If you think about Denmark, then you probably imagine stylish design, innovative architecture or perhaps high-end Bang & Olufsen sound systems. However, when it came to beer, Denmark was for many years represented by two big global brands, Carlsberg and Tuborg, both of which produced rather bland lagers. It was partly in reaction to the dull fare at home that Danish teacher Mikkel Borg Bjergsø started trying foreign beers, especially the highly hopped U.S. beers that had become available in Denmark. This led him to start homebrewing, and his Mikkeller beers quickly became so popular that he was able to give up the day job and become a full-time brewer.
The stylish Mikkeller’s Book of Beer ($29.99, Jacqui Small LLC) tells the story of Mikkeller’s rise to fame as a peripatetic microbrewer who has collaborated with breweries in the United States, Norway, Scotland and Belgium to brew over 600 highly innovative beers. The company now operates bars in Denmark, Thailand and San Francisco and has recently taken over the old AleSmith brewery in San Diego, which will be its first permanent base.
Mikkel attributes the rise of craft brewing to developments in England (the forming of the real-ale-promoting group CAMRA in 1973), the influence of Belgian brewers (particularly the Trappist beer tradition), and people like Fritz Maytag and other U.S. brewers who created stateside interpretations of English ales.
The book includes a brief guide to different styles of beer, a comprehensive section on tasting beer and no fewer than 25 original Mikkeller brewing recipes for stout, barley wine, IPA, saison, red ale and many other brews. Some craft brewers do not like to share their hard-won knowledge, but Mikkel has opened up his recipe books to enable homebrewers to replicate his extreme beers, including Beer Geek Breakfast, an oatmeal and coffee stout that kick-started his career back in 2006.
There is no shortage of coffee-table (or should that be bar-table?) beer books, especially those that are guides to beers around the world. This book is in a totally different category in that it’s highly informative, beautifully illustrated and elegant in a way that could only have been designed in Scandinavia. Mikkeller has always attached a lot of importance to stylish graphics, which have helped his beer labels stand out. That approach has been adhered to in this fascinating and visually stunning book as well.