20 May 2010

Pay no attention to the man on the wall

Phew! Believe it or not, this is only the 500th post on this blog. It feels like I've written that on Copenhagen alone. But this is the last one, covering some more pub-hopping around the city.

On Friday we'd hit the festival early and eaten in BrewPub so decided to seek out a few other city centre hostelries afterwards. The Lord Nelson was easy enough to find, a small and dark low-ceilinged watering hole in a basement just off the main shopping street. Elsewhere it would probably be a dive, but this being Denmark the diveyness is highly compromised by cleanliness and good behaviour. Herslev are responsible for the house beer: Lord Nelson IPA, and very good it is too, with lots of powerful bitter citrus tempered by a floral fruitiness. Herslev's Maj Bock was also on. It has a mild and pleasant spice to it but is still too syrupy overall for my liking. Having sampled these wares we moved on.

The Lord Nelson sounds like it should be an English theme-bar rather than a Danish craft specialist, but if it's bitter and horse brasses you want, Charlie's is the place to go. I mean, just look at those beards. It is, I understand, one of the very few establishments outside the UK to have Cask Marque accreditation and the narrow barroom does a very good impression of an English pub. And was jammed when we got there. Bravely we fought our way to the bar and after being served found a windowsill to perch on. I was drinking Hopback's Dragon's Breath a brown bitter with an enjoyable peppery character. I'd have had another, only for the fact that there was barely room to swig a pint, so off we went again.

A long death-march through the nighttime streets of Copenhagen failed to turn up anywhere worth stopping so we meandered circuitously back to The Lord Nelson which proved rather more elusive to locate, second time round. When we got in, recovering our former table, there was Svaneke's Bobarækus, a dampfbier made with Simcoe which turns out deliciously peachy and fresh: eminently sinkable, even late at night. Refsvindinge's Ale No. 16 is different, but similarly drinkable. It's dark, 5.7% ABV but has an understated perfumey flavour. One of those beers that won't interrupt the flow of conversation. Which it didn't. Which is why we didn't notice 3am go past, with no signs of life in the bar thinning out, or even becoming more raucous. Civilised all-night drinking really threw me. It'll never catch on.

After a woozy Saturday I was back on form on Sunday. The festival had closed and I was on the late-afternoon flight back to Dublin. Not much opens, beerwise, in Copenhagen on Sundays, but there's one very notable exception. Plan B is a laid-back café set over two levels in the north end of the city centre. Sunday morning it had a typically deli-heavy Danish brunch menu on, with a jazz and prog-rock soundtrack to unwind to while giving the papers a leisurely glance. The wall-art is, well, questionable (I'm not the first to have thought so), but I parked my clinking rucksack and made myself at home on the big sofa on the mezzanine then fired up the free wi-fi. And ordered a beer from their incongruously impressive draught and bottled selection.

My first choice was Stevns Klintekongen, because nothing starts Sunday mornings like a 7.5% ABV smoked oatmeal stout. Sadly I got no more than a shot as the tap ran out, which is a shame because what little I tasted tasted lovely: bitter and slightly sour on the nose, like Guinness Foreign Extra, finishing properly oatmeal-sweet though with little sign of the smoke, unfortunately.

The fall-back was Gemini by New York's Southern Tier Brewing Company. This 9%-er is a blend of two of their strong IPAs and offers a fascinating mix of sweet and savoury flavours. Most of all I got bittersweet mandarin pith, but topped with an earthy cheddar cheese and finishing -- I swear I'm not just pulling these out of a hat, or anything else -- with strawberries in balsamic vinegar. A leisurely sipper and just perfect for pre-noon contemplation.

There was lots from the travelling Beer Here brewing company, including Lupulus, an unsurprisingly hop-driven pale ale, dark red-amber giving off exotic musky smells. The body is quite thin and it packs a nicely tart bitter bite. It's a good sessioner, but I moved on. Not too far, though, keeping things hoppy with Tia Loca. Its mixture of sticky-sweet fruit flavours reminded me of nothing so much as orange barley sugar sweets, though with an extra oiliness. Not unpleasant, though.

Two unseasonal beers followed: the light and gently spicy Beer Here Påske, and then the much more complex Beer Here Jul: a mixture of earthy funk and fresh hops with a little bit of a soapy finish but quite nice overall. Séan, meanwhile, had opted for a bottle of Amager's Barrel Aged Imperial Stout: another technical exercise in perfection from these guys. It's as rich and roasty and sticky as you'd like, with just the right levels of mild carbonation and a pronounced, but not domineering, vanilla oak aftertaste. The perfect beer to send me off with a very positive impression of Danish craft brewing.

The failure of Eyjafjallajökull to do any erupting meant that at 2.30 it was time to get the metro to the airport and head home. It was an excellent couple of days and my appetite is certainly whetted for seeing more of the city's top-notch beer bars, and maybe visiting a brewery or two. But that's for another time. So many places to go, so many beers to drink.


  1. congratulations on the 500th post, and for having a 9% beer for breakfast on the Sunday!

  2. In fairness my hotel did provide a good breakfast, but ending at the unearthly hour of 9.30. So it was more of a post-breakfast brunch.

    Not that there's anything wrong with double IPA for breakfast, of course. Much more civilised than the 9am litre of fizzy lager at Oktoberfest.

  3. No 16 is a survivor: For a very long time, during danish brewing's dark ages - that is until 1998-99 or so - it was the only top-fermented beer available in bottled form in Denmark

  4. Good seeing you again - and congratulations on the 500th!

  5. Likewise, and thanks. You disappeared pretty quickly after popping in to Plan B that afternoon. What could have been more pressing?

  6. Nice post. A shame we didn't catch up. But I see you caught me on a pic at plan b. Didn't even spot you I'm afraid. Next time.

  7. Sounds an excellent way to spend a Sunday and a perfect drink for brunch. :)

  8. Copenhagen sounds great. I'm working on either Rome or there for my birthday this year. If I go then expect me to come to you asking for a list of places to visit!

    Did you go to the new Mikkeller bar while over there?

  9. No 16 is a popular classic all over Copenhagen both on draft and in bottle format. I visited the Bryggeriet Refsvindinge one time on a trip to Denmark-a nice farm with a large barn in the back brewing, bottling, and selling beer. They were doing a pretty good business of selling cases to people stopping in to stock up for parties and stuff-great to see.

  10. Cheddar cheese? That's interesting. I've had a couple of beers which tasted somewhat of cheese. One worked, the other didn't. Is it old hops that are supposed to give a cheesy flavour to beer?

  11. Considering what Nelson did to the Danish fleet at Copenhagen in 1801, it seems very forgiving of them to name a pub after him.