Renowned Danish brewery Mikkeller have teamed up with Devil’s Peak and will now brew some of their beers in South Africa. I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say that this is a landmark moment for the South African beer scene.
Mikkeller launched in 2006 to much acclaim and has been winning yet more acclaim ever since. The term “gypsy brewer” was pretty much invented for Mikkel Borg Bjergsø (co-founder of Mikkeller – the other founding partner, Kristian Klarup Keller, moved on in 2007), who, until last year, didn’t actually have a physical brewery, instead brewing at facilities in Belgium and the US. Until now all of the beers have been brewed in Europe and North America, but this year’s Cape Town Festival of Beer marks the launch of Mikkeller South Africa.
It all started last year when Myles Oelofse, a old friend of Mikkel’s based in SA, decided to start importing Mikkeller’s beers. Around the same time, Devil’s Peak brewer JC Steyn was travelling in Europe and met up with Mikkel, taking samples of Blockhouse and Vannie Hout along for him to taste. The importing game is a tough one, particularly with the weak rand, and after plenty of talks, a plan was hatched: rather than importing Mikkeller’s beers to South Africa, they would be brewed here.
“Every time Myles came to Denmark, he brought beers from South Africa to taste,” Mikkel told me in an exclusive interview earlier this week. “Devil’s Peak certainly stood out. It was an obvious choice for me. If I brew my beers with another brewery, then I need to completely trust the quality. And of course I met the guys and they’re good guys.”
Devil’s Peak launched their first Mikkeller collaboration brew earlier this year and Capenhagen, a New England-style IPA, will now be a part of the permanent Mikkeller range in South Africa. Joining it is Peter, Pale and Mary, one of Mikkeller’s flagship beers that will now be brewed in Cape Town for the local market and released in 500ml cans. Other brews will continue to be imported, but there are plans to expand the locally-brewed range in the near future, with Mikkel assuring me that they “will do some crazy beers” once the brand is established down here. Perhaps we can expect a Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast South African Edition before 2018 is out. They could chuck in some boerewors or a cup of Ricoffy…
OK, maybe not that, but Mikkeller are known for their out-there brews and Mikkel – who designs all of the recipes – has been looking at local South African ingredients for future beers. “Devil’s Peak have shipped some botanicals up here to me and there are certainly some interesting herbs, although I am more a fan of fruit beers than herb beers,” Mikkel says. “I want to make the best possible beers and if that can include some new ingredients then that would be great, though what is most important is that the beer is good. I won’t use a new ingredient just for the sake of it.”
Mikkel has already dabbled in South African ingredients though, with Capenhagen using copious amounts of Southern Passion and African Queen hops. “I had experimented with South African hops on a small scale, but this was the first time I had used them in full production,” Mikkel says. “I think Capenhagen turned out really well and am very happy with the hop profile. South African hops are really adding something that we haven’t had before.”
Whatever comes next, we can be sure that Mikkeller’s arrival in SA will shake up the scene. The brewery is innovative and prolific, bringing out around 100 new releases every year around the world. And with Mikkeller bars across Europe, the US, Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan there was just one question remaining – can we expect to see a Mikkeller bar down here in the near future? “There are no specific plans,” says Mikkel, “but when this is all up and running I would love to do that. It’s certainly on my mind – we just need to find the right timing, once people get to know the Mikkeller beers.”
You heard the man – get out there and start familiarising yourself with the beers. Only good can come of it.