San Diego has been thirsting for Mikkeller's doors to open since the wandering Danish beermaker announced his flagship brick-and-mortar brewery in the former AleSmith space (9368 Cabot Drive) in Miramar last year. The wait is (nearly) over, with grand opening celebrations planned for this weekend. Events include a Mikkeller Running Club 10K and VIP sessions on Saturday as well as a sold-out Beer Geek Breakfast on Sunday.
"He [founder Mikkel Borg Bjergs¯] wants to stand out and be something completely different," says Mikkeller San Diego general manager John Holko. "That's the way his beers are and the way his philosophy is."
When asked if this permanent location means Mikkel can no longer be called a true "gypsy" brewer, Holko says that's not the case. "I don't know if he loses that moniker. It's almost like experimentation in reverse. Now he'll have people come and visit his brewery and do collaborations here." With a decade of successful group brews, we can likely expect a lot of collaborations to come.
As far as selecting San Diego for establishing residency, Holko acknowledges the obvious. "You'll have arguments from the folks in Oregon and Denver, but if San Diego's not the best craft beer city in the country, it's one of the top three. So why not put it there? The level and expertise and discerning palates we have are just incredible." Plus, with a long history between AleSmith's traditional purist Peter Zien and zany experimentalist Mikkel, their pairing seemed inevitable.
Despite heavy overlap, Mikkeller San Diego hasn't just pulled talent from AleSmith, although head brewer Bill Batten comes straight from AleSmith's team. Bartenders include Ballast Point and Alpine alumni and multiple Level 2 Cicerones, while the three other brewers come from a variety of projects, including the former head brewer and wild ale expert Daniel Cady from the now-defunct Twisted Manzanita brewing program.
Although most of the funky stuff is still in the future, San Diegans can expect to see at least 19 taps and bottles available at the grand opening with casks and cans coming soon.
"You have to have an IPA and APA in San Diego," says Holko, also confirming that a blonde ale, saison, tripel, Berlinerweisse and many more special releases will be flowing this weekend. VIP attendees will have first crack at bottles of Ny Verden, a huge, robust Olde Ale that pays homage to old European beers in a New World way and is recommended for aging. Variants of cult favorite Beer Geek Brunch are already in progress and promise to deliver what will likely be the freshest versions most people outside Europe have ever consumed.
While San Diego isn't the only Mikkeller project in the works—Tokyo and Los Angeles restaurant/bars are also underway, plus a membership club and local bottle shop—we're the first location in the world where Mikkel has laid down permanent roots as a brewer. That's precisely the type of outside influence San Diego needs.
"The grand opening is just the start," promises Holko. "Hopefully the beers are unlike anything San Diego has ever had."