I'll be upfront in admitting that I'm spoiled when it comes to beer. Living in New York, I'm constantly surrounded by top-tier IPAs, perfectly crisp pilsners, dark-as-night stouts and interesting sours—all locally brewed, of course. For non-local brews, the world-class beer bars dotting the city do a remarkable job of stocking covetable bottles from around the globe.
So who would have guessed that some of my best beer drinking would take place not at home in the States, but rather in Copenhagen, Denmark?
Copenhagen is a relatively small city, but has a big-city presence when it comes to design, cuisine and, as I learned when I visited last spring, beer. The city is perhaps most famously home to Carlsberg Brewery (the Scandinavian equivalent of Budweiser), which has sprawling, visitor-friendly grounds with their own horse stables. For more inventive craft brews, though, the city is filled with small, unassuming bars and breweries pouring stunningly good beer.
You just have to know where to look.
Mikkeller has evolved to an internationally recognized beer brand by dropping a whole lot of little bars throughout the world. In the company’s hometown of Copenhagen, they've got a staggering 14 properties. This particular spot, located in the hip, nightlife-heavy Vesterbro area, has twenty taps of Mikkeller as well as other beers in a charming space that feels very Danish—lots of white surfaces, simple and modern furniture, plus a cozy but elegant vibe. The beers themselves can be hits or misses, which is frustrating given that they’re also quite pricey. But the list is diverse and full of interesting options. It's a great place for a quiet, intimate, and relaxed evening when you want to linger over a glass or two of something unique such as Hallo Ich Bin Berliner Weisse brewed with coffee and Oregon cherries.
Mikkeller & Friends Bottle Shop
This little bottle shop is located in Torvehallerne, an enjoyable market filled with food and drink stands selling charcuterie, desserts, bread, prepared foods, coffee, fruits, vegetables, plants and more—making it well worth browsing around in its own right. The Mikkeller outpost here offers a rainbow of styles, from American sours such as Cascade to rare Belgian brews such as Westvleteren XII, alongside plenty of Danish and Swedish beers that you're unlikely to find Stateside. Browse around the market, pick up a snack, and then get yourself a few bottles for hotel room nightcaps.
Paradise exists, and it's located in the Nørrebro neighborhood of Copenhagen. This cozy—read, “tiny”—Mikkeller bar dedicated to Belgian beer has a lambic selection that rivals, if not surpasses, even the best bars in Belgium. The bar fits only a few stools in addition to some small, low tables in the oak-paneled room. A handful of taps pour a unique mix of Scandinavian beers and hyped-up American ales that you'd be lucky to find anywhere stateside, let alone abroad. Wicked Weed Myrtille was on draft alongside some Danish pale ales when I visited. The real specialty here, though, is their bottle selection, which includes a deep supply of covetable geuzes, krieks and more from places such as Cantillon and Bokkereyder, including vintages that stretch back to the 1990s. It's not cheap, but nothing in Denmark is, and if you want to try rare bottles of some of the world's best lambics, this is the place to go.
This dimly-lit dive bar with 20 terrific taps and a great bottle list has more of a party atmosphere than most other beer spots in Copenhagen. They've also got a wide selection of Scandinavian brews, making it a great spot to try a few local (or somewhat local) pints, though they often have some very good options from the US and Belgium on offer as well. That means they offer their own brown ale, brewed at a nearby contract brewery, next to Crooked Stave wild ales and Saison Dupont. Oh, and there's Big Lebowski stuff everywhere—quotes, murals and posters—for some reason.
A heavy-metal-themed, Texas-barbecue brewpub serving hazy, New England-style hop bombs in Copenhagen. Why not? This spot is a joint project between Mikkeller—yep, them again—and 3 Floyds. They lean in heavily to the American tastes with a small, but well-curated, bourbon selection, featuring a full range of Pappy Van Winkle, and 22 taps of house beers. The latter includes plenty of juicy, softly sweet pale ales and IPAs. The space is large and very popular, so the room takes on a party feeling, especially during the weekend evenings. It's just as good for a casual weekday lunch, if you're in need of some beer and beef ribs.
The building that houses this beautiful Danish brewery slash shop slash restaurant used to be an iron factory. You can feel the industrial bones of the space amid the elegant and minimalist Danish design. It's owned by the same people behind To Øl, the Danish brewery whose artfully-designed bottles and cans you can occasionally find on shelves in the States. They've got an impressive 33 taps of their own beer, plus draft cocktails and guest offerings from other Scandinavian brewers. Their shop has quick-hitting lunch bites like sandwiches and coffee as well as snacks and to-go beer and booze, and their wide-ranging menu has all kinds of interesting small plates, from salt-baked celeriac with smoked cheese sauce to gochujang-spiced Korean chicken wings.
If you've ever been to Greenpoint, Brooklyn in search of beer, you probably know about Tørst, the fantastically good and handsomely appointed bar, which was founded by Danish brewer Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø of Evil Twin. Himmeriget is Tørst's sister bar and shares all the same notable features: A beautifully curated tap and bottle list, an alluring-but-minimalist design and a crowd of patrons and staff who truly care about beer. Grab a Peanut Butter Imperial Mexican Biscotti Cake Break, served in their signature daisy-marked glasses, and raise a pastry stout to one of the world’s quaintest beer destination.