(limited liability company)
|Founder||Mikkel Borg Bjergsø
Kristian Klarup Keller
Number of locations
|Aarhus, Bangkok, Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Los Angeles, Reykjavík, San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei, Tokyo (bars)
|Revenue||€4.5 million (2016)|
|Owner||Mikkel Borg Bjergsø|
Mikkeller is a microbrewery founded in 2006 in Copenhagen, Denmark that is based on the so-called "cuckoo", "phantom" or "gypsy" ethos; that is, the company does not operate an official brewery and, instead, collaborates with other brewers to produce their recipes or experimental one-off brews. The brewery was founded by two home brewers: Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, a high school teacher, and journalist Kristian Klarup Keller. Both sought to introduce their home-brewed beer to the public and to "challenge beer friends with intense new tastes", drawing inspiration from the American breweries that "aren't afraid to play and break all the rules".
Inception and development: 2005–2007
Before founding the company, self-taught home brewers Bjergsø and Keller experimented on brewing, first by trying to clone existing beers. After success in blind tastings, the two started creating their own recipes and entered many home brewing competitions in Denmark, eventually winning many of them. The brewery's activity was small, with a low level of public visibility, as the brewing was kitchen-based and the beer was only served at a few beer enthusiast meetings and in small local bars. Bjergsø's brother founded a beer shop in 2005 and began to distribute the pair's beer to select destinations in numerous countries. In 2006, encouraged by wider appeal, Bjergsø and Keller founded the Mikkeller brewing company, named after their home brewery operation.
In late 2006, an experimental Mikkeller beer called Beer Geek Breakfast garnered fame for the company when it won in the stout category of an international beer voting event. Following this recognition, Mikkeller made its first official appearance at the Copenhagen Beer Festival, where the brewery successfully introduced eight different beers, garnering further acclaim. The attention that occurred in the second half of 2006 resulted in an international distribution deal, and to cope with demand, Mikkeller started to brew in established breweries by paying rent for the machinery and costs of the brewing process. Therefore, the small company could continue production even though it did not have the funds to invest in a facility and professional brewing equipment.
Keller parted ways with the company in 2007, as he was not interested in production and crafting a greater number of beers, while Bjergsø was eager to constantly create new recipes and tastes. Keller quit brewing in order to pursue his career as a journalist, leaving Bjergsø to oversee the brewery.
Establishment and expansion: 2008 onward
Mikkeller's beers are sold in over 40 countries around the world, 10 per cent of which are sold in Denmark. Mikkeller's style of brewing is considered to be unique, since many of its beers are experimental with novel tastes. During its history, Mikkeller has released 800 different beers in a wide variety of styles, including several variations on the same beers (e.g. barrel-aging a beer in oaken barrels from various origins or having contained various spirits).
In 2013 the brewery introduced 124 different beers. Some of the beers are constantly in production, while most of the products are available for a limited time; or in small batches; or at a certain location; or all of these factors combined. With a high number of different beers and a popular reputation among beer enthusiasts worldwide, the Mikkeller microbrewery struggles to meet the demand for its beer.
Consistent with the company's early years, Mikkeller continues to brew solely at a variety of host facilities—mainly at de Proefbrouwerij in Belgium, but also at breweries in Denmark, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States. All of the various recipes are engineered at Mikkeller's own facility in Copenhagen; altogether, the company's annual output is 17,000 hectolitres of beer.
In April 2016, Mikkeller opened its first US brewery in San Diego, California. The facility had previously been owned by AleSmith, which relocated to a larger space. Mikkeller's relationship with AleSmith goes back to an early interaction between Bergsø and AleSmith's owner Peter Zein, who offered Bergsø some advice on how to improve his coffee stout.
While Mikkeller does not operate an official brewery, its home base is the Mikkeller Bar in Copenhagen, which the company owns. In March 2013, Mikkeller and another Danish microbrewery, To Øl, opened a second Mikkeller bar in Copenhagen called Mikkeller & Friends. At the same time, a Mikkeller Bottle Shop opened, selling bottled beers from Mikkeller and "other praiseworthy microbreweries around the world". Mikkeller also operates an online web store, where consumers can choose from a small, changing assortment of Mikkeller beer, in addition to merchandise, such as shirts and glassware.
In July 2013, the first international Mikkeller bar was opened in San Francisco, California, through a licensing agreement with an American retailer. The San Francisco bar uses the new "on-the-fly" beer taps that allows the beer to be poured in a very sophisticated and controlled manner. Beer, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide are blended in a precise manner and the product is served at the correct temperature, with variations applying to different styles of beer.
In late 2013, Mikkeller announced the January 2014 launch of its second foreign bar, located in Bangkok, Thailand. The brand partnered with an already established Thai-based beer distribution company and seeks to capitalise on the higher earning capacity of Thai people, as well as tourists. At the opening, one of the owners explained: "... and we thought it was about time to elevate the level of craft beer available in Thailand and, hopefully, expand throughout Southeast Asia." A total of 30 beers are served at the venue, including two microbrews exclusive to Thailand.
In addition to regular brewing, Mikkeller also produces collaborative beers with other breweries, such as BrewDog, To Øl, Nøgne Ø, Lervig Aktiebryggeri, Jester King, Evil Twin, Three Floyds, Cigar City and AleSmith. Mikkeller has also brewed "house beers" for restaurants (including Michelin starred ones) and bars in Denmark and several other countries. They are currently working with an Arizona Brewery called Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. which was recently named the best new brewery in the world by ratebeer.com in 2013.
Some of the breweries Mikkeller has collaborated with are the result of close past relationships. When working as a mathematics and physics teacher in high school, Bjergsø taught two of his students how to brew beer outside of school hours, and in 2010 they started their own microbrewery, To Øl. Additionally, Brooklyn-based Evil Twin's founder and operator is Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, Mikkel's twin brother.
Copenhagen Beer Celebration
Since 2012, Mikkeller has organized and hosted a large annual beer festival, the Copenhagen Beer Celebration, which takes place each year in May. The festival mainly features small breweries from around the world, with many of them premiering new beers or small one-off batches of special beer, brewed specifically for the festival.
Mikkeller won the "Danish Brewery of the Year" award in its inaugural year, in 2006, and again in 2008; in 2009 the award was shared with Hornbeer. Mikkeller has also been judged the fifth best brewery in the world on two occasions. Mikkeller's beers have won multiple awards, too. For example, a pale lager called The American Dream has won a RateBeer's golden award in its category since 2012, and an imperial stout called Beer Geek Brunch Weasel has been in top 20 on RateBeer's "Best Beers in the World" chart for six consecutive years, topping at number six in 2009.
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