MIKKELLER AND THE CONQUEST OF THE PLANET CRAFT
I am sure that a high percentage of those who read this post, have played Risk at some point. Yes, I am referring to the mythical strategy game created by the French film director Albert Lamorisse in 1950, where the goal is none other than to conquer all the territories available.
And what does this board game have to do with the headline of this article, you might ask? Easy: the comparison comes from the fact that Mikkeller opened its 50th location this June, in Helsinki. With that, it achieved the important milestone of planting its flag, or rather, a bar - in each capital in Northern Europe. One more step towards the conquest of the planet craft.
The welcoming Mikkeller Bar Helsinki has received has been absolutely spectacular since its inauguration. That same day, some 350 (!) liters of beer were served, which not only demonstrates the public's desire to see Henry and Sally in the capital of Finland, but the enormous interest that the Danish brand arouses among the locals.
TALKING WITH RUI DA COSTA, THE BAR MANAGER AT MIKKELLER BAR HELSINKI
If to all this we add that one of the co-founders of the project is the Portuguese Rui Da Costa, great friend of mine and beer expert who along with his business partner, Janne Lankila, captains the ship, then I have no doubt that success is guaranteed.
In order to get to know the project better, the situation of the craft beer scene in Helsinki, and the entrepreneurial adventure of Rui himself, we took the opportunity to chat with him for a while during our visit. Thanks for everything Rui and see you at MASH!
Ø.- After living in Barcelona for the past nine years, a few months ago you decided to leave a stable job in a leading digital platform company, and embark on the adventure of opening Mikkeller Bar Helsinki together with your business partner, Janne Lankila.
Now that you are part of the Mikkeller family, could you tell us what has most attracted your attention to the brand, something that perhaps before, as a client, you had not noticed, and what you most like in their company culture?
Rui: I think what struck me the most was the treatment I received in Copenhagen. When you assume the position of a new manager in a Mikkeller bar, you have to spend a few days in Copenhagen, not only to attend the meetings in the Mikkeller offices, but also to visit several of the bars and premises of the brand. In all these places they immediately made me feel part of a family that is very proud of their product and their way of dealing with beer, and serving it to our customers.
The proximity within Mikkeller is admirable, and talking with Mikkel or with Jacob "Major" is just as easy as talking with the managers or other employees at the different Mikkeller locations. Everyone makes you feel welcome and they offer you what you need so you can turn your bar into a new Mikkeller success story. Spending two days as Visiting Manager at the original Viktoriagade Mikkeller was undoubtedly very special for me and the ideal place to learn a lot about Mikkeller's culture.
Ø.- I imagine that between moving to another country, with all that this entails logistically, and making everything ready for the opening of the premises, now is a good moment to make an evaluation of the first months.
Have you been surprised by the great reception Mikkeller Bar Helsinki has had since day one, since its inauguration? And on the other hand, what is the feedback you are receiving from the city's beer community?
Rui: Moving to Helsinki was somewhat of a challenge. First because it is the first country in which I live without being able to speak their native language, because Finnish is more a superpower than a language. Luckily everyone here speaks English, which certainly helped me a lot in my adaptation to the city - and well, having a Finnish wife also helps (laughs) -.
Helsinki is a place that I love and the city welcomed its own Mikkeller with great enthusiasm. Months before we found a location for the bar, there was a rumor that a Mikkeller was going to open in Helsinki and on social networks one could already feel the excitement among brand- and beer lovers in general. But the moment we made the opening date official, all the interest and feedback was magnified. There were even people in the street taking pictures of the place weeks before opening - if they would have known all the work that was still needed to get everything ready! -.
The days before opening were very long and intense, but the result was everything we wanted. On June 29th, a huge queue formed at the door of the bar and people came from all over the country to celebrate the opening. Some drove for more than six hours, and we had customers who traveled from St. Petersburg to drink with us that day.
Three months have passed since then and we continue to receive clients from St. Petersburg every week, in addition to many tourists who visit the city but especially many locals, people who are very happy to have a Mikkeller nearby and who regularly visit us. We expected to have a very good response from the public, but the truth is that it is continuously exceeding all our expectations. People compliment us on a daily basis for the design of the bar and for our selection of beers and different styles in the taps.
Ø.- Finally Rui, I wanted to take the opportunity to ask you about the local craft beer scene. Could you name some of your favorite places, besides logically Mikkeller Bar Helsinki, to drink good beer in the capital of Finland? Any festival or beer festivals to consider? And finally, do you already have a favorite local brewery?
Rui: Here I love having a few beers in Bryggeri Helsinki, especially in summer since it has a very cozy terrace and you can visit its brewery, located on the ground floor, at any time. I would also highlight the Brewpub of Stadin Panimo, a fantastic place for lambic beers and Wild Ales; and, without a doubt, Pien Shop & Bar, a place where they only have 8 taps but where the selection of bottles is the best in the city.
July and August are the months of the festivals in Helsinki. At the beginning of July I recommend Craft Beer Helsinki Festival, in the heart of the city, and at the beginning of August, the Craft Beer Garden Festival, a smaller and more intimate festival but of great quality, something very similar to Mash in Barcelona.
The local beer scene has changed and grown a lot since my first trip to Helsinki in 2014. And not only the number of places to drink craft beer, but also that the number of breweries has multiplied, many of them offering very good and interesting products. I think what these brewing projects lack right now is the projection and momentum outside the borders, since they are of high quality and many of them collaborate with renowned European and American brewers.
Before we opened the bar, many local breweries contacted us to try their beers and see if we could be interested in including them in our selection. We tried many, one of the hardest parts of my work (laughs), but the one that impressed me most from the first moment was the Salama Brewing Company for the level of its beers and the - almost - obsession for the quality by its brewer, which has led him to brew excellent products. But there are more, from Fat Lizard and Cool Head, perhaps the best known here, and smaller ones like Hiisi, Humalove or Jacobstads, all of them with very good beers.