Mikkeller Bar in Barcelona is a paradise for beer enthusiasts. Here you’ll find the best selection of craft beers in town, accompanied by delicious food in a creative environment. And it’s luring locals and holidaymakers alike to the Catalan branch of Danish beer empire Mikkeller.
In Barcelona’s Eixample district, tucked away from the main tourist hordes, you’ll find Mikkeller Bar Barcelona behind a facade of a simple white sign with the turquoise logo and distinctive Mikkeller characters you might know from Copenhagen.
Inside the elongated, spacious room, you are immediately struck by the Danish cosy atmosphere. The walls are painted white, the floor blue like the logo and the decor simple and very Danish. Typical Danish grey-painted wooden chairs with wooden backs and bright bar stools surround bright wooden tables, and the ceiling and walls are broken up by splashes of colour such as orange lamps and humorous art posters.
At the end of the room you’ll find the bar with 24 blue beer taps of Mikkeller’s craft beers with quirky names like Warpigs, Ris a la m’ale, Weird Weather, Spontanpineapple and Stick a finger in the soil.
Admittedly, I’m a total beer amateur who’s gone on expedition at Mikkeller Bar. I grew up in a generation where the beer selection was limited to a Hof or Tuborg, and I never really learned to like them. Now, innovative beer enthusiasts like Mikkeller have taught me that beer can taste just as good as the wine I consume with the greatest of pleasure. So despite my lack of beer experience, I enter with anticipation and open senses.
Became Mikkeller’s husband in Spain by chance
Before I indulge in the delights, I have a chat with Mikkeller Bar Barcelona’s co-owner and manager, Thomas Rohde, in the cosy sofa corner where he sits and works every day.
Thomas has lived in Barcelona for 17 years, and he describes it as a bit of a coincidence that he became co-owner and manager of the Barcelona bar in 2015.
– I know some of the people in charge at Mikkeller and they asked me if I could find a space in Barcelona. In 2015, the bar opened. My job is to manage the eight employees in the bar and import and distribute Mikkeller’s beer, he says.
Thomas had no restaurant experience when he took the job, and managing Spanish staff has been particularly instructive for him.
– In Spain, managers are often sourpusses with outdated management methods, who command and shout at employees. I and my staff have had to learn to find each other in the Danish democratic style of management, because the Spaniards are not used to it. But it works, and where other bars change staff every three months, most of my staff have been there from the start. Salary-wise, we’re in a good place, and it’s important to me that everyone is doing well,” says Thomas.
Denmark plays an important role in the bar
Although Thomas enjoys a great deal of freedom in his daily work with his employees, everything relating to interior design must be approved in Denmark.
– All the furniture is made on Bornholm, and a team came down and finished building it. Posters, signs and decorations on walls and glass are designed by the American artist Keith Shore. My employees have painted some of the murals according to a template, but when I have wishes for the interior, I discuss it with Mikkeller’s competent design team in Denmark, says Thomas. And he certainly doesn’t seem unhappy about it. On the contrary, there is pride in both voice and eyes when he talks about Mikkeller.
Beer in focus with tasty food on the side
My stomach is growling and the time has come for me to taste both beer and food. I’ve also brought a helper – 21-year-old Marius – who has a big appetite for both food and drink.
– We focus on the beer, so the food is simple and well priced. The menu is very Spanish-café-like with vegetarian burgers, quinoa and cheeses. The food is prepared by our English chef Daniel, and it is good, but we want to create a new, healthier and more Nordic menu, explains Thomas.
Marius and I check the lunch menu, which includes carpaccio, sweet corn fries with tropical salsa, rösti with beetroot, asparagus, egg and dill oil, and smoked bream with spinach, poached egg and hollandaise sauce.
I choose the bream, which the menu claims is as Scandinavian as Lars Ulrich (drummer for Metallica), and Marius chooses the rösti.
Both Marius and I are lost when we have to choose beer for our food. Luckily, the sweet female waiter immediately understands our flickering glances and invites us up to the taps, where we get to taste a small selection to go with our dishes.
I end up with a Lambic sour, which with its distinctive acidity went really well with my delicious fish with the rich sauce. I did not miss the white wine that I always order when I eat fish. Marius had a Soma from Girona for his fries, which was rounder in flavour. I tried it too, and I’ll drink it again.
The food was really delicious, well prepared and creatively put together. So, despite Thomas’ claim that food is not the focus, it is by no means playing second fiddle. It tastes really good.
Popular with locals and tourists alike
Mikkeller Bar Barcelona has quickly become a popular place to drink beer for locals and tourists alike. Tourists include Americans, Swedes, Norwegians and Danes, as well as Catalans, who particularly enjoy lunch here.
– The locals had to get used to the fact that the price of a craft beer is more expensive than the local factory beer they are used to drinking. It helped to replace the glasses with larger ones and that they can get lunch at good prices. Now the locals make up about half of our guests, Thomas smiles.
Guests particularly like the IPA (Indian Pale Ale), which is a very hoppy beer, and therefore a little bitter in taste. The Pilsner is an absolute bestseller, and there’s a general openness to trying something new – both Mikkeller’s own beers and the small selection of locally produced craft beers available at the bar.
– For the connoisseur, we have very special beers that cost 50 to 100 euros a bottle. It is mostly collectors who buy them. However, we have had a guest who bought 500 euros worth of beer and shared it with the bartender, says Thomas, who himself likes the house strong Warpigs beer “Big drunk baby”.
Mikkeller puts another Spanish bar on the world map
On Mikkeller’s world map there are currently 41 bars pinned, spread all over the world, including. Stockholm, Torshavn, Tokyo, Taipei, Bucharest and a brand new one in London, created in collaboration with 1980s pop star Rick Astley.
Mikkeller also has a new bar coming up in Spain, but they can’t reveal exactly where yet. Even a beer lover like me is pleased that Mikkeller is expanding in Spain. Because after the visit to Mikkeller Bar in Barcelona, I undeniably have a taste for quality beer. And there are still many in the taps that I have not tasted. And the ones I tasted I loved, so I come again and again.
- Mikkeller was founded by Mikkel Borg Bjergsø and Kristian Keller in the mid-2000s.
- Kristian Keller left Mikkeller in 2007, and now Mikkel is at the head of the company
- Mikkeller’s beers are produced under the name “phantom brewing”, where Mikkeller concentrates on developing recipes and designing labels and gets existing breweries to produce beer according to their recipes.
- Mikkeller has 2000 different beers, and they develop up to 20 new recipes a year.