Combining a family vacation with a beer-cation is sometimes a challenge. So let me suggest theme parks. Beercations are truly awesome, but from your kids’ point of view, hanging outside a bar isn’t how they want to spend their time. And while we’re fans of majestic beauty in natural settings, no childhood is complete without visiting the man-made kind of parks.
Some theme parks provide intriguing beer-tasting opportunities while others merely offer brands from a corporate sponsor. Worse still, some are devoid of brewskis altogether. That’s why the following destinations provide ample fun and frivolity beyond the parks for beer-friendly parents.
The two beer towns that follow—Anaheim and Orlando—are more synonymous with theme parks, but they never would have become family magnets if not for the original Imagineers, the Danes. Denmark is home to what’s called the world’s oldest surviving amusement park, Bakken (Bakken.dk/english.html), built in Klampenborg (13 kilometers north of Copenhagen) in 1583. The country also hosts the Tivoli Gardens (Tivoli.dk/composite-3351.htm), a Copenhagen attraction that opened in 1843 and later inspired Walt Disney. It features a brewpub inside as well as a sister pub adjacent to the main entrance. How do you say brilliant in Danish?
København—or Copenhagen to the English-speaking world—is the Danish capital. It has also become the Scandinavian gourmet capital in recent years. This manifests itself in its restaurants, which have garnered more Michelin stars than Rome, Madrid or Vienna, and in its breweries. It happened seemingly overnight. In 2000, there were 10 or so breweries. There are now more than 130 in a small country with 5.5 million people.
To help you get a handle on where to imbibe, Henrik Papsø, one of the most prolific reviewers on RateBeer.com, plays tour guide. To commemorate Papsø’s 20,000th review, local brewery Amager Bryghus concocted Hr. Papsø on Acid, a port-barrel-aged Quad with wild yeast.
The legal age to buy beer in a Danish bar is 18, or 16 for buying bottled beer in a store. But there is no actual drinking age. If a minor’s parents buy him or her a pint, the kid can drink it in good health. Papsø’s tour begins with a couple of his favorite beer bars, starting at Mikkeller BAR (Mikkeller.dk, Victoriagade 8 B-C) in the middle of the Vesterbro district. The bar was founded by Mikkel Borg Bjergsø of the Mikkeller brewery, and Papsø declares it “the best beer bar not only in Denmark, but in the world.” Patrons will discover 20 taps, only half of which are house beers or Mikkeller collaborations. The other draft or bottle offerings are guaranteed to include rare imports you’ll not find back home.
Also on the tour is Ørsted (Oerstedoelbar.dk, Nørre Farimagsgade 13) close to the city center across from the Ørstedsparken (Ørsted Park). This basement bar features 13 taps and an extensive bottle list. Beers from Danish breweries such as Amager and Bøgedal Bryghus are what to look for. But you may have to look hard because the bar is mostly candlelit.
Aside from some cheese plates or light snacks, those bars don’t serve food. Papsø says that traditional Danish cuisine is solid and rich but not fancy (think Flæskesteg—roast pork with the cracklings, or skin, in place). If you’d like to try fancy Nouveau Nordic fare, get a reservation at Noma (Noma.dk, Strandgade 93), which has been voted the best restaurant in the world for the last two years by Restaurant Magazine. Its beverage menu is pages and pages of European wines, but Mikkeller does make a house beer for the restaurant.
Perhaps the best Danish pub grub is found at Nørrebro Bryghus (Noerrebrobryghus.dk, Ryesgade 3), in the Nørrebro district. Established by brewmaster Anders Kissmeyer in 2003 after he left Carlsberg, the bar is in the basement and the restaurant is upstairs in a former metal factory that has been nicely restored, Papsø says. While the beer that Nørrebro bottles is brewed out in the suburbs, all the draft specials are brewed in-house. Foodwise, try local specialties such as various herrings with rye bread and other Smørrebrød, or open-faced sandwiches on rye.