Cleopatra and Ptolemy. Cain and Abel. Sherlock and Mycroft. Ann Landers and Dear Abby. Bart and Lisa. History is full of great sibling rivalries.
The world of beer is no different, with a pair of Danish brothers who have separately astounded the craft beer fans of the world.
Mikkel Bjergsø is the older of the twins by a full five minutes, and was inseparable from his little brother Jeppe in childhood. The lives of the brothers mirrored one another, becoming competitive runners as teens, becoming teachers after college, and eventually both becoming professional brewers.
After a joint business venture selling beer went awry, the brothers went their separate ways, and have been bitter rivals ever since.
Mikkeller Brewing was born in Copenhagen back in 2006 by older brother Mikkel, and is now available in 40 countries, including at your well-stocked local booze merchant.
Wanting to push the boundaries of extreme brewing, Mikkel opted to operate as a gypsy brewer, developing strange and exotic recipes using his background as a science teacher. Those recipes would then be contract brewed in small batches at other breweries around the world.
Younger brother Jeppe opened Evil Twin Brewing a few years later, and despite not being on speaking terms with his big brother, seems to have a remarkably similar strategy.
Both brothers operate as phantom or gypsy brewers, concocting their own one-off recipes that are then brewed on contract by a third party. Small batches means great flexibility, with Mikkeller Brewing typically producing in excess of 100 wildly different brews each year, and Evil Twin not far behind.
When I say wildly different, I mean these recipes are like nothing you have tasted in the past. Popcorn, Sichuan peppers, seaweed, and truffles are just a few of the off-the-wall ingredients that have graced the recipes of one-off runs of these beers that have garnered a cult following around the world.
Since most recipes are only ever brewed once, it is usually a leap of faith when you see a new brew from Mikkeller or Evil Twin gracing the shelves of your local bottle shop. They are definitely not beers for the faint of heart or palate, and you may have to brave a gauntlet of eager beer nerds fighting for the last few cans on the shelf.
I found the Evil Twin Bozo Beer on the shelf at my friendly neighbourhood booze merchant a few weeks back, and had to share it with several friends, as it weighed in at a whopping 17% ABV, making it stronger than most wines.
The base beer style is Imperial Stout, a style first brewed for the Czars of Russia, and was reported to be the favourite tipple of the mad monk Rasputin, which he drank with gusto in between regular bouts of seducing the wives of the Russian nobility.
Evil Twin Bozo Beer is heavy with notes of molasses, licorice, oak, nuts, coffee, and a host of other flavours I could not even guess at, but the predominant flavour was heavily roasted malts topped with a frothy head.
In a similar vein, the Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast Stout is made from oats, which are nutritious part of any breakfast, although not usually served in fermented form.
At only 7.5% ABV, it is possible to drink the entire can without asking for help, so I slowly enjoyed it on the back deck for brunch, which was the closest to breakfast I was able to manage. With plenty of coffee and chocolate malt, I can see how the oats and coffee would remind you of the most important meal of the day.
To add to the family drama, both brothers have ventured far from their native Denmark to open breweries with attached tap rooms in NYC this year, both in the borough of Queens, only a few kilometers apart. Perhaps twins really do think alike, as they both claim to have independently planned expansions of their respective empires into the largest city in the USA, and it is merely coincidence that they are to open within months of one another.
By all accounts, the battling brothers Bjergsø have nothing good to say about one another, but their competitive natures have been a boon for beer buffs. Check your local bottle shop for brews by Mikkeller and Evil Twin, and see for yourself which you prefer!