Friday, 17 June 2011

Being part of the Hospitality Industry, supposedly

I just got a reminder that we should rush to nominate ourselves in the Hospitality Association's annual awards for excellence. There's a category called Best Bar. Here is the entry form.

Now one of the criteria is the quality of food on offer. Fair enough. A best restaurant contest might include the quality of the drinks list as a criterion. Although they'd probably call it the "wine list". (In fact I've checked and the best restaurant category does judge on the "wine list".)

Now if food is one criterion is it strange to expect that the quality of drinks on offer might make up a high proportion of the remaining criteria? Individual consideration for beer, wine, non-alcoholic drinks perhaps? Or at least one criterion?

Incredibly it seems you can be the best bar in New Zealand, according to the Hospitality Association, without the judging panel asking what drinks you serve.

Good on you HANZ. Keep lobbying for public holiday surcharges. At least our membership gets us a discount on our sky subscription.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Mikkeller Part 2

Mikkeller / Three Floyds Beer Dinner

In late May Copenhagen hosts a large beer festival. In 2011 Mikkeller and Three Floyds collaborated on a couple of events to coincide with this festival. One was the dedication of most of the Mikkeller bar’s guest taps to beers from Three Floyds. This in itself is an exceptional event as the products of the brewery that considers the best in the world are rarely available far from Chicago. The night before this tap takeover was an extraordinary collaborative dinner.

The venue was Mielcke & Hurtigkarl, an impressively elegant dining venue on the grounds of the Royal Danish Garden Society.

Planning had been going on (and the event had been sold out) for months. Eight courses had been devised to go with eight pairs of beers – one each from Mikkeller and Three Floyds. Mikkel of Mikkeller, Barnaby Struve of Three Floyds and Jakob Mielcke of Mielcke & Hurtigkarl were on hand to introduce each course.

A scan of the menu is attached, although the names of the dishes are somewhat terse. Interestingly of eight courses, three were seafood, three incorporated ice cream and the other two were based around pigeon and pork. None used red meat.

If I tried to pick a few highlights I would end up picking something from just about every course. Every dish was delicious and was at least a respectable match for the beers. For a few the lexicon of superlatives would be getting exhaustive use.

Perhaps the biggest highlight wasn’t on the menu - before formal dining started there was a chance to sample a brand new beer, created by Mikkeller especially for the restaurant. It was an 8.7% Belgian-style pale ale aged in barrels that previously contained Chateau d’Yquem – the world’s most famous dessert wine. It changed my view of what barrel aging can do for a beer, staying light and refreshing but still incredibly complex.

Of the beers, only a handful of the Mikkellers have made it to New Zealand so far (Nelson Sauvignon and Beer Geek Brunch Weasel) and none of the Three Floyds, although the Hvedegoop (Wheat Wine) is in the same series as the Oatgoop and Ruggoop that Hashigo Zake has a few of.

The event kicked off at 6pm and at around midnight that guests settled themselves into taxis, with about half of them going back to the Mikkeller bar for a bonus fourth dessert. It’s hard to believe that a beer geek could have a better six hours.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Mikkeller Part 1

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Mikkeller bar in Copenhagen turned out to be somewhat unconventional. In fact it’s as if they’ve deconstructed the whole tavern paradigm and eliminated every convention that isn’t absolutely central to its function. Not only are there no pool tables, dart boards, pokies or juke boxes, there’s also no soft lighting, gloomy corners, beer memorabilia or just about anything to betray the place’s function. There’s hardly even a sign to warn you you’re walking past the place you’re looking for.

Once inside, if you looked past the small, central bar itself, the rest of the small, slightly-below-street-level venue could be mistaken for an art gallery or hair salon, with white walls and ceiling and pale green floor. It’s also extremely small, with room to squeeze perhaps 40 people in.

The serving area is like a booth with a row of taps along one wall. There’s little else to reveal what’s on sale in the way of food and drink, apart from rows of glassware suspended from the ceiling and a few snack foods, such as sausages and cashew nuts waiting in the corner. In reality there’s an impressive bottle selection but you have to read the menu or be shown to the cool room to know about it.

There are twenty taps with nothing on permanently and around half given over to beers other than those of Mikkeller. When I visited all the guest beers were from other European breweries, including a couple from a brewery called “Evil Twin”, which turns out to be the brewery of Mikkel’s twin brother. But two days later seven beers from Three Floyds would be on, and some day soon there should be some 8 Wired on tap.

Not every beer I had was necessarily great – I definitely did not enjoy the Sorachi Ace Single Hop IPA and the 1000 IBU light (at 4.7% ABV) was pure, uncompensated bitterness. I also had my first ever hoppy witbier, whose net effect was something like a Saison and a dry-hopped version of Saison Dupont.

The highlights may have been a pair of beers from Copenhagen’s Amager Bryghus – the only Danish brewer higher than Mikkeller on One was a special coffee-infused version of their Hr. Frederiksen Imperial Stout, brewed to celebrate the Mikkeller bar’s first anniversary. The other was a bottle of the port barrel aged version of the same beer. Incredible stuff, and a good warmup for the over-indulgence in rich beer that would follow the next night.

See for a list of what's on tap at the Mikkeller bar at any time.