A Eurovision Pilgrimage, with Beer Side-quests

Katie and Lisa with a locally-brewed Eurovision beer in SwedenAt long last, a quick summary of a Eurovision-themed trip to Malmö and Copenhagen, complete with beer side quests – this was rather delayed by life/an unexpected hospital visit/work/some fun travel, but finally, it’s ready for your perusal. While I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Denmark in the past, I’d never had the chance to cross the Øresund Bridge to Sweden, so for a transit nerd like me, this was an exciting opportunity. I set off with my fellow Beer Lady/Eurovision nerd Katie on an early-morning flight from Dublin – we skipped the airport pints in favour of tea – and began the adventure.

The trip from Copenhagen airport via train was speedy and inexpensive; the special transit pass covering all travel in and around Malmö during the Eurovision period was most welcome, and while my particular part of Dublin is relatively well-served by buses, it’s nothing like the array of trains, trams and buses available in Copenhagen and Malmö, nor do we have the same wide, clean footpaths and bicycle lanes; perhaps we will, some day. In any event, the trip was a perfect excuse to explore the beery options on offer in the region, and we began with an initial visit to Malmö Brewing Company, located in an old brewery building, appropriately enough. These days, they brew a wide array of the usual hazy IPAs and fruited sours you find in most craft brewery taprooms, but they also have a few more meads, ciders and cocktails than you tend to find in Ireland or the UK. They also serve a BBQ menu – this seems to be ‘a thing’ in Scandinavia at the moment, though I confess I’ve never been a particular fan of BBQ in general – but others were happy enough with the food offering. That said, I did rather enjoy their Tiny IPA – hardly tiny, really, at 5% ABV, but quite pleasant.

In the Carlsberg cellars: Old Carlsberg Porter in a glass with a bottleWe wandered back to Copenhagen to do the Carlsberg tour; while I had previously visited some years ago, it was closed on my last work visit (and had been under renovation for some time), so it was fascinating to go back. I was thrilled to see the horses again, and they have thoroughly amped up the ‘brand experience’ end of things at the Home of Carlsberg – lots of interactive activities that you can save via your wristband, which I geeked out about from a professional perspective, and a surprisingly coherent narrative about Père et Fils Jacobsen, complete with lots of ACTING, and the history of the Carlsberg breweries. We followed up the tour with a tasting in the cellars, which have been beautifully tidied up, and while most of the offerings were fairly pedestrian, the Jacobsen Yakima IPA is always a nice choice, and the Old Carlsberg Porter was lovely. There’s a lot to see and do at Carlsberg, and it’s well worth a visit, even to the most anti-big-brewery person out there – even if just for the horses and the bottle and can collection.

We also managed to find some excellent cask ale at The Bishop’s Arms – one of a chain of English-style pubs across Sweden, with two locations in Malmö. For once, the food was not BBQ, but more standard pub grub, with an excellent burger and chips. And while I had a little taster of a local Maibock – so local it was brewed in the cellars under the pub – it was the English cask bitters I was going for – an excellent and well-kept selection from Marble (which I’ve had even more recently – another story to come), Red Willow and Rudgate. 10/10 no notes.

Katie and Lisa at the Mikkeller Beer Fest, in their finest Eurovision garbIn the midst of the swirl and glitter of Eurovision, we took a bit of time out to head back into Copenhagen for the Mikkeller Beer Fest, because there’s nothing better for your overall well-being than going to a beer festival at 10 am in a week when you’ve barely been sleeping, but hey ho, needs must. Perhaps ironically, I didn’t end up having that much beer…the long queues were all for what I can only describe as Barrel-aged Nonsense or Pastry Stout Silliness, so, with the exceptions of tasters of a few white whales (the Focal Banger from The Alchemist was very nice, just not earth-shattering), I largely stuck to small pours of some really rather pleasant pale ales and low-key dark lagers, with a lot of water – and no waiting! By far, my favourite beers of the festival were Pedes pale ale from Ebeltoft Gårdbryggeri – a Danish brewery I’ve enjoyed before when visiting Odense – and Toska Bryggj, a Scottish ale from OY Brewing in the Faroe Islands. We also stopped in just around the corner from the festival site at WarPigs for (more) BBQ and a surprisingly straightforward bitter called Hogshead.

Adorable mural at Hyllie BrewingUpon our return to Malmö, we also discovered Hyllie Bryggeri, and this was much more to my taste than some of the more hipster-fied options elsewhere: yes, an industrial taproom with some local art flourishes, but a warm welcome and some excellent beers all around. The Hapi Pils, described as a Pacific lager, was absolutely top-notch: crisp and grainy, but clean, and with some flavourful New Zealand hops – a proper banger, and something I would have as a regular go-to, were it generally available to me. All in all, a highly-recommended spot to sit and relax.

In summary, a trip to Eurovision is exhausting – you can see I’ve barely included anything around the shows themselves (though HUZZAH to Bambie Thug for absolutely SLAYING for Ireland), nor the many, many Irish fan meetups we attended in and around the multiple Irish pubs on offer in Malmö, but they were all top class, and we met so many wonderful people on the trip – we Eurovision fans were easy to spot at the beer festival, of course, so it was simple to Find Our People in the crowd. It would be an absolute delight to do it again, ideally in a year with a bit less controversy, though Switzerland is not going to be cheap, nor will their beer selection be as varied, and yet…well, we’ll see what happens next year!

Leave a Comment