If You Can Make it There...
I have had an absolutely packed week, which has meant very little time for blogging. But a news item just up at the Oregonian requires a bit of commentary:
“Now [Mikkel Borg] Bjergso is returning the favor to Oregon. His Danish brewery Mikkeller, maker of some of the globe’s most sought-after craft beers, will take over the former home of Burnside Brewing, opening a pop-up beer bar alongside a pop-up restaurant -- a placeholder while the partnership explores the possibility of a permanent bar, restaurant and Mikkeller brewery at the site.”
“The brewpub has been sitting idle since Burnside Brewing, at 701 E. Burnside St., closed in early February. [Chefstable owner Kurt] Huffman said the group wants to open a permanent Mikkeller brewery and restaurant there, but the regulatory issues are significant and could take several months to sort out. On Friday, Huffman purchased Burnside Brewing’s assets and wiped out its debt, allowing the new project to proceed.”
So that’s pretty big news. (Congrats to Andre Meunier for a great scoop.)
Apparently Mikkel loves Portland and is excited to have a location here. Huffman believes Mikkeller brings something missing in Portland (a debatable argument): “The flavor profiles are different; they’re daring in different ways than the breweries here are.”
It is nevertheless an interesting choice. Portland’s inner eastside has one of the greatest densities of craft beer in the country (there are at least a dozen breweries—by quick count—within a mile and a half, and several beer bars). Despite the claim that there are niches remaining underserved in Portland, I can’t really think of any except traditional British ales. And most significantly, penetration of craft beer into the draft market is near total now (something around or north of 80% of the pints poured).
Mikkeller will join others attracted to Portland from elsewhere. Many Oregon and SW Washington breweries have opened taprooms here, some big and expensive projects (Rogue, 10 Barrel, Backwoods), and both Modern Time’s and Fat Head’s have tested Portland’s famously parochial tastes with incursions from beyond. Finally, Portland seems a place out of time with that cadre of national beer geeks who keep their eyes on the latest hot breweries and trade bottles of “whales.” Why go crazy for Hill Farmstead when you’ve got Upright? I can’t think of a harder market to enter.
So why come to Portland? Because of all these things. If you’re a coding prodigy, you head to California. If you’re a stage actor, it’s Broadway and New York City. And increasingly, if you’re an ambitious brewery that wants to demonstrate just how strong and popular your beers are, you come to Portland to test your mettle among the most knowledgeable and sophisticated drinkers in the the country. If a brewery from Copenhagen can make it here ... well, cue Frank Sinatra.
Welcome, Mikkeller, and good luck!