Microbreweries, in progress

May 2019

I’m not sure how to have portions in the first person, my narrative and then the “” —said to the Local style of quoting sources.

Structure:

Begin with narrative

The question – main assignment question

Follow up with stats

Experts comments – explanation

Perspectives: Talk to breweries, Carlsberg, bars (switch between direct quotes and narratives)

Conclusions – forward looking perspectives – how could this trend continue? End of binge drinking.

INVESTIGATING A TREND

Denmark, home to one of the most famous beer brands, has recently seen a rise in smaller microbreweries, and Danes are showing increased interest in craft beer over mass-produced and cheaper beer.

One of these microbreweries even claimed that Denmark now has the highest number of microbreweries per capita. Having already noticed a seeming shift in beer preferences

this claim piqued my interest into how drastically this trend is developing.

Does Denmark have the most Microbreweries per capita?

It was on a Youtube video with a microbrewery in Amager that this claim was made. When I called them, they immediately debunked this. “It’s actually not correct. The highest number per capita is Switzerland, followed by Iceland and I think Denmark is third. It’s a commonly quoted error and I keep trying to tell everyone that I know that it is wrong that everyone says that, but nobody seems to listen. Switzerland is first, then Iceland and then Denmark is third.” Said Henrik Papsø, Communication Representative from Amager Bryghus

An International Craft Beer Revolution?

This title of having the most microbreweries per capita seems to be changing hands quickly. But regardless of who exactly has the most, all those, within the industry who I spoke to confirm that there is a microbrewery boom in many countries.

“It’s the same thing that’s happened across Europe, it’s happened in the UK, like there’s always been a lot of breweries, but in the last 5 years, it’s exploded. In the US, it was a similar thing. They were about 10 years ahead of everyone. They had a real explosion, where it went from a couple hundred to thousands in like the space of 10 years.” Said a sales representative from Mikkeller General Store in a comment to The Local Denmark

“American has a lot of breweries, somewhere over 7,000. This is three times more than we had a decade ago,” Mike Pomraz in an article for The World Atlas, March 21, 2019

“The United Kingdom has also seen an explosion in its number of breweries, crossing the 2,000 mark in 2017, a 64 percent increase over the previous five years. Heck, thanks to the craft beer revolution, most countries have seen a serious uptick in the number of beer brands available to them.

That includes New Zealand, which has added 143 breweries since 2012” writes Pomraz

A Microbrewery Revolution in Denmark

“Denmark now has 197 open breweries and contract breweries. These have all launched new beers. There is now a new record with 30 new breweries and contract breweries in 2017. This is close to a fourfold increase from 2016 when there were only 16.” Says the Beerticker in an article for The Danish Brewers Association

“When we founded the Danish Beer Enthusiast Society in 98 (https://beerenthusiast.dk/) there were only 13 breweries left in Denmark, and today we have passed 200” said Henrik Papsø, Marketing manager in an interview with The Local Denmark

“So, quite a lot has happened since then. We call it the Danish beer revolution.  It took us a few years after 2000, small homebrewers started going commercial, trying to see if they could make a living from it and then it just exploded. There were a couple of years where there was like 5 breweries opening every month. Since then things have faded out somewhat,” Says Papsø.

But Can All These New Breweries Survive?

“It’s always been a difficult market. I don’t know how all these new microbreweries that are coming up can survive, especially without a unique story. I come from marketing and I think it’s important to have a story that is more than just that the ones opening breweries love beer and love to brew their own beer” said Gitte Holmbe, co-owner of Bøgedahl Brew in an interview with The Local

In spite of the boom in breweries, veteran brewer, Gitte says that the real pique was about 15 years ago. “2004 was the beginning of the beer tsunami, and it has gone down since then,” she says.

In spite of a measurable increase in demand for craft beer, there is also fierce competition between microbreweries but possibly most between them and the large breweries. “I was a founding member of the Danish Enthusiasts Society in 1998, because we were fed up with the way that things were going in Denmark. The big breweries were buying out the small ones and closing them. It’s the same thing that’s happening in a lot of western European countries, and the US previously” said Papsø

This was something I heard over and over, from all microbreweries, craft beer bars, shops and beer bloggers, that “Your Heineken’s, Carlsberg’s, IBM Buff’s are approaching monopoly levels of control. Like Carlsberg, they have an economy of scale where they can just buy up everything that they want. It makes it easier for them to get a lot of stuff at a lower price per kilo, but also at the same time, a lot of these breweries have carried out practices where they are purposely buying more than they need, to drive up the price for competitors. It’s an issue across the industry” said a sales representative from Mikkeller General Store.

New Beers

Over 10,000 new Danish beers in 10 years, and 1825 new beers in 2018

“The 206 breweries in Denmark have beaten the previous record for the number of new beers produced in one year.

In 2018 there were a total of 1825 new Danish beers on the market, making it a record-breaking year. There were an average of 5 new beers per day.” Says Beerticker

“There’s probably a new one coming out every 2 weeks. But also, on top of that, I forgot that we have 2 new breweries that are completely run by Mikkeller, one in New York and one in San Deigo as well. So, we are sometimes getting stuff from them. So, yea, there is a lot of output.”  Says Jason, a sales rep from Mikkeller General Store

“But it’s also this common thing of people, like once they start to drink craft beer, they want to have something different each time. So there is an increasing trend of people not drinking the same beer twice, which is a bit of an issue, because it’s easier and cheaper in a sense to keep making some of the same beers and have consistency, which does happen with a lot of the beers, but also there is so much push for something different each time.” Says Jason sales rep from Mikkeller General Store

While some of the newer microbreweries talk about a constant demand for new beers, when I talked to the owner of a brewery that was founded in 1849, and one of the original 13 in Denmark, the co-owner, mentioned that “some breweries make new types of beer just for the sake of making something that’s new, maybe it is the new trend or they try to be trendsetters. I prefer to stick to good taste over just making something new for the sake of making something new” said Gitte Holmboe from Bøgedahl Brew

The obvious difference in price

“What is working for the trend is that Danes seem to be coming away from the trend of getting very drunk and instead focusing on quality.” Said Jordan in an interview with The Local

I’m not sure how to transition into this narrative?

What a Microbrewery store had to say /what it’s like at a microbrewery shop?

(The Mikkeller Store)

On a chilly Saturday in Vesterbro, I set out to interview some of the ones working for some of these craft breweries. There was one microbrewery bar, Fermentoren, that I’ve passed many times. It’s a cozy little bar partially hidden from the road by the hedges, that were a little over my height. They have a mini outdoor courtyard, which was packed at about 4pm that afternoon. I walked down into the basement, where the bar was. There was a long line at the bar, and one bar tender working was focusing quietly on keeping up.

Maybe it was the little bit of afternoon sunshine, but it really looked like the little place was very popular, and it’s looked that way every time I’ve passed by. I decided it was a bad time to try to get an interview with the bartender. So, I walked on into Kodbyen, I knew Warpigs Brewpub was there. At this bar and barbeque place, in the industrial section of Vesterbro, just about all seats were taken. I decided to try to come back at a different time, where hopefully the staff had a little more time.

Immediately next to Warpigs was The Mikkeller General Store. The Mikkeller brand was definitely on my to do list for places to interview for this feature. Not quite knowing what to expect I stepped in. The large glass window was letting in all the sunshine and this really warmed up the shop, when it was a cold and slightly rainy day otherwise.

The shop was cool mix between an industrial interior and cartoon-ish art on all the beer and merch, including a mug with the little mermaid, drawn as a mix of the Mikkeller cartoon guy, that sideways head with a massive nose, and a little mermaid tail.

I was able to ask the guy at the sales counter for his opinion on microbreweries, his experience with customers, sales and the higher price for craft beer. And walked away with the most expensive beer I’ve ever bought. Paid 70 dkk for a regular size can of beer and 140 for a bottle. I’ve paid as little at 20 dkk for half a liter of Carlsberg. These two are still sitting in my fridge because somehow, they seem too fancy to drink.

Interview with Jordan@mikkeller.dk sales rep at the Mikkeller General Store, VBR

About Mikkeller

Yes, Mikkeller is a craft brewery, that is what Mikkeller does. It’s actually classed as a gypsy brewery. So, it started off not having its own physical brewery, it uses other people’s breweries to use that capacity. But we now do also have a brewery. Warpigs is a brew pub that we run with free flights.

Warpigs is brewing exclusively for Warpigs, and they also do some of the brewing for a barrel-aging project and saison and sour ale brewery out in Reffen.

Other than that, a lot is brewed in Belgium at a place called Puff, that I think specializes specifically in doing this contract brewing. So, all the recipes are made by the brewer Mikkel, then made somewhere else. This is a trend that picked up in the 2010’s.

About Price 

So the price is basically a reflection of the quality and amount of ingredients, so for a typical beer like say Tuborg, they are just using malt, not necessarily high quality and then they are not using that many hops, whereas for most craft beers, if you are making an IPA and you want a lot of flavor and a good profile of bitterness, you need to basically use a lot more hops and they need to be fresher and you are having to import them from the US typically, for the hops that are popular now, so that pushes the price up.

There’s also lots of things to do with like Carlsberg, they have an economy of scale where they can just buy up everything that they want. It makes it easier for them to get a lot of stuff at a lower price per kilo, but also at the same time, a lot of these breweries have carried out practices where they are purposely buying more than they need, to drive up the price for competitors. It’s an issue across the industry. So, your Heineken’s, Carlsberg’s, IBM Buff’s are approaching monopoly levels of control.

The Increase in Microbreweries in spite of the ‘monopolies’

It’s the same thing that’s happened across Europe, it’s happened in the UK, like there’s always been a lot of breweries, but in the last 5 years, it’s exploded. In the US, it was a similar thing. They were about 10 years ahead of everyone. They had a real explosion, where it went from a couple hundred to thousands in like the space of 10 years.

Are people more willing to pay the higher price for the quality/experience?

Yea, I think the thing that you have to get through with a lot of this is just getting someone to try it. A lot of people aren’t bothered if they have never tasted good beer. And they are always so expensive. And if you explain to them why it’s so expensive and the work that goes into it. Then they are more open to it and they taste it and go “oh I do like this”. Especially, people are reluctant for a lot of styles that they haven’t had before. So, most people’s experience of beer is lager and wheat beer, like a German wheat beer. And obviously we are making some pilsners and lagers, but we are also making pretty much every other style of beer that we can. So, opening people to that as well, that’s how the journey can go on, new flavors and that sort of thing.

The reason, as well, why it’s often more expensive, or the way that it works out, is that there is a general trend of people drinking less in general, so people are turning to drinking less but it being of higher quality. So, I think financially, it doesn’t affect the customer that much. It’s not just about getting drunk, it’s more about actually enjoying what you have.

What you are seeing is more and more people drinking alcohol-free beer, and that’s a thing that Mikkeller does really well, alcohol-free beer. It’s just a nice alternative.

How often are you producing a new beer?

There’s probably a new one coming out every 2 weeks. But also, on top of that, I forgot that we have 2 new breweries that are completely run by Mikkeller, one in New York and one in San Deigo as well. So, we are sometimes getting stuff from them. So, yea, there is a lot of output.

But it’s also this common thing of people, like once they start to drink craft beer, they want to have something different each time. So there is an increasing trend of people not drinking the same beer twice, which is a bit of an issue, because it’s easier and cheaper in a sense to keep making some of the same beers and have consistency, which does happen with a lot of the beers, but also there is so much push for something different each time.

(Boegdals point about new beers and maybe this is the reason that the newer breweries are making so many different beers.)

Mikkeller Merch

Mikkeller has rapidly expanded over the last couple years. And people want t-shirts with the company logo and things like that. I think its people investing themselves essentially and maybe identifying with it. It helps that we also run a beer festival, which is next weekend. http://mikkeller.dk/event/mbcc-mikkeller-beer-celebration-copenhagen-2019/

That’s always really fun. We get the best breweries from around the world. A lot of American breweries, that, it’s really hard to find their stuff outside of the US sometimes.  So, yea we have got that and that raises the profile and people come to Copenhagen for that. Like hundreds of people will be visiting this week.

What’s a bestseller?

It’s that same thing with bringing out beers so often that you have beer that’s no longer in production. We had one that we made for the Swedish market called Shalek, that one is always super popular. We make a new version of it every 3-6 months. It’s a hazy pale ale. It’s got a lot of fruity, tropical fruits, nuts and things like that.

Beer Geek Breakfast, this was the one that pretty much kicked off the entire Mikkeller brand. Mikkel was brewing in Vesterbro in his kitchen and I think he won a prize; I think that was one of the first ones where he won a prize for the beer. And basically, it’s a stout with cold brew coffee added in and that is probably the most well-known and most popular.

I really like the Vanilla Shake. It’s the Beer Geek Breakfast, then added vanilla. That’s super good.

Sources:

OTHER:

The sale of beer and wine is going down but the sale of cigarettes has gone up.

https://www.dst.dk/da/Statistik/nyt/NytHtml?cid=27167

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