“The king of beer” is how a the Financial Times labels Mikkel Borg Bjergso, the Dane who has created a global brewing empire in the past five years.
As a science teacher in Copenhagen, Bjergso began brewing in his kitchen at home. So far, this is a normal start for a craft brewer with a basement (or free kitchen and understanding partner). He started winning national home-brewing competitions, and from there started a business.
His Beer Geek Breakfast was named stout of the year by Ratebeer.com. But his innovation was to supposedly invent the ‘gypsy’ brewing technique, which involves hiring an existing brewer to create a new brew.
Bjergso is now up to 1,680 recipes for beer through his Mikkeller brewing company, producing 8 million litres at breweries in Belgium, Norway, Denmark, the US and UK.
This volume is above the usual craft brewer, but much less then the producers of mass beers. Mikkeller also partners with other people to open bars – Mikkeller supplies the beer to the local partners who run bars from San Francisco to the Faroes.
It has revenues of about €27 million a year and has an equity partner in Orkila Capital. Craft beer or independent or serial beer producer? Whatever you call the company Bjergso has unleashed, a lot of craft brew founders will look to the model to make their own fortunes.
FT quotes his own twin brother, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso as stating that Mikkeller is just another one of the crowd.
“I’m not against a business growing and being successful,” FT quotes Jeppe. “But, to me, Mikkeller has become about business rather than beer. That’s not got anything to do with Mikkel and me personally, and I’d say the same thing about [Scottish brewer] BrewDog. You can’t run bars all over the world and expect the same level of quality. I’ll be at my brewery all the time; Mikkel is lucky if he visits New York once a year.”
Mikkel Bjergso of course says the quality remains high, and probably so, depending if he invests the profits back into the business. The taste in the end is the telling. Who knows. Let us know, craft, independent or serial beer producer for the king of beers?