2017 edit: chef Emanuele has now left Mikkeller and started his own Italian restaurant, Il Birrino.
Mikkeller Bar Barcelona puts quality Catalan-Italian food on tap alongside excellent but expensive Danish craft beer.
Review: Mikkeller Bar, Eixample, Barcelona
Danish brewer Mikkeller is to European craft beers what Apple once was to tech: a brand that’s kept its cool and stylish underdog image despite global expansion. Like Apple, it has built its reputation on innovation and clever thinking; like Apple, it has legions of loyal fans; and like Apple, my biggest problem with it is the price.
Mikkeller Bar Barcelona, which opened in late 2015, is a pleasant, minimalist-Scandinavian space in the “Beer Mile” of the Eixample – the area uphill from Plaça Universitat that has become home to many new bars during the craft beer boom of recent years.
When I visited Mikkeller Barcelona on a Tuesday in late January, the bar wasn’t full but there were several groups of customers, split about 50/50 between locals and tourists. There are social events, local beer nights, running clubs and other ventures that suggest an effort is being made to integrate with the community and not just be a tourist trap. The staff are friendly and engaging and the atmosphere was pleasant. It’s much busier at weekends, I’m told. Full disclosure: I was invited by the bar and my meal was paid for.
There are 28 beers on tap: five guest beers (often local) and 23 of Mikkeller’s own, imported from abroad. From abroad, but not always from Denmark; Mikkeller’s model is to create beer recipes at its Copenhagen HQ then leave most of the actually hands-on business of brewing it to others . Some craft beer people (a world rife with infighting at the best of times, it must be said) hate this model; others tip their hat to it. I’d heard that some beers were made locally in Catalonia but that is apparently not the case. The ‘Eixample’ branded Mikkeller beers are the same as those sold in other countries, just renamed.
Serving sizes are 0.2L and 0.4L. The larger glasses are usually overfilled slightly but still only measure about two-thirds of a UK pint (0.57L). The cheapest 0.4L beers cost €5.50; the most expensive €10.50. Craft beers are expensive everywhere in Barcelona but even by the high local standards, this is top-end pricing.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that if you just want one or two beers and something delicious to eat with them, Mikkeller’s an excellent choice.
Although the menu is described as Catalan, the Italian chef has put his own stamp on things. I tried a ‘rustic torrada’ (toast) with wild boar marinated with orange peel and herbs and one featuring some equally long-marinated porchetta. Both were superb, just the sort of unfussy but tasty dish you want with a beer. Both are sensibly priced at €6.90.
Exactly the same could be said for the ‘beer geek sausage’, hand made and marinated in beer before being served with gherkins and quality bread (€6.70).
Birramisú (€4.50) was made with stout and paired perfectly with a glass of Coffee IPA (€3.50).
Before the dessert beer, I enjoyed a K:RLEK winter-only beer, a Mikkellerberger APA, and – to my tastes the best of them all – a Mikkeller Stateside IPA, each €3.50 for 0.2L glasses.
Mikkeller Bar’s a welcome addition to the Barcelona beer scene but it’s not for everyone. Only the most deep-pocketed session drinkers and enthusiasts will spend time here but I don’t think they’re the target clientele. Mikkeller will appeal to the beer-curious: new beer drinkers people who want to try no more than two or three small glasses of something new and eat well while they do so. The food is, in fact, Mikkeller Bar’s strongest suit. It’s reasonably priced for the part of town, well-conceived, well-executed and consistently hits the spot. There are other bars around here that I’d prefer to sit in and and enjoy the beer, but I’ll now always consider having a snack in Mikkeller first.
Mikkeller Bar Barcelona: Carrer Valencia 202, 08011 (Eixample), Barcelona; Tel. (+34) 933 232 743; Metro Universitat or Hospital Clinic; Open middday-after midnight every day.
Find other bars and restaurants in the Eixample neighbourhood or check out the FoodBarcelona map.