... or is it?

    The following morning we all jumped out of bed early, heads feeling fine from a good nights sleep (take note larger drinkers, real beer doesn't give you a hangover) and headed off for a few hours of being tourists...

    1. Ha ha! I'd not noticed that mistake before. Perhaps I did mean the more rotund drinkers should take note! Who knows!

      How did you get on???

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