Jacob Gram Alsing, the Operations Manager of Mikkeller, was the guest of the Malted Barley Appreciation Society homebrew club in June 2013 at Mug's Alehouse. Jacob, who works at the company headquarters in Copenhagen, was passing through town and gave us the short history of the company, as well as insight into some new developments.
How did it all start? Mikkel Borg Bjergsø was a high school physics teacher in Denmark who, in the early 2000s, began homebrewing 13 and 26 gallon batches with his pal Kristian Keller (Mikkel + Keller = Mikkeller). He figured that with his science background he should be able to make better beer than what was then domestically available in Denmark. In 2005 he began selling his homebrewed beer though his brother Jeppe's bottle shop and entering his creations in competitions.
|Hangin' with the homie...brewers. Photo Warren Becker.|
The Mikkeller empire has expanded to include the Mikkeller Bar, Mikkeller And Friends bar and the Bottle Shop, all in Copenhagen. They're also in the process of launching a Mikkeller Bar in San Francisco, due to open on July 4, 2013, and one in London, England. Additionally, they've begun to make and sell spirits, including a "beer brandy" made from distilling the 17% Mikkeller Imperial Stout called Black. If that's not enough enterprise for you, Mikkel and company also organize the best international beer fest in Denmark on the first weekend of May -- an annual fest that began in 2012.
Most folks familiar with Mikkeller know that the operation is a "gypsy brewery", meaning, they don't own a brick & mortar facility. They brew their beers at various breweries around the world, though brew most often with a few trusted facilities, such as De Proef in Belgium. Mikkel specifies the ingredients, brewing process, target volume, etc., makes his own artwork, and pays the contract brewery wholesale price for the end product. That then gets shipped off to distributors and importers around the world. Jacob said that the U.S.A. was the biggest market for Mikkeller, but recently Sweden has been taking over.
For those lucky to be in attendance, Jacob poured draught samples of Orange Yuzu Glad I Said Porter and 1000 IBU. He also shared two different bottles from the "educational wood series" Mikkeller released, Forêt Limousine barley wine, aging a single batch of beer in various different types of barrels, to illustrate how different barrels can impart drastically different characters to a single brew. This is similar to the other series that Mikkeller has released, such as the hops series and yeast series. Learn more by listening to Jacob's complete address on the podcast.
|Forêt Limousine barley wine aged in wood.|
|Pour, pour Bob. Photo W.B.|
|Jacob, Bill Coleman and Bridget of Nobel Experiment. Photo W.B.|
[link to podcast page]