Visiting Denmark’s easternmost outpost to enjoy some scenic craft beers.
Most countries have corners, outposts, lands ends… if they aren’t circular? For a long part of my life I have lived in the outermost corner, or edge of my favorite country Denmark. Skagen is a town on the northernmost point of the north-wester part of Denmark, pointing towards the land of my birth, Norway. Aside from that I have been to many parts of Denmark, middle, west, south, north-east, south east. But I had never been to Denmark’s eastern-most outpost or corner, the island of Bornholm!
I had no real plans to ever go, just a desire. It is a sort of 5-sided island, situated south-east of the former Danish provinces of Skåne, lost to Sweden in the 1600’s. Bornholm was also lost, in 1558, alongside said provinces as well as the entire middle part of Norway. Two years later the Danish-Norwegian Kingdom got one of their rare wins and Bornholm and Trøndelag was reclaimed by the Twin-realms, or Tvillingeriget. The island is an oddity in its neighborhood. Most of the surrounding lands are low-lying sandy remnants from the last ice age, Norwegian and Swedish mountains ground down to pebbles and sand and deposited into structures like the long sandy beaches of Germany, Poland, south Sweden and not least the entire nation of Denmark, aside from little Bornholm, a rocky outcrop, so old they found dinosaurs here.
So, obviously I ended up going, or I wouldn’t write this, and why was that? Well, once again, the reason was beer. I try to visit special beer related places, and many of them related to bars, breweries and restaurants run by Mikkel Borg-Bjergsø and his company Mikkeller.
When I first heard that there were plans for a Mikkeller beer place in Bornholm I was a little annoyed, there are already so many new bars in far flung places I don’t have the travel nerves or finances to visit (Bangkok, San Francisco… Thorshavn!) I also questioned how on earth a place like that could make enough money to stay in business.
A year or two passed and then suddenly things kicked into gear and by early 2019 I read that the place would open in a small village on the east coast of Bornholm called Årsdale. Since I have spent a lot of my summer holidays the last few years going to my home in Skagen via Copenhagen (not exactly a straight route) I thought I might look into going there. But then I had to arrest myself, I had already bought tickets to the Brewski beer festival in Skåne in August 2019 and surely a trip to Bornholm would take too much time and effort to include into this? Well, a bit of google work, checking out trains, ferries etc. and I came up with a plan.
Still quite fresh from flying to Scotland, I used this to bolster my nerve and book a flight to Copenhagen from Oslo, where I would stay one night to check out some of my favorite beer bars there, and early the next day I would travel to Bornholm, take the bus to Årsdale, spend as much time as I could there, and then spend one night in a hotel before heading towards Sweden and the beer festival.
August arrived, I survived yet another airplane ride, had a lovely late day in Copenhagen visiting Mikkeller and Friends up in Nørrebro, got some food a few more beers are some random pub in the city center, got to bed fairly early near the train station and I was ready for a very early start the next day.
At the Copenhagen Central Station I got on a train taking me across Øresund to the first train station on the Swedish side. Here I had a short, cold stay before I grabbed a local train to the town of Ystad. Now, I’m sort of from Skåne, as my mother was born in Malmö and her family comes from a town in the north east called Åhus. I wanted to perhaps go there this year, but Danish discoveries came in the way. I don’t know or go on about my Swedish side much, I visited my mother’s foster grandparents when I was a kid in Stockholm and in Lund, but I would rather be Danish, and telling people I’m Danish, Norwegian, Swedish tends to confuse people and I have to tell long stories I’m not that interested in telling. But all this aside, this was still new ground to me, I had never been in this part of Skåne.
The train itself very much a showcase of the new Sweden, passengers a mix between tourists, Danes, some Swedes and lots of people from the middle-east, quite a lot of screaming children, contrasted the landscape outside. Somewhat hillier than I thought it would be. I thought Skåne was largely pan-cake flat, but also very green, lots of farms dotted around, high blue skies, still early morning.
Got into Ystad, a station built away from its old station building from the look of things, but I had little time to look around, quickly headed to the terminal building where I entered the ferry to Bornholm. All of this done on 1 ticket bought on my Danish railway app. Very handy in deed.
The ferry to Bornholm was a modern and fast thing, and in no time at all, helped in part by me falling asleep, I was in Rønne, the capital of Bornholm. There was a brief look at a small Danish town with little red-houses, but the buss from the ferry port took me directly out of town and across the entire island towards my goal.
Never having been on Bornholm I tried to get as much out of my buss ride as possible, and at first, I was thinking this just looked very much like central Jutland or some other part of Denmark. But I did note that there were cliff faces around, small outcrops of granite hills and tiny peaks here and there dotted among the flatter farmed landscape, and my joy over the fact that I was finally on Bornholm really got to me.
After reaching the opposite coast and the eastern part of the islands I was in fairytale land with coves, hills sloping towards little cliffs and shorelines that looked both Danish and very… not Danish. Svaneke blew by with lots of amazing wonderful little houses before the last stretch to my destination, Årsdale.
I arrived at Årsdale and fell to its spell right away. The Mikkeller place didn’t open quite yet so I had time to walk down along the beach, in among small houses, smell the amazing smell of the place where they smoke kippers or herring, and with the weather being fantastic I sat down on one of the beach breakers and just stared out to sea for a while.
But wonderful views generate wonderful thirst and hunger so now I went over to Mikkeller.
Built in what is easily the biggest building in the small harbor, Mikkeller Årsdale is housed in a quite tall red brick building that once housed the ice manufacturing for the local fishery. Arriving you are greeted by the Mikkeller’s logo, Henry, as a fisherman puffin on a pipe. The doors are big factory like and take you straight in to a large floor housing seating and small kitchen corner and a gorgeous bar. I mean, Mikkeller’s bar design is usually more than enough to make you smile, but this one made me grin like a little boy on Christmas eve. Sure, there isn’t a GIGANTIC amount of beers on offer here, but I wasn’t really expecting that, this is a small place after all and tourists aside, I assume they can’t keep up with the amount of beers they drink at let’s say Mikkeller Nørrebro!
I was greeted and treated like a VIP. The man in charge quickly realized I was someone who lives and breathes anything to do with craft beer and that I am a huge fan of anything to do with Mikkeller. He told me a bit about how things had gone since their somewhat late opening and what it was like to run a place like this so far from everything. I got the feeling the people who worked here felt blessed that they had been given this opportunity.
I then ordered an amazing burger and walked not to their indoor dining area, but they outdoor part facing the bay I had seen earlier. While eating and drinking amazing Mikkeller beers, a family of swans, mother and father, 5 large children, swam up to the beach in front of me and put on a show of grooming, making various noises, formation swimming and light sleeping.
I was thinking… “Seriously, are these swans trained to do this?!?” It was all almost a bit too perfect. In-between beers I could walk on the beach, walk in the little street behind the bar or along the harbor. A tiny harbor but so idyllic and very much perfectly situated. Again, looking at the rocky coastline I had to remind myself I was still in Denmark!
I spent 5 hours here and it really was one of my best beer tourist moments, and a very special moment as a sometime Dane to finally see Bornholm.
The bus ride back to Rønne flew by and after stocking up at a petrol station near my hotel (cans of NEIPA and Pale Ale, not too shabby) I checked into my tiny hotel and had a pretty good night’s sleep.
I hadn’t afforded myself a lot of time in Bornholm, the day after I was back on the ferry heading to the beer festival in Helsingborg, but I can very much say, hand on heart, I want to return and see more, eat more, drink more and feel more of this wonderful place they call Bornholm.
This Summer vacation was once again largely going to the other half of my Twin realm personage, Denmark. But, as I have done a few times now, I opted for the long way around. From Oslo, my hometown in Denmark is the nearest point to Norway, so this time I would go as far away as possible from that point to the opposite end of Denmark.
I flew to Copenhagen right after work, and after an afternoon spent checking out Mikelle at the airport as well as the older Mikkellers and Friends and Koelschip up in Nørrebro, I turned in quite early so I could get up very early the Next day and go to Bornholm. The island the Danes Call “Klippeøen” or the rock, due to the fact that it is the only part of Denmark that is solid rock and not left over sand from the grinding ice sheet from the last ice age, is situated east of the South east part of Sweden, as a left over from before Sweden took the Danish lands of Skåne, Halland and Blekinge.
Now that the bridge is there, and living besides the Swedes are far less complicated, you take the rain towards Malmö, switch right after the bridge and get on a Train to Ystad. From there it is a quick ferry ride across to the island of Bornholm and its capital of Rønne.
The reason I finally went here was to visit the new Mikkeller Bar at Årsdale (I will write more about this later), but it was a wonderful experience, and I am so happy to have been to Bornholm.
After one night here I went back to Sweden and to the city of Helsingborg to for the beer festival.
Brewskival is held at the brewery location of the brewery called Brewski. It has quickly become one of Sweden’s leading Craft Breweries and have thanks to the owner’s vast number of friends in the brewing world become THE ‘go to’ Beer festival in Scandinavia behind Mikkellers giant MBCC just across the Øresund.
I had never gone before, and being a bit vary of festivals and how I cope the day AFTER a festival, I opted to just buy a ticket for day one and then head towards Gothenburg so I could take the Ferry to Northern Jutland and my home for the rest of my ‘proper’ summer vacation.
Now there are other reasons why I went here this year. One reason was that I had to choose between a Scotland trip and the before mentioned MBCC. Scotland was a proper trip with friends, and I went to MBCC in 2018, so I opted for the latter. Still, that sort of made me feel like I didn’t get to go to a big beer festival this year (Not to demean Håndverksølfestival in Oslo or Nordic Brew festival in Frederikshavn) so alongside my other reasons to go I booked a ticket all the way back in April.
Arriving in Helsingborg it was easy for me to navigate. I have been here before, I even know a fellow student from my days at Ebeltoft who lives in a small village on the Southern tip of the town. I booked the Radisson hotel, and it was very Nice. I helped the Swedish concierge tackle a Dane who understood little Swedish and joked after “the Norwegian has to translate for the Swede and the Dane as “usual”, she laughed and hey presto, upgraded my room! A gorgeous room by the way, especially after the very small and or weird rooms in Copenhagen and Rønne.
The Brewskifestival is located at an elderly industrial estate just South of the city center. This is where Brewski Brewery brews all their amazing Craft beers, in an amazing ever-changing range, up until now mostly in cute little stubbies, beer bottles that remind me of soda pop bottles in Sweden when I was a kid or Victoria Bitter bottles in Australia to this day. These bottles, the various styles and constant innovation sets them aside from so many others, as well as their cool and fun design. They are clearly also a brewery that shares and includes other breweries, fans and Professionals from the industry in their goings on. One such friendship is the one they have going With the YouTube beer vlogger Simon Martin from the Real Ale Craft Beer Channel. His personal exclamation of “Stone the Crows!” when he really likes a beer, was quickly turned into a beer by Brewski (a good one of course) and finally this year they invited him to the festival. Alongside Simon was another Beer Vlogger, Peter a.k.a. Master of Hoppets from Aalborg in Northern-Denmark. Though from quite different parts of Europe (Simon hails from Barry just south-west of Cardiff in Wales) they started their channel within weeks of each other nearly 10 years ago now, and has since become friends, and would now attend the same festival (check out their videos from both at and before the festival). I have met Peter at various Places, Nordic Brewfestival, MBCC and in Gothenburg, but I had never met Simon before, and after sending him quite a few beers last couple of years, I was very much looking forward to this.
In addition to these great guys I was also Lucky to meet up with a friend of mine from Oslo, as well as a lovely couple from Manchester I am now proud to Call friends as well.
This ended up being a festival where hanging out competed with hording Untappd check-ins! Also, my cellphone battery decided to go decrepit a few days before arrival, so I had to Write Things Down by hand as well not being able to take as many photos as I would have liked.
The festival itself was truly impressive. So much so I spent the first two hours thinking “Well, it’s quite big, but I can handle this!” only to realize that 2/3 of the rest of the festival was behind the building I started at! There were some amazing choices for food, BBQ, meats, surf and turf, Vegan and what have you. The brewery sold bottles of low AVB beer to go (folkøl) from a well-stocked souvenir shop (I bought a t-shirt I now love and a set of tasting glasses, but I think they should make some pins as well!) and they had invited Food trucks and had stands from both beer related businesses (C/O Hops, Scandinavia’s best beer Magazine) and coffee Merchants and the like.
The breweries came from far and wide. A lot of Swedish and quite a few Danish breweries as well as American, British, Estonian and surprises like Hungary and the Ukraine. My one slight negative surprise was that there was only one Norwegian brewery present. One of the greatest breweries around, Lervig, but really Brewski? You aren’t friends with any more breweries from “Söta Bror”? Cervisiam and Amundsen would have been Natural attendees. But that’s the Norwegian in me feeling a little “miffed”, no biggie.
I wasn’t too prepared for beers I should or should not drink this time around. I went for local Things, as well as breweries I am fond of. I may have missed a few “must have” beers from the US, but so much of it was very strong Stouts and I just wasn’t in that frame of mind to be honest. It was well around 25 degrees and very sunny, so I kept most of my tastings to IPA, APA, NEIPA, Kölsch, Lager, Goose and others refreshing Territory. I did later get a few stouts courtesy of others insisting I should try them, but by then I was pretty much semi “sloshed” and it was getting colder.
I met up with my friends from Manchester and we had a lovely time hanging out, comparing notes, and or beers, having a few beers together. I was given a very Sweet gift, a bag for life from a beer festival. After I while I had to part Company With my friends and go look for Simon. We messaged each other a couple of times, but the festival was packed With People and it took a while. We finally met and after waiting for one of his interviews to end I presented myself and we hung out for a while. I sort of guided him towards a beer from Gamma Brewing and had a great time watching him film a review in real life. After this we spoke about this and that and we joined up With the Master of Hoppets and his “Entourage”. Had some more beers I would never have had and through the guys I spoke to some cool People, brewers as well as bloggers.
Around this time is where I wish I had booked another day at the festival, but that is how it goes. We ended up leaving together as the festival started closing and ushering People to leave. We walked all the way Down town, but as it turned out the Place, they were going to hang out was quite a bit further and I was basically walking past my hotel, we ended the evening there for my part. I never got around to eating much at the festival, so I was pretty hungry by now anyway. Found a Max Burgers across from my hotel. So you know, parting is such Sweet sorrow, but a burger in my belly makes me fairly merry?
I really had a wonderful, fun and not least interesting time at Brewskival. In some ways this was perhaps my favorite festival, mostly because of the very friendly vibe. You can drink the most amazing insanely rare beers in the World, but when there are People in the crowd who can’t hold their drink or clearly aren’t beer geeks, like I have seen at other festivals, it brings Things Down. None of that here. I can only send all my praise to Brewski and praise their excellent arrangement and send a shout out to Bex and her hubby, Kristoffer, Simon, Peter and his friends, and thank you all for a really great time!
Day after I left my nice hotel, took the Train to Gothenburg and experienced the New Brewers Bar, revisited Omnipollo as well as BrewDog. After that my Ferry trip to Frederikshavn didn’t seem long at all and when I got home to Skagen to a pristine flat left just hours earlier by my friend Kari, I sat Down With some beers, installed my PlayStation, opened a New Blu-ray Movie and started my proper 2-week vacation in the loveliest town in the World!
Just a final Word on the photo’s here, my cell-phone’s battery capacity dropped off drastically just as I was going on vacation, and there were little to no Place to charge at the festival, so as photos go, it is what it is.
How I managed to visit all of BrewDogs bars in Scotland in 4 days.
Back in 2011 I visited Edinburgh and Scotland for the first time. I really enjoyed that wonderful city and dipping my toes into the splendor of Scotland.
Since then I have become a real craft beer geek, and even though I was on the cusp of that “madness” last time I visited, this time I wanted to go back to delve into a side branch of my beer search, the “collecting” of BrewDog bars!
See, back in 2011 I was fully aware that there was a beer brand called BrewDog, but it hadn’t quite grown to today’s levels, specially not as far as having their own bars all over the place. By the time May of 2019 rolled by and my travel friends and I had settled on a date of departure, the bars in Scotland, had grown to 13! Or so I thought, just a weeks before leaving they added another bar and then WHILE I was in Scotland, they even added one more. Now 3 months later while I write this, they’ve opened another one after I was there. But more about this later.
So, a part of this collecting stems from me having stocks in BrewDog, I am a so-called Equity for Punks, or EFP, and as such I could ask to be sent sort of a passport called ‘An Intergalactic Beer Visa’. In it you collect unique stamps from each bar and swipe your EFP card (where possible). If you collect enough of these you can qualify to one or more prizes, not quite sure what, I have qualified but received nothing yet, again, I’ll come back to that.
The qualifying achievements are HomeDog (all bars in and around the Aberdeen, Ellon area), The Flying Scotsman (all Scottish bars), Mad Dogs and Englishmen (all bars in England), The Big Smoke (all bars in London) and This is 40 (40 stamps from all over).
Apparently, I am now a “stampwanker”.
Looking at a map over Scotland, I realized that if I left my friends in Edinburgh (where I had been for 4 days in 2011), I could manage this. Also, I would be able to see Stirling and travel up the east coast of Scotland by train, something I’d wanted to do for years.
Day one, my friends and I arrived at Edinburgh early Wednesday 15th of May and after finding out I could not access the BrewDog Edinburgh Airport bar on arrival, we headed into town. First day I did want to spend some time with my friends. These friends are not beer drinkers, my other friend who was to come along had to stay in Oslo, so first part of the day was spent having a nice meal right in front of the Hotel. We stayed right on the Grassmarket and I was very pleased, not least since it was right in the middle of the two Edinburgh bars, facing the castle and so on.
So, after eating we went sightseeing for a while. They agreed that towards the end of this they would tag along to the first BrewDog bar, in Cowgate. I wish they hadn’t. Turns out my geography ability and memory of Edinburgh was highly exaggerated since I was there last, so I basically ended up leading them in ever more annoying circles. Funny enough, or perhaps not laugh out funny, my one friend was the one who managed to spot how to get down to Cowgate and the bar.
The oldest Edinburgh bar, and if memory serves me right, the 3rd oldest of them all. Situated in a street that has a bit of a feel of a medieval underpass, it is tucked into a space that is sort of a street facing “shotgun bar”. Long and narrow, very concrete and ramshackle, I would still say it really has a lot of charm. I love my Oslo BrewDog bar, but living in a country that has taken the Nanny-State principle so far it borders on scary, it is a shock to come into a bar where beer is presented in such a loving and friendly way. Not only are you allowed to use your EFP card to get perks like, 10% off on your drinks, birthday beers and so on, there is a fridge in the bar, accessible for the customers so they can buy beers, and then, will you believe it, TAKE THEM HOME! And the bar is called BrewDog! Not “I’m sorry but we are not allowed to tell you what we are called because Norway is the new Iran when it comes to beer, but it’s done to protect you from yourself!” Sorry, but yes, to a Norwegian, seeing that the rest of Europe treats its adults as, well, adults can be taxing on one’s mood.
Anyhow, I treated myself to an OverWorks beer and 4 soda pops to my two friends, in hope that they would forgive me for 1) Making them walk around and around endlessly looking for MY bar (we did get train tickets though) 2) Having to sit in a bar and finally 3) Being in a bar with no big brand soda pop!After a little while they walked to the hotel, and I stayed a little longer. I was treated nice by the staff, telling them about my “Beer Visa Stamp Journey” and letting me film while I got my stamp. Something I have done at every bar I have been to (Check out YouTube, BrewDog Beer Visa).
About 10 minutes after my friends left, they texted me informing me that the bar I had made them walk and walk to get to, was in fact 5 minutes from the hotel, so… yeah, lots of laughs about that.
But I didn’t let any of this bring down my mood, I loved this first bar, had my stamp, drank some great beers and now it was time to go look for bar number 2!
BrewDog Lothian Road
After a 5-minute walk I blushingly saw that yes, I had been this close to my hotel all along. Walking past I started heading for the western edge of Edinburgh Castle, I just had to sort of move west and then north. This I knew! Unfortunately, I did cling to the castle a bit too close and ended up at an underpass under a bridge I could not quite place. But not before a big fat rat ran out of a doorway and jumped up on my feet before jumping off and heading for a park.
Being so pleased by my ability to attract wildlife I skipped sort of to the side of the under path to check my map and discovered some stairs. Having thought “what the hell, maybe I’ll find some possums up there?” I was pleased to see that these stairs led to familiar streets, and not to long after I reached the swanky modern building housing BrewDog Lothian Road.
After taking a couple of photos and finding out there was an Innis & Gunn bar right behind me, I headed across the street into the BrewDog bar.
The Lothian Road bar is big. Perhaps the biggest BrewDog I have been to so far. It is modern in its look, a bit more streamlined than other bars perhaps, and it was packed full! This looked like a bar for young successful people in their early year of trading, banking, selling up marked real state and so on. So, I did feel like I didn’t quite fit. But after ordering in the bar, and being treated nice, I attracted the attention of an “off duty” BrewDog crewmember and she told me lots about this bar and generally just talked to me for a long while. I ended up having a very nice time here. If I had found a place to sit, I would’ve gotten a pizza, but alas, I didn’t. After a couple of beers at “The Blue Blazer” I had a pizza in front of my Hotel, and basically ruined day number 2.
BrewDog Stirling, a castle and constipation
Day 2 started at around 2 in the morning when I woke up with stomach pains and continued all night. That pizza earlier had done some sort of number on me, and by the time my friends called me to meet down stairs, and go to the train station I was worried I would have to stay at the hotel for the rest of the day.
The plan was to go with them to Stirling. There we would see the Castle and then I’d go to BrewDog Stirling, say goodbye to my friends and then head to Glasgow.
Well, turns out stomach pains can be “ignored” long enough for a trip to Stirling. I walked all the way up to the Castle, it was beautiful. I was so happy I had been there, although parts of the experience were from a toilet. After that we went to the Stirling bar.
I really like the bar in Stirling for one major reason. It had big open windows to the street, giving it an almost Mediterranean feel. The bar was rustic and more like Cowgate. Just one crewmember there, this was just after they opened, but she was just as friendly and nice as the others. Unfortunately, my stomach by this time was so painful, I didn’t manage to eat my pizza and I only had a few sips from my beer. But at least we did go, and I got my stamp. But now I just couldn’t go to Glasgow. I followed my friends back to Edinburgh. Was my trip ruined? Would I get better? And now I wouldn’t be able to finish my BrewDog pilgrimage!
Day 3, soldiering on
My lovely friends let me get an early, afternoon, got me some provisions and let me to mend myself. Luckily, during the night things got a whole lot better and I left early Friday morning for the train station and my trip to the north-east of Scotland.
This train ride was just what I wanted. The weather was lovely, and I got one treat after the other. Specially going across the bridge at Firth of Forth was big to me, it has been one of my big wants for no other reason that it looks lovely there. And it is. From there the train travel through one fine looking town after the other with the gorgeous North Sea coast adding just the backdrop to my journey I had hoped. This is the view of Scotland I have always been curious about, as most travel programs go on and on about, Edinburgh, castles, the highland, the Hebrides and… Whiskey?
The journey could have been longer in my view, but after what seemed like just a little while, the train arrived at Aberdeen.
Now, Aberdeen was of course a destination in of itself, but I had to quickly keep going if I was going to succeed in this north-eastern BrewDog portion of my pilgrimage and make up for my failure yesterday. So, I walked into the Union Square mall, and headed to the bus-terminal. Here I got a ticket on a coach and after a short wait I was on my way further up the north east coast to Peterhead.
The bus ride was sort of daunting, as the driver once he got out of Aberdeen, which really IS the silver city, hit the kind of speeds on a narrow country road I’m not that keen on. Still, we made good time I suppose and since we drove so fast, I only got a glimpse of the Trump sign in front of that golf resort of his, which is good, as a longer look would’ve made me angry.
As we arrived, I could see all Peterhead bathed in sunlight from a crisp blue sky. Not an architectural gem of a city, it still delivered a charming vista lying on a deep cobalt blue North-Sea. I was going to be here for two three hours I thought, but as I was hungry, I went straight for the BrewDog bar, situated on a small pedestrian shopping street.
This bar was less than a month old at my visit and was one of two extra bars I added AFTER planning my trip. But since I was sick yesterday, I wouldn’t stress, as I wouldn’t be able to manage to get to all the bars anyhow. So, I went in and walked up the bar. After ordering and doing my traditional little Visa Stamp film, I started talking to the very nice manager while waiting for my pizza. I told him all about my planned trip and how it had gone bad yesterday. So, he sorts of things for a moment and goes, “Why don’t you go straight to Ellon from here? Drop the brewery tour tomorrow, do the Dog Tap, check out Overworks’, then take the bus straight to Aberdeen from there and then the buss to Inverurie and the Aberdeen bars tonight? As you are staying in Aberdeen, you don’t go to Inverurie and Ellon tomorrow. That way you can go to the other cities tomorrow and see if you can make it all the way to Glasgow?”
I looked at him with what I’m sure is disbelief. This sounded like a suicide mission, no way could I do this… When was the next bus to Ellon?!?
Sorry to say, I inhaled my pizza and two beers and thanked him loads and went straight for the buss. I had been in Peterhead for just about an hour or so, but it would have to do, could I do this? I got on the buss sat down and thought about the plan, again and again. Was this possible?!?
The Mothership, the BrewDog Brewery at Ellon, DogTap and OverWorks.
A Scottish bus stops at the side of a highway, somewhere unknown. A large Norwegian man gets out and walks towards a big Tesco. No time, he looks at his google map, quickly, got to save the battery, plots his course, and sets off. Few minutes later he is walking along an industrial estate.
“What the hell am I doing?!? This is not where normal people go on vacation! All this because some Scottish lads brewed some beers 12 odd years ago? The things I do for beer!” Well, that’s pretty much what I thought as I huffed and puffed my way uphill towards some sign that I was walking the right way. After I got to the top of a road, I had to turn left, and there not far away was a large grey building with the wall paintings made by BrewDogs preferred wall artist Craig Fisher. I have arrived, the mothership, the Santiago de Compostela of any BrewDog fan, devotee or bitch like me.
The brewery looked the part, and after taking a few photos I quickly headed for the part of the building called DogTap. I wanted beer, and I wanted it now!
Arriving at DogTap, you do a quick look around and you notice it has the BrewDog look dead on. Just above your head is a massive wrought iron chandelier with all sort of previous BrewDog bottles stuck to it. There’s a corner in the end with what I assume is early brewing kit from James and Martin’s early days. To straight ahead a set of stairs to a mezzanine seating area and to the left booths and finally the bar. Perhaps one of their smaller bars, and the number of taps is quite low, but hey, you’re not here for the number of beers but the place, yeah? I walked right up to the bar, told them quickly who I was and what I was trying to achieve. Got my stamp, my little video and the freshest Punk IPA in my life! This was so refreshing… I wanted to stay for hours! While talking to one of the crew, a nice bloke who had lived in Copenhagen and seemed to like Mikkeller just like me, he mentioned that the OverWorks was opening earlier today, so if I just hung out for about an hour and a half, I’d be able to experience that as well.
I did ask if I could meet someone who works at the brewery (I won’t mention who, I am such a geek…) but that wasn’t possible. As I walked back and forth to the bar, I did check out their little souvenir shop as well, but since their clothes are too small for me these days and I didn’t want to carry heavy beers around, I just got a cool bottle opener and left it at that.
Reluctantly it was time to leave, so I headed across to the OverWorks “plant”. This is where BrewDog develops their new line of sour and fruity beers. A huge building with tons of barrels, inside there is an upstairs bar where they serve up said beers. I had a couple, got my stamp and took some photos but there wasn’t much time, so I left BrewDog, one wonderful experience richer.
Inverurie and Aberdeen, the baby and the grandmother
When I got back to Aberdeen, I worked out that I had about an hour before my bus out to Inverurie left. So, since the bus terminal is part of the Union Square mall, I popped in and headed for the second level of the mall to visit BrewDog Union Square. This bar is the 3rd Aberdeen bar, and up until now at least, the only one in a mall. I was walking towards the bar I could hear it from far away. It was absolutely packed with people! This was a Friday after all, but I’ve never been to a BrewDog where almost an equal amount of people was standing as well as sitting. I was nicely greeted by an actual greeter, who smiled and was very nice, despite the fact I in my shorts, sweater and small backpack probably didn’t look like the after-office crowd. I managed to get to the bar, where, despite being busy, the crewmember there did abide me and let me have my little stamp video. I had a gorgeous New England IPA as well as a smoky porter, a couple of words with the nice greeter, and then I hurried downstairs to the Inverurie bus.
Inverurie is, I suppose, a small market town or village west of Aberdeen. It seems to be a place where a lot of people from surrounding villages go to have a meal and a drink, sparing them from a trip all the way in to Aberdeen. The bus took about an hour, but that included a lot of up and down various areas of Aberdeen. It was a proper city bus this, so a bit unpleasant when it headed onto the highway at full throttle. It also stopped off at a lot of small towns on the way, but I didn’t mind, I was knackered at this moment.
BrewDog Inverurie had its official opening on this Friday, so it was PACKED! On arriving I managed to fight my way to the bar, order a beer and got my video going. The stamp was red, probably because it was opening day, but the lad behind the bar wasn’t happy with it and did a double take. So, it’s not exactly my favorite stamps this, but you know, job done. I quickly realized I’d be standing up trying to drink my beers while being pushed around, so, I said “sodd this” and went outside. Could you believe it, my bus was still there! He was on an end of line break, so I just walked up, got a return ticket and before much ado, I was on my way back to Aberdeen and the Granny of the bars, the oldest BrewDog in Aberdeen!
My walk from the terminal to the bar in Gallowgate was somewhat stressful. By now it was dark and raining buckets, but I made it to the oldest bar, and was very pleased by the look of the place. This is sort “old times” BrewDog, like Camden. I had a couple of lovely beers, got my stamp and worst video so far, but they were so busy here I couldn’t blame them. It was again a young crowd, people seemed happy and in a good mood. There was even a hen party at one of the larger tables!
I was really feeling the effects of beers, not a lot of food and all the traveling now, so I headed quickly to the last Aberdeen Brewdog bar, not far away.
BrewDog Castlegate was another big bar, and again hopping with people. Long bar here, I picked up some bottles, but was told I was 10 minutes to late (I really wanted to do this quick and go to my hotel). So, I did my usual thing telling the crewmember what I was trying to achieve, got my stamp and little film (so dark here, you can barely see it), and then I had a couple of quick beers and a look around. This bar was quite cool. It seemed to have a bit more adult crowd than the one I just came from, as if they did the students, and here they did the proper adults.
After this, I just had to walk around the corner and down the street (where I quickly visited a Fierce Beer bar located behind the BrewDog bar), to my hotel where I asked to get some food to my room, regretted that right away, but hey, room had twin beds that slipped on a slippery floor, making me fall between them at least twice during the night, so that was something. But most important, I finally got some rest, and I remembered to set my alarm for the next morning! I thought I’d done quite well, and now I saw a real chance that if I managed to get going early, I might be able to pull off visiting all the bars like the bar manager at Peterhead had suggested!
Reverse trip, last leg, goal in sight!
Saturday arrived and I made short work out of leaving my hotel and getting to my train. The day was a bit grey and wet, but this did not put a damper on my resolve to do the last bars before the end of the day.
First leg of my journey took me to the city of Dundee. I didn’t know much about the place, and I arrived too early for their BrewDog bar. Never the less, I worked my way to the correct street. While I was there, I found out that there’s a city museum in an old church right in front of the bar. There I found out about a local cartoon character and about the rich publication and press history of the city. I even bought a Tintin book translated into Scots!
BrewDog Dundee is in an amazing old building. An old trade or stock exchange with some gorgeous architecture, the bar is spacious but intimate. I was thirsty while I was here, and I think I had 5 beers! The crew was cool, as always, and I got a good video of my stamp. I talked to some other BrewDog customers and was reluctant to go. But, you know, onwards and upwards, so off I went to the train station (A cool modern entrance to the station btw, worth having a look at) and got on the train towards Perth.
When I got to Perth, I had a hard time making much sense of how to get around, so I called a cab and this nice chatty cabby picked me up and drove me to the bar. I asked him if he’s mind coming back an hour or so later and he agreed.
The BrewDog Perth is probably the cutest one of them all. It was quite tiny, located on a triangular street corner. The bar was right inside the door with some seats along the window and a bit more room at the bottom end of the bar. As many other UK BrewDog bars, this was a pizza BrewDog, so I ordered one of those. The crew were really impressed by mission and very keen on me writing them up on social media, they posed for a photo with me and even though I do find myself quite repulsive I agreed as they were all so sweet. Talkative, inclusive and just damned good at working with people, this crew were above and beyond. When I turned around, I found that the table behind me was occupied by the same guys I had seen in Dundee. Bit of fun that. Again, I had quite a few beers and even a cider before the cabbie came around and I had to go. I said goodbye and left with the feeling that people in Perth are very lovely people in deed.
So… back to the train and now for the longest journey… Heading west to Glasgow!
BrewDog in Glasgow, finish line in sight!
I managed to sleep a bit, and the weather was very wet, some of the scots drunk and some American tourists very talkative. When I arrived in Glasgow, I made it straight for a taxi, as the oldest BrewDog in Glasgow is quite a distance from the train station, and I was in no shape after all the traveling to find out how the local public transport system worked.
BrewDog Glasgow is on Argyle street, and while it is sort of mid-sized, it seems a bit cramped as all the tables and chairs seem like a tight fit.
The crew here were very busy, but once again willing to listen to me tell them about my trek, and I got my stamp and my video. I made sure to have a couple of OverWorks beers again, as I sure as hell won’t get them again at this price in Norway! I loved the big windows facing a massive museum across the street, and everyone seemed to refined and young and cultured… I thought Glasgow was supposed to aggressive people trying to glass you? Of course, I don’t think so, but I suppose I felt a bit of trepidation coming here, but it was all very impressive really, great architecture and a lot of grandeur.
I didn’t have time to hang around here for long, I grabbed another cab and headed back to the center of town for my last bar, Doghouse Merchant City!
An entirely different beast to all the places I had been so far. Big, on a swanky pedestrian street, loads of outdoor seating, massive bar, very happening crowd and high ceilings!
I went up to the bar, told my story and got quite a bit of attention from the crew. A few of them gathered as the bartender, who looked like the brother of my bartender friend at Schouskjelleren here in Oslo, gave me the last stamp that qualified me to the Flying Scotsman prize. Yesterday I qualified to the HomeDog, but this was my final goal of the trip. I received my Flying Scotsman stamp and a big wonderful free Punk IPA.
I can’t really say that much more, I had a few beers, I felt a bit like I had spent my little time in the spotlight, so I walked to the train station and went back to Edinburgh.
Back in Edinburgh I went to my friend’s hotel room and we watched the Eurovision song contest final and had a bite to eat, I went back to my room and had a couple of the beers I’d picked up here and there and then I slept well.
I had done it, during the last night in my room I looked at my BrewDog Visa again and again. It felt good. I had only really given up one thing, the tour of the Brewery at Ellon.
There was one more stamp to be had though. The day after at Edinburgh airport, I flew on my own. My friends went back to Oslo, but I left earlier to go to Copenhagen. I had one more BrewDog bar to visit, BrewDog Edinburgh Airport. This bar is a franchise, so you don’t swipe your EFP card and it doesn’t count towards Flying Scotsman. But you get a stamp, and it counts towards this is 40.
Another last thing that I mentioned earlier. Yes, I made it, I visited ALL the BrewDog bars in Scotland. And it can’t be taken away from me. But since then they have opened a new bar in Scotland, St. Andrews. And I’m sure more will follow.
I myself have since visited 3 more bars, Helsinki and Tampere in Finland and Tallinn in Estonia.
I hope to manage this is 40 one day, I currently have 24, but this crazy Scottish BrewDog pilgrimage will always be the special one to me. I met so many wonderful amazing people in such a short time, it is hard to quite remember that it happened, but I have all the proof I need in a little blue book with loads of stamps in it.
A quick piece about something that has been important to me for a lot of my life.
A homage to Rocky and Martin Ljung by Morten Aastad:
This drawing is based in part on a Swedish revy number (Theatrical comedy/show/sketches on a stage later tv. What the English call revue or perhaps vaudeville) by the company called Knäpupp, performed by the wonderful Martin Ljung where he plays to rural bumpkins who are having a conversation and asks: “Isn’t that Fingal Olsson over there?” “No, Fingal Olsson is dead!” “No he isn’t, he is moving!”
Or “Isn’t that Fingal Olsson over there?” “No. He’s over there!” “He’s supposed to be dead, dright?” “No, he appears to be moving.”
Rocky, my favorite cartoon was terminated last year (March) as Swedish cartoonist Martin Kellerman decided he’d had enough (it ran every day from 1998 and was basically his own life in cartoon form). So I merged the two into this drawing.
This is what Dirch Passer did on stage if you are Danish and Leif Just Nilsen if you are Norwegian).
My dad loved the “revy” and he also loved Comic-strips. I’m not of a generation who traditionally knows much about the post-war revue scene in Scandinavia, but thanks to my dad who was quite a lot older than me, I do know quite a bit, and I love that humour.
And as many of you who have read my stuff know, I have tried to become a Comic-strip artist myself.
So this was just a little Insight into something that is important to me, retold by one of my drawings.
Rocky is created by Martin Kellerman. This drawing is meant as a homage to him and his wonderful creation.
How Mikkeller gave me a reason to return to the lands of 1000 lakes, Moomintrolls and wonderful Helsinki.
Back in 2013 I went on a bit of a “new country bender” and among the 13 countries I visited that year was Finland. I am Norwegian, with parts of me being Swedish and Danish, but even though Finland is a fellow Nordic country, I had never been there.
I spent 3 days in Helsinki and fell in love with this beautiful city. And for that reason I really wanted to go back.
Even back in 2013 I was a big craft beer geek, and I experienced lots of exiting Finnish beers, both from bars and their state run Alko stores. But one or two things were “missing” back then.
The year after I was here BrewDog opened their Helsinki bar. Now I am a fan of those, but it wasn’t quite enough to get me to go back to Helsinki just for that. But back in April 2019 I read that Mikkeller were opening their 50th location in Helsinki as well!
Well, now I HAD to go back to Helsinki!
Henry and Sally of the Moominvalley
Mikkeller Helsinki is located in a quiet street, but not at all far from the dead center of Helsinki. If you walk couple of blocks due south of the central train station, then turn right until you reach a boulevard, cross the tramlines and walk up an uphill pedestrian street past a well-known beer bar Villin Wäinön and then about two blocks and there, on the right hand side is the Mikkeller bar. The address is 17 Kalevagatan.
The sign above the bar is square, with Henry on one side and Sally on the other. There are some lovely round lights on the facade, reminding me of the ones held by the stern statues on the outside of the railway station. Walk past the people sitting outside and to the door, and there’s a few steps up, and you are greeted by the wonderful artwork, unique to this bar, the Keith Shore Henry & Sally paintings inspired by Tove Janssons Moomin Troll. This really lends this bar a very special Finnish touch, I honestly get a little childish smile each time I see them.
Inside the bar, what you first notice is, the bar! Custom made in a snake shape, it fits the small room well, giving lucky guests a snug little corner where they are in direct contact with whoever is behind the bar at any given time. The area behind the bar is classic Mikkeller with the chalkboard and all that Danish design, but with the taps in a funny top to bottom pattern. There are 20 taps offering all kinds of Amazing Mikkeller beers as well as whatever else deemed fit for the bar and the customers.
Passion for beer and people.
At the bar I was greeted by Bar manager Rui, who was very nice to me, and even happy to see me, as I had sent him, and the bar, a Mikkeller/Moomin inspired drawing a couple of weeks earlier. I was treated to a nice talk and drank some splendid Mikkeller and Warpigs beers. Rui is a real craft beer bar man, from Portugal, he has an excellent take on customers, and he seems like he was born for this. Once again, I am impressed at how Mikkeller attracts people who love beer, people and personal service. Having worked with public service in both tourism and public transport almost all my adult life, I really appreciate seeing such quality work from people who clearly love what they do.
I can’t say that much more about the bar. It is quite small, the design is excellent, with that Copenhagen feel you expect from a Mikkeller bar as well as clear Finnish inserts, not just from the artwork but the toned down colours, something I feel is a Suomi touch. They are supposed to serve sandwhiches, but I didn’t have time to dvelve into that while I was here.
It became Mikkellers 50th bar/restaurant/cafe by opening a couple of days after Mikkellers Årsdale on Bornholm, where I hope to go in August, so look out for a new post from me then.
Once again it is June in Oslo, and for the 3rd time we head to Håndverksølfestvalen at Jakob Church!
Can you believe it? It is the 3rd Håndversølfestival in Oslo, at the lovely old Jakob Church and we are all a year older. Slightly known as I am in the beer World that is Oslo, I was lucky to meet a couple people from Cafe Sara who asked me if I was going this year. I wasn’t quite sure, as I had just come back from Scotland and Denmark, but after a quick word with head festvial chief, Lasse Lukacs I was convinced that it was something I wouldn’t want to miss.
So, the Friday arrived, and I headed out to the festival, armed with some money and and strong legs, I crossed the street from my apartment and arrived at the festival (Oh, by the way, I live across the street from the church). After such a long trek, my thirst was big and I went straight for the tent selling tokens. Were the tokens a little more expensive this year? I don’t remember to be honest, in Norway prices as far as beer goes are so inhumane I have built up fairly thick skin, if not a thick walled or bank-account.
Normally I would, on a fine day like it was, head straight for the outdoor tents and all the wonderful hazy stuff they pour these days, but I guess I was in a reflective mood, so I headed into the church proper and contemplated my next move. It was a fair collection breweries inside this year as well, a lot of very rural Norwegian ones, but as I could see no Danish Breweries (I tend to go for Danish beers first if I can), my eyes locked on the nice sign of Oppigårds Brewery from Sweden. Right away I saw what I wanted, an imperial stout, a blend of Oppigårds Thurbostout and Stormaktsporter from Närke. Not exactly a summer tiple, but, oh my, what a wonderful beer!
After enjoying a few beers from other breweries inside the church, Amundsen, BrewDog and Quart among them, I ventured outside again.
Things this year were reassuringly like last year. I enjoyed this year’s festival a lot. Some things can seem a bit like repeats from the previous years, but that makes it easier to relax, stop and talk to people you know or don’t know, and soak in the experiences.
As usual, lots of changes to talk to new people, wether just sliding up to them and commenting on their beers, or, as in my case, actually having people come up and say hi who has followed me on Untappd or even knew who I was from Instagram! How the hell that happened I don’t know (I don’t advertise my face that much). One reason why I want to go to these things apart from drinking lots of beer, is to try and find some like minded people who might want to use my drawings, designs, or wouldn’t mind me getting involved in their festivals in some way. I love craft beer not just for the beers them selves, but for the people. Craft beer geeks are lovely people, and beers really make people talk! (much more so that Läkkerol).
The tendency seems to be for a lot of regional Norwegian brewers and some of the craft beer big boys from Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and so on. The foreign brewers didn’t really seem to have caught the bait this year and I must say I’m a bit surprised at not only this festival but others I’ve attended in the last few years, that we don’t see more beers from Easter Europe. They’ve come a long way especially in Poland and we should be drinking their beers hand over fist, but no, no one shows up at all. Well, maybe they aren’t asked, still… I wouldn’t be complaining if not for the fact that it seemed to be easier to get, let’s say, Danish beers to Norway before every Tom, Dick and Harriet started brewing in Norway. And boy, they all make some swell beers, but thanks to great bars like Cafe Sara, BrewDog Oslo, Røør and others, getting these beers on a regular basis isn’t exactly a challenge. So when you do get a really great proper Oslo beer festival, in a happening town like ours, you do think “how come to the foreign breweries aren’t here?”
Yeah, I know, there are tons of reasons for this, and I shouldn’t gripe, but I can’t write all fluff pieces all the time now can I?
Trends… What are the trends? Last couple of years obviously hazy beers, New England IPA’s whether or not the brewers has managed to make one of those, it sure looks good in the glass when you get that turkey gravy and you pallet is hit with all kinds of fruits you know come from hops engineered by some very clever people.
Last year’s trend, it was Brut IPA wasn’t it? Largely forgotten by everyone, and I’m happy for it, as I didn’t get the point.
As far as a Norwegian trend existing, it will have to be Kveik. Yes, the Norwegian farmhouse yeast, that living beast that needs to be nurtured and stuck to a construction of sorts were clearly in evidence. I haven’t really grasped it all to my chest, but you know, I have to say, some of the brews here at the festival with the word kveik attached to it made parts of my Norwegian heart flutter.
A fun thing they did this year was announcing hours in advance that a brewery would pop some special bottle or keg. I enjoyed this, even if I did avoid the lines at times. BrewDog had a great representative this year and they popped the corks on several bottles from OverWorks, and this made this BrewDog Bitch very happy.
Another lovely treat were the bottles poured from wonderful Canadian brewery Le Trou Du Diable. I know I complained about the lack of foreign brewers, but these guys more than made up for it.
The weather did treat us to some wet from time to time, and that moved me, into the church again, and I had some of my best conversations there. And I think this year what I really took away from the festival was how good the mood was. Yeah, one or two people did get a bit on the wrong side of tipsy, but no one were in any way, cruel or nasty, the whole mood was so nice this year!
All cred to the boys of Cafe Sara and Lasse for this year’s festival. A monumental task I’m sure. For those of us who were there we can just praise the event and be glad we didn’t spend our money going to some American football stadium and then being chased by lightnings holding flimsy plastic cups with the word Untappd on them!
I really hope that this festival now solidifies itself as what it should be, the premium beer festival for the city of Oslo. There are smaller contenders out here, but this festival is for everyone, and I know that is exactly what I want when I go hunting for beers and for friends of beers!
This years Breweries:
Eik & Tid
Le Trou Du Diable
Stockholm Brewing Co.
I love to draw. I have done so most of my life, I have tried to find a way to make it my living, but never found the way. Thanks to beer and Instagram however, it’s been a lot more fun lately.
Back when I was a child, I drew on pretty much everything. Any blank space devoid of my pen stroke was fair game. I even did that thing you see in “cute” family photos, you know, the kid getting caught drawing on the wall. Only, I didn’t have a cheeky smile, I had a “how dare you look at my work before it is finished!” stare!
Lying on my father’s arm while he read comics for me are among my fondest memories. Growing up in Scandinavia in the 70s and 80s we had comics around us everywhere.
The cartoons I liked the most were French and/or Belgian. Asterix, the Bluecoats, Iznogood, Lucky Luke, Tintin, Gaston la Gaffe and specially Spirou et Fantasio. Among American comics I read quite a lot of Marvel and DC, but also counter culture stuff like Fritz the Cat and The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. I also love comic strips like Peanuts, Calvin & Hobbes, and the Far Side.
When I got older I got some fancy other ideas that derailed me somewhat, I also went to graphical design for a while, got a nice diploma, but I didn’t follow up. My dad dying, having to fend for myself and simply, you know work and so on. I did go to film college for a while in Denmark, and I was asked quite a few times by my co-students to draw storyboards for them. Why didn’t I follow up on that either?
10 years ago I drew and I drew and I drew trying to get printed, worked for months on a competition in a large Norwegian newspaper and really had high spirits. I didn’t place in the top 20.
And that is when it came back, that voice in my head that kept saying “people just say your drawings are nice to be nice” and “Morten, you are NOT funny!” Often followed up by “do you really want to sit around all day trying to come up with a story, then draw it, only to have people not understanding what you or on about?” I did get some tips to get someone to write and then me drawing! Again, I didn’t follow up.
Then, years pass, I draw a little here and there but nothing proper or anything. But somewhere along the line I download Instagram. I use my phone to take pictures of my drawings, I use an app as some sort of editing tool and start uploading random things.
In the past 10 years since my last try, I also got into the whole craft beer scene. And while not brewing, I started talking to a lot of people, and I learn a lot about non technical aspects of what is going on, and then start drawing “comments” to them.
This have been noticed a couple of times since and have resulted in my drawing some things for a bottle shop, a couple of beer labels, invites, event stuff posted on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other places, even posters plastered around town.
Of course I’m not where I will be throwing in my towel at work and making a living from this. Not ANYWHERE near that. But, of course, I do dream of becoming the Keith Shore for some up and coming craft beer brewery one day.
It is important to dream right? Even if you dream late.