|Never judge a book by its cover|
Being something of a beer geek when it comes to beer and brewing, there wasn’t a huge amount in the book that I didn’t already know, but the material about Mikkeller, his background, his other interests and how he became involved with beer were all of interest and helped to dispel a few of the myths surrounding the man and his beer.
The first thing which comes across is that Mikkel Borg Bjergsø is an obsessive character. In a previous life both he and his twin brother Jeppe were avid runners; in fact they were both multiple Danish champions. In addition they were awarded running scholarships at American universities, but Mikkel was so obsessed with the sport that he literally ran himself into the ground; developing exercise-induced asthma along the way.
|The man himself|
The two eventually went into partnership combining their names to form the title of their new business – Mikkeller. One of their first outlets was a beer shop in Copenhagen, jointly owned by twin brother Jeppe.
The partners obviously leaned quickly and became rather good at turning out award-winning beers, but almost from the start were not interested in owning their brewery. Instead they arranged for their beers to be contract brewed; initially by Danish brewers Gourmetbryggeriet. However, when the latter suggested a partnership Mikkel got cold feet, despite Keller being in favour of the idea.
De Proef Brewery in Belgium, where there was a lot more capacity, alongside the technical know-how. The latter was provided by De Proef’s owner and brewer, Dirk Naudts, whilst the ideas and recipes were supplied by Mikkeller.
In 2007 Mikkel and Keller went their separate ways. Keller had already found alternative work in the music business, but after being paid off by his partner, agreed that the company name should remain as Mikkeller. By this time Mikkel had married Pernille, the co-author of this book, and when the following year the two found out they were going to be parents, Mikkel cut back on his teaching commitments and took on his first full time employee.
This presumably is the thinking behind the remark which first surfaced on Stonch’s blog. The comment alleges that Mikkel spends all day lounging round his flat before emailing recipes over to various breweries. Blogger Ed Wray used this remark as the inspiration for his post Beer and Wanking, as he was noticeably annoyed by the fact that Mikkel is not involved in the brewing process at all. I must admit it didn’t exactly endear him to me either; at least to begin with. Some attendees at last year’s European Beer Bloggers Conference in Brussels obviously thought the same, and in a heated debate on Beer Marketing Jean Hummler, from Moeder Lambic took the opportunity to lambaste gypsy and cuckoo brewers, with particular reference to Mikkeller.
To be fair, Mikkell is quite clear on why he has no desire to won a bricks and mortar brewery, citing the large investment, and resultant heavy borrowing this would entail, and his fears that the company would be forced to sell more and make more “commercial” beer in order to service the loans and pay the bills. In a YouTube interview with Irish blogger, Sarah Finney, Mikkel answers his critics and makes the case why it is sometimes better being at arms length, than up to your knees in spent grain, digging out the mash tun.
|Brew your own!|
All in all it’s an enjoyable read, probably pitched at just the right level by being not so technical so as to put off new comers to beer, but at the same time not so simple either as to be patronising to those of us who know a fair bit about beer and brewing. The cover price, for what is a nicely laid-out hardback book is £20, but like my wife managed to, you too should be able to pick up a reduced price copy somewhere out there.
Finally, a few short words by way of explanation about the title of this post. Mikkel obviously damaged his health during his early twenties with his running obsession; self abuse, if you like. Continuing the theme brought to light on Ed Wray’s blog, the term “self abuse” could obviously refer to the “pastime” referenced by Ed; although I will leave that to people’s imagination!