Exploring the Mikkeller bars in Bangkok and San Francisco
Get off at Ekkamai Station, find the right soi and then walk north. This will take you past restaurants, cafes, and bars, in what appears to be one of the city’s hipper, less tourist-y neighbourhood. When you get to the big massage parlour, make a right. Make another right at the first lane you come to, then make a left at the end of the lane. There, you’ll see a light in the darkness – if it’s night – and a turquoise sign. And there it is – beervana, aka Mikkeller Bangkok.
A year ago, I’d never heard of Mikkeller – I first read about the brewery (and its Danish mastermind) in this New York Times story. But here I was, on a pilgrimage to find the Bangkok shrine to one of the most renowned craft beer names in the world.
Mikkeller is the brewchild of Mikkel Borg Bjergso, a 38-year-old former high-school science teacher. Bjergso runs the Danish Mikkeller brewery, which has become internationally synonymous with upper-echelon craft beer. Besides a brewery, Mikkeller has also opened a couple of bars and a brewpub in its hometown.
Outside of Denmark, however, there is a total of only four Mikkeller bars: Reykjavik, Stockholm, San Francisco, and Bangkok. By sheer coincidence, I can now say I’ve been to two of them.
My first opportunity came in early May, on a trip to San Francisco for an art show (in the abandoned prison on Alcatraz – you can read about the show here). I had a free day in SF before coming back to Vancouver, so naturally I decided to spend it drinking beer.
The large, buzzing bar was packed with mostly youngish-looking(20s, 30s) patrons. I was led to a lone chair in a dark corner and given the draft list – on which I recognized almost nothing.
I knew most of the types of beers – wits, pale ales, IPAs, stouts, dark ales. But, outside of Mikkeller and a few others, like North Coast, Modern Times, Ballast Point, and Dieu du ciel – the only Canadian on the list – the other breweries were mostly unfamiliar: Pretty Things (Somerville, Massachusetts), Allagash (Portland, Maine), Slaapmutske (Belgium), Amager (Denmark), Tahoe Mountain (Lake Tahoe). And while the types of brew were common, the variations were not – there was a “sour spontaneous beer”, an “oaked raspberry cream ale”, an “American wild ale aged in French wine barrels.” This was no tour of the Molson Canadian plant.
The Raspberries & Cream sound too good to pass up, so I started with that. However, my second selection was where I really struck gold – the Bomb! by Prairie Artisan Ales (Kansas), an “imperial stout aged on coffee, cacao nibs, vanilla & chillies” (and 14% alcohol). Recommended by the server when asked what was a must-have, it was as delicious (and ruinous) as it sounds.
At any rate, when the opportunity arose to hit up a second Mikkeller Bar within a month, while on a trip to Southeast Asia, I was more than ready.
As mentioned, we arrived at Mikkeller BKK at night, just over an hour before closing. We passed through a sort of backyard (thought it might have been the front!), which was mostly unoccupied but staffed with bean-bag chairs and a pouring station. Inside, the airy, comfortable bar was hosting a few small groups of beer lovers.
I started with a Beaverton Neck Oil, a session IPA, and then went for the 8Wired Double Coffee Brown Ale. Both were satisfying in their own right, though neither had the complexity or full-bodied flavour of the Bomb! imperial stout I’d had at Mikkeller SF. As in San Francisco, the food menu was small but thoughtful, a step (or, as foodies say, “elevated”) above usual pub grub. We enjoyed two items from the dessert menu, the warm doughnut with dark beer chocolate truffle and kalamansi truffle, and the peppermint ice cream with granola, citrus and fennel.
I would liked to have stayed longer and tried more from the 30-strong draft list, but closing time was approaching and I just had enough time to stock up at the bottle shop next door. I would need something to see me through the next couple of days, and to keep me from the Singha in our hotel room mini-bar.
And now, of course, I will have to find a way to get to Mikkeller Reykjavik.