Mikkeller Bar hits Seoul

By Park Hyung-ki

Famed Danish brewery opens second Asian outlet in Korea

  • Published : Aug 7, 2015 - 16:10
  • Updated : Aug 30, 2015 - 17:37

Mikkeller Bar Seoul serves a whopping 30 draft beers -- primarily Mikkeller -- on continual rotation. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)

Craft, cult, genius ― these are words often used to describe the brews originating from Mikkeller, a much-buzzed-about Danish “gypsy” brewery that recently launched its second Asian bar in Seoul.

Now, as of late June, beer aficionados in Korea can taste a diverse range of Mikkeller’s famed beer straight from the keg and deem for themselves whether or not these experimental libations merit their high ratings, accolades and numerous awards.

Opened on June 27, this is the second Asian outlet after one in Bangkok, according to Mikkeller Bar Seoul manager Lee Nam-kyung.

While Mikkeller beer was available in Korea before the bar launched, this is the first official Mikkeller Bar, of which there are currently only five throughout the world, to open here.

At the new watering hole, 30 draft beers ― primarily Mikkeller’s brews ― are on continual rotation, giving beer aficionados an ever-changing repertoire to try.

The wide selection on tap is a hallmark of Mikkeller’s style of “gypsy” brewing.

Mikkeller, until this year, did not have a brick-and-mortar brewery, instead working with other breweries to make their beers. This method of brewing is often called “gypsy” or “phantom” brewing.

“A major pro of this style of brewing,” explained Mikkeller Bar Seoul cofounder Kim Hee-yoon, “is that one can make 80 varieties of beer in one year.”

“If you do not outsource your brewing, you cannot do that,” Kim, 28, elaborated on how working with other breweries to produce beer allows one to “incubate” ideas for a massive variety of new, creative brews.

It is this approach that allows a brewery to run bars that can continually change up its beer.

Even now, with the purchase of its own brewery, “we’re still gypsies,” states Mikkeller’s official website.
Mikkeller Bar Seoul’s truffle fries with Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Brunch Weasel BA Brandy, Spontanlingonberry and Mikkeller-The Booth’s Taedonggang (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)

That “free-spirited” and “experimental” aesthetic, according to Lee, translates to “unique” and “fun” beer that shines through when one thinks outside the box.

“If you discard any preconceived notions about beer, then I believe it will expand your horizons,” said Lee, 27.

Indeed, when tipping back the Brandy Edition of Mikkeller’s famous Beer Geek Brunch Weasel series, it is hard to pinpoint the pedigree of a libation that is almost spirit-like in viscosity, packs a potent punch and is redolent of both chocolate and fruit.

This memorable and delicious combination of aromas and body seems to emerge from the fact that this beer was brewed with “one of the world’s most expensive coffees, made from droppings of weasel-like civet cats,” states the website, and then aged in brandy barrels.

By no means is this the norm, said Lee, explaining that using such ingredients is pricey and that methods like barrel-aging are relatively high maintenance.

It is this very willingness to take that leap, to turn to gourmet ingredients that are not traditionally used to brew beer, to use relatively less widespread methods like barrel-aging that seem to be earning breweries like Mikkeller its praises, its growing fan base and high scores.

Good beer, however, does not seem to be the sole focus of Mikkeller and its bars, but also the culture of good beer.

Other breweries’ libations, like To OL’s citrusy Black Maria India Pale Ale, are also on rotation and, Kim revealed, the bar will be hosting Meet the Brewer events, where brewers like Soren Eriksen of 8 Wired Brewing are flying in to showcase their own inventive beers.

“We plan to hold Meet the Brewer events once every two to three months,” said Kim.

In addition to beer and special events, there is also grub, including beer-friendly, uber-crisp truffle fries and a particularly toothsome homemade tasso ham and sharp cheddar sandwich.

Kim says that the menu will be morphing in the near future but there are no current plans for expansion, meaning that this is going to be the only Mikkeller Bar in Korea for the moment. 

Mikkeller Bar Seoul
544-22, Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
(070) 4231-4723
Open Mondays through Thursdays from 5 p.m. to midnight, till 1 a.m. Fridays, from 2 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturdays and till 10 p.m. Sundays
Draft beer costs 4,500 won to 19,500 won for 200 ml, around 8,500 won to 12,000 won for 450 ml

By Jean Oh