Thursday, April 16, 2009

Beers, bars and Denmark

You go on vacation, you check out the tourist sites, right? The historic this, the cultural that. Sure.
During my recent trip to Copenhagen, I saw Rosenborg Castle, the Danish Design Center, the Viking Ship Museum, which were all great. But these places can only teach you so much about Copenhagen and the Danish people.
Visit a few bars and restaurants frequented by locals, and you'll get a better idea of what the locals eat, drink and think. Besides, I like bars and restaurants.
However, I've written about the bars and restaurants I visited for my travel piece on D.C. Foodies, so I'm not going to dwell too much on them. One of the bars I visited that I didn't give nearly enough time to in my D.C. Foodies post was Charlie's Bar, a great British pub in the heart of the Danish capital.

Two things about this. I love British bitters and the place had free wi-fi. I never thought I'd care about this (the wi-fi, not the beer). But it is a pain in the ass to find a place in Copenhagen that doesn't bleed you for a few desperate minutes of Internet access. Even the hotel we were staying at charged a kroner a minute to get online.
So when I found a place that pumped bitter from beer engines and allowed my to check my e-mail for free, I was ecstatic.

It shouldn't have been as much of a surprise to me as it was, but I was really taken aback by the Danish craft beer scene. Carlsberg is the king hell beer in Denmark and Copenhagen. The beer's sold in every store and nearly every bar. Given this, I should've expected that a group of people would begin to push against Carlsberg's dominance.
Fortunately, the bars I sought out (thank you Beer Mapping Project) specialized in the other Danish beers. In fact, they specialized in craft beers from around Europe and the United States. One of these places, Den Tatoverede Enke, had Flying Dog's Snake Dog IPA on draft and tipped me off to Charlie's Bar, and you gotta like a bar that will recommend another bar.
As solid a selection of European and American craft beers as Den Tatoverede Enke had, Ørsted Ølbar was better.

Double digit taps, including one with Great Divide's Yeti, a refrigerator case full of beers I've never heard of and a Danish bartender with an American girlfriend. I was so enamored with the place and enjoyed talking beer with the bartender that I'm pretty sure I walked out without paying my bill.
Just to be safe, I swung back by the bar later that night, bringing a group in tow. And here's another reason Ørsted Ølbar is a good bar: the bartender I was talking too was no longer there and the one on duty wasn't concerned about my fiscal lapse. Nice, huh?
The group of us responded to the hospitality by staying for a couple rounds. One of the folks who joined the missus and I was Rob, a U.N. consultant and Dutch beer geek. I don't know much about Rob or what he does professionally, but I do know he was president of his college beer club, a member of the European beer union, PINT, and grew up with the guys who launched the De Dolle Brouwers brewery. Once the mutual appreciation of craft beer was discovered, Rob and I began to swap stories, tips and information on all things beer. This back and forth happened time and again in the beer bars I passed though in Copenhagen. It's like we share a secret beer geek code that works just as well overseas as it does here at home. I'm sure we'd have our own handshake as well, if our hands weren't already occupied.
Finally, here are a few beers I tried and liked. Don't worry, I can’t pronounce most of these either.


Dilettard07 said...

A friend sent me to your blog, and thanks to her! Interesting read; I enjoyed reading a first-hand account of the beer scene in Denmark. Also, this is a good resource because BeerAdvocate's BeerFly does not include Copenhagen (and if you are on BeerAdvocate, you might consider submitting these).

A couple of things that your post made me think of that you might find interesting:

1) At a beer tasting with a Belgian brewer at DC's RFD, the brewer indicated that the US and Denmark are the two most important export markets for Belgian beer. 2) Mikkeller can be found in the US; Wine Specialist (corner NH and M, NW) has it and probably several others in town as well.

Rob said...

Excellent article about Copenhagen, Drew! I really enjoyed the evening out with you guys and will check your blog (and DC foodies as well) freqently from now on!