Holy Lord, those Danes know how to do a beer festival.
Copenhagen Beer Celebration (or CBC to those who went and spent the entire time Twitter- spamming all the
suckers poor sods who didn’t manage to get across for it) has just finished. Now in its third year of operation, the Mikkeller-run CBC has gained a significant reputation in the world of new wave brewing. It’s quite literally the Glastonbury/Coachella/another-great-event of the beer world.
CBC takes place over a heady two days in a big gymnasium out in the Østerbro area of Denmark’s capital.
Well, there are four ‘sessions’ each lasting four and a half hours. Some of the world’s best and most sought-after brewers are in attendance and bring a couple of kegs to each session. Each brewer brings only one keg of each beer with them, so once the keg kicks, you’re not getting any more. Entrance is pre-paid (and highly limited – it sells out in a few minutes) and you get a little glass to do as much damage/tasting as you can in your allotted time.
On account of my laziness on the morning the tickets were released, I missed out on the fabled Pink Tickets (a liver-busting pass for all four sessions) and only managed to snag one of the last remaining Red tickets for the Saturday early session. By early, I mean early. I was there waiting in line at 9am for the doors to open at 10am.
Beginning drinking outstandingly world class beer in a queue outside a gym at 9:15am on an overcast Copenhagen morning is not something I do too much, if I’m honest. But sod it, when in Rome (and when good beer people pull out fresh growlers of Hill Farmstead gear).
How was the session?
After a good bit of queuing (I’d recommend rocking up at least 30mins prior to doors opening) we quite literally stormed the castle. Scenes reminiscent of those odd buggers who line up outside Next on Boxing Day morning at 4am and then race in to get their hands on as much tat as possible. Except, instead of tat and homewear, this particular bunch of odd buggers were racing to get some beer of serious quality in their tiny tiny glasses.
First up: Funky Buddha’s French Toast. A beer that legitimately tastes of syrupy French toast is truly a breakfast beer of kings: this had such a huge maple syrupy depth matched up with resinous and caramel bitterness that it quite literally knocked me into action. A double brown ale of massive stickiness…thank Christ for the genius addition of proper glass-washing stations…
After this solid start, the order in which I had the rest of the brews is pretty hazy in my memory (unsurprisingly). I did, however, take some hastily patched together tasting notes and snapped some slightly-wonky photos.
Notable highlights came from the likes of Crooked Stave – another one of Denver, Colorado’s seemingly endless stream of shit-hot brewers. Their barrel aged peach wild ale, L’Brett d’Peach was the ultimate funky palate cleanser – 5% ABV hazy gold with a big peach hit, Bretty spices, and orange juice on the nose, followed up with the juiciest damn peachiest taste tinged with the lightest zing of Brett.
Evil Twin brew some good gear. That’s undeniable. Two of these creations were at the Red Session: Imperial Doughnut Break (Peanut Butter) and Imperial Doughnut Break (Raspberry). Yes, two huge imperial stouts with – you guessed it – dollops of both peanut butter and raspberry flavour. Sweet as hell, but delicious.
It’s always a delight to drink beers from two of America’s good beer stalwarts, Surly and Three Floyds, so to have both in attendance was class. Even better was that they brought their big guns to the session… Three Floyds Dreadnaught is everything an American Double IPA should be – full of bitter pine, juicy grapefruit, orange and an almost herbal spruce note with a clean enough malt bill to keep things crisp and crazily drinkable for a 9.5%er. Surly weren’t to be beaten, though, and had thoughtfully brought along a keg of their much-lauded imperial stout, Darkness. How nice of them. Worthy of its significant hype, Darkness was chock full of fig and chocolate, with darker roasted notes and a light touch of sweet vanilla. More please.
Most pleasing for me was the sheer quality of British brews on offer, confirming that we really do have a word-class scene that stand shoulder to shoulder with the American big boys (and then some).
The likes of Brodies, Buxton, the Kernel and Alpha State did themselves proud (special mention to Alpha State’s Queen of Sweden Red Simcoe IPA and Buxton’s offensively well-flavoured 2.6%-er, Jacob’s Ladder). However, the brew that really stole the show for me was Magic Rock’s Un-human Cannonball. Never has a triple IPA been so bloody drinkable. Huddersfield’s finest shining on the world stage is great to see.
Well, that’ll do for listing beers and making you jealous. The beers were cracking, end of.
Bit of controversy/whinging?
A few folks have been up in arms about beer running out well before the sessions ended (especially in the later Friday slot). I did notice quite a few kegs kicking around me as we entered the final hour of the Red Session, but I managed to taste everything I wanted with a bit of forward planning. I’m no uber-ticker, so trawling round each and every brew wasn’t on my to-do list – I was happy roaming around with a never-empty glass of great stuff chatting shit with some of the finest, funniest, and daftest beer folk on the planet. True, it’s not ideal that stuff was running out, but I imagine the ticket price would have to increase significantly (from the already significant 50ish quid) to provide a truly unlimited stream of the world’s best and rarest beer. Reality check needed for some, methinks.
Shout-out goes to the food options too – a great array of smørrebrød from Hallernes and beer themed hotdogs from John’s. Other stuff (pork belly burgers, especially) looked fab, but let’s face it – I wasn’t there for the grub.
In all, a cracker of a day. I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone who’s into beer in any way. Copenhagen’s not a cheap place by any means, but the focus on quality in so many areas of their food and drink scene is astounding. I’ll be at CBC next year, hopefully see you there too.