“Generals gathered in their masses”. Goes the opening line of the Black Sabbath metal classic War Pigs. “Just like witches at black masses”, Continues Ozzy, with not a thought towards ever winning a Nobel Prize for literature. Chemistry, on the other hand…*
And not as generals, but like IT professionals at an afterwork on a Friday, we gathered at Warpigs brewpub, Copenhagen for an evening of “Authentic Texas BBQ” and American-style craft beer. We hadn’t been since it opened in the summer of 2015, so a planned extra day in Copenhagen meant the opportunity to pay a second visit. Would we still like it?
Give me something to get my teeth into
At this point I need to complain about beer and food. Not the beer and food in Warpigs, but generally, the lack of imagination when it comes to serving food and beer together. Same-old, same-old burger, pulled pork, brisket, or hot dog. These near-ubiquities do nothing to further the cause that beer goes brilliantly with a wide variety of food. So if you’re going to do cliché craft beer food, you really need to do it properly to win me over.
My biggest problem is with barbecue or BBQ, if you prefer. Not burned bangers and chicken legs on one English Saturday afternoon in August – that’s grilling (I’m told), but the slow-and-low roasted and smoked cuts of subprime pork and beef (mostly) that are the street food staples of the American South.
Nothing wrong with a good burger or pulled pork especially. But I despair of another promising-sounding but cloyingly-sweet, overcooked and over-garnished pile of meat with the consistency of baby food, served between two pieces of what seems to be cotton wool.
Done properly, though, BBQ is irresistible – there’s a reason pubs and restaurants do it so much. I’m glad to say, on our first visit to War Pigs, the Mikkeller/Three Floyds collaboration brewpub, showed they knew their stuff. Could they still cut the hot yellow relish of your choice?
The Warpigs dining experience
Warpigs is a big place. Set in the former meatpacking district of Copenhagen, about 10 minutes walk from the central station, it looks like a cross between a butcher’s and a barbershop, and is larger than a good many Wetherspoons. And that’s not counting the kitchen area. The furniture and decor is basic, with rows of trestle tables, it’s bathroom/abattoir chic. You wouldn’t want to go on your Sweeney Todd.
And in that massive kitchen they’re not playing at BBQ. The kitchen has American staff, and American kit, so the claim that they serve “authentic Texas BBQ” at least looks like it should stand up to scrutiny. Their beer, of course, can only say American-style (craft) beer, but brewed on site, with genuine American brewers Three Floyds, it’s a claim that’s easy to justify.
Friday night is busy. No reservations, it’s packed. We send a vanguard out to scout for the first round, while the rest of us wait and and hover, descending on a square metre of freed table like vultures onto a dead buffalo.
You walk up to the serving counter, as if in a canteen, and choose your meat. You can order in multiples of a quarter pound to encourage mixing and matching and to discourage dither. You don’t get plates, rather, a metal tray with grease-proof paper on. Which pleases the American in our party. And you don’t get a sappy bun, which pleases the hell out of me.
Is the claim “authentic Texas BBQ” justified?
I choose pork shoulder. The reassuringly-American cook placed a newly-smoked, blackened piece of boneless pork on the counter where it briefly jiggled enticingly. He then sliced me a half pound, gently pulled it into bite-sized pieces and placed it on my tray, adding my chosen accompaniments of spiced pickles and burnt-end baked beans.
I could have chosen brisket, chicken wings, beef or pork ribs, some smoked sausage, and other garnishes. Or you can go for a special “chef’s cut” (tonight, smoked loin of pork). It’s all “authentic Texas BBQ”, according to Warpigs. And I’m not in a position to argue. The one American in our gang also failed to argue, busy as he was tucking into a Texas-sized selection of all-of-the-above.
All that remains is to sauce to your liking (or not at all). My (pulled) pork shoulder was great with the tangy and not-too-hot Louisiana-style sauce, whose authenticity I can’t vouch for but I was grateful for being able to add it as a condiment and not a drowning agent.
The pulled pork shoulder has bite and tastes of pork – no baby-food sludge. The beef ribs and sausage passed muster(d) too. The brisket had our American in raptures – we had to set him in his own corner to calm down. I think he jiggled, however, not enticingly. We surmise he thought it was authentic.
Three Floyds/Mikkeller beer at Warpigs
With the pedigree of these beermakers, you expect the beers to be great. You might also expect some decent pairings. The beer board runs to about 20 taps. It’s heavily weighted to the pale side, 14 of the 20 on tonight. All the beers we tried (dark and pale) were good to very good, but some were disappointing as accompaniments to the food.
Lazurite IPA seems to be the flagship. It has good bitterness and a citrus tang to cut through the fat and smoke, and refresh the palate without being swamped. Don’t know if there’s any lazurite in it, but thankfully, it’s not blue. The session IPAs and pale ales fared less well with our food choices, finding it hard to stand up to the heft of the sauces. Sauce less, I suppose
I should have gone for at least one of the (measly) four darker beers. Tickle Torture, the black lager, Freeman, the imperial stout, Moonbase of Filth, the Oatmeal stout, or even the House of Dongo brown ale all would have provided a roasted malty edge to match the seared parts of the meat and to complement the heat and contrast the smoke.
There are bottles too. Lots of bottles. And cans. Some spectacular-sounding brews, too. If things can sound spectacular. Come to a brewpub and not drink their homebrew? Sure! we are talking about Mikkeller. This might be your chance to find something you’ve only read about.
Move along, there’s plenty to do, elsewhere
The revamped meatpacking district has much more to offer the beer and food hunter than Warpigs. But as a beer pleasure seeker, you really shouldn’t leave without visiting Fermentoren. Also, the original Mikkeller bar is on the way from the central station. A very cool place, but jammed on a Friday night, including lots of Swedes from across The Bridge.
Fermentoren is five minutes down the road, and can also get really busy. It has s a proper pub feel and a cracking beer board. As well as beers from its own brewery, there’s usually a good few Scandi craft beers and more than the odd Londoner.
Authentic or schmauthentic?
I don’t feel qualified to comment further on the authenticity of the “Texas BBQ”, and I’m certainly not getting into the ethnicity debate about BBQ. Noma it ain’t, but two visits and thumbs up, especially for serving meat that requires a set of teeth. Warpigs should be on your Copenhagen itinerary as long as you’re not on a calorie-controlled diet.
* And yes, I know it was Geezer Butler wot wrote the words to War Pigs, not Ozzy.
Notes and links
www.warpigs.dk/eat-drink/ (In English)
Also, check out the Shop for merch. Lots of t-shirts of course, but you can become a member of the Warpigs army, from Lieutenant, which costs 5000 Danish for two years, right up to General (there can be only one), but that will set you back a million DK.
Other craft beer bars in walking distance:
Fermentoren. Convivial if a little cramped. There’s a patio out front.
Mikkeller Bar. Always interesting selection. Serves in those cute little serving glasses.
There are there 13 Mikkeller locations in Copenhagen, but I like this (Haven’t been to Koelschip.)
About the Black Sabbath song War Pigs
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_Pigs. Originally titled Walpurgis. Ha!