Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Texas Smørrebrød & Warpigs Lazurite IPA

And ... I'm back!  Back and slightly bug-eyed over the fact that it's been six months since the last post.  Yep, six months.  Man, nothing derails one's blogging momentum like an international move.  Oh, and opening a new restaurant.  That takes some time also.

*Insert sheepish shrug here.

It's been worth it, though.  Sarah and I are happily settled in our new home, a somewhat sparsely furnished but very cozy three room flat in Copenhagen's Vesterbro neighborhood and I'm proud to say that Warpigs - that's the new restaurant -  is off to a great start!

Because there's been such a lapse, this post is going to be a little different.  I'll still offer a beer pairing at the end but not an actual recipe.  I will mention bits about our integration into Denmark but I won't bore readers with too many of our expat blunders except to note that "rejer" is not some tasty Danish cheese.  It's shrimp.  And sometimes bumbling Americans accidentally order it on their Gorgonzola pizzas (and are regretfully too proud not to eat it).  I will talk a whole lot about Warpigs and barbecue and share how I think those two things are mixing with Copenhagen.  I'll probably do some bragging about the cool folks I get to work with - a special shoutout, for example, to "The Major" who welcomed us with beef cheeks and held our hands all the way to Ikea and through much of the landing process - and I'll subtly plug the Warpigs mission.  I'll definitely explain the mystery sandwich pictured above but mostly this post is going to be a lot about me so if you're just here for the beer and food, no offense taken, just scroll down to the pairing.

Almost a year ago I, along with the rest of the beer world, learned about Warpigs in an article on Beer Pulse.  I know we were all intrigued - an international collaboration brewpub between two beer giants, Mikkeller (of Denmark) and Three Floyd's (of the good ole US of A), serving traditional Texas barbecue and generally breaking the bonds of what a "brewpub" is.  And they were searching for an American chef!   I wasn't just intrigued, I was obsessed.  Like a lot of Americans, I've loved barbecue since I was a kid, gnawing on ribs and drumsticks at backyard summer cookouts.  Unlike a lot of Americans, however, I spent a good portion of my professional life touring the Southern states, studying the ins and outs of barbecue and learning from some pretty colorful cooks.  The booming New Orleans chef, for instance, who powdered his legs with cornstarch and used vanilla pudding in his cornbread still stands tall in my mind.  So when I read about Warpigs I jumped!  And when I say "jumped" I mean that I veritably stalked the good people at Mikkeller, inundating them with resumes and lengthy arguments as to why I WAS the chef they were looking for.  Kudos to the patience they exhibited in the face of my enthusiasm.  Some of you may remember this time because I also inundated all of YOU with barbecue post, after barbecue post after barbecue post.

Looking back, I'm glad for my persistence.  Getting to be a part of the wild cultural immersion that is Texas BBQ in Scandinavia has been brilliant.   Getting to work with people who are fearless in this concept and resolute in their mission to create a brewpub that is unique but that also mirrors a traditional BBQ "joint" in all the most important ways, well, that has been the most brilliant of all!  This experience has also given me insight and led to the following observations about the fine people of Denmark (feel free to chime in here, Danish friends - have I got this right?)

1. Danes Like Preparedness

One of the understandable pieces of feedback I've gotten is in the form of disappointment when the restaurant quite literally runs out of meat.  And on more that one occasion it's been mistakenly assumed that this is due to lack of organization or preparation on our part.  It's not.   I understand the disenchantment.  When one waits in line, hungry and tantalized by the aromas of smoked meat, one expects there to be barbecue at the end of that line.  Watching as anticipated menu items are suddenly crossed off the chalkboards is disheartening.  I can empathize as it's happened to me on more than one occasion (and typically it's been after standing around sweating in the relentless heat of a Texas summer).  But ask any person from any barbecue region and they'll all say the same thing: "When they're out, they're out."   That's just barbecue and it's the same at Warpigs.  Meats are smoked for 12 hours, twice daily and they're served fresh, that very same day.  Every. Single. Time.  No pit master worth their salt would ever stockpile meats from the previous day's smoke and I won't either.  I also won't cram my smokers over capacity just to yield more product.  So if you find yourself at the end of a line with no meat, know it's only because we're following the laws of BBQ set forth long before us and that we're abiding by them so as to give you the best food we can.  It's really as simple as that.

2. Danes are curious

And the proof of this lays in how warmly received the idea of BBQ in Copenhagen has been.  It's a foreign concept and as far as I can tell there isn't a restaurant that even distantly resembles that of Warpigs in all of Scandinavia.  We're traditional for Texas but we're unusual for this part of the world and I am consistently impressed by the sharp inquisitiveness and culinary intrepidity of our guests.  Bravo Danes!

3. Danes Have a Sense of Humor

Which brings me to the mystery sandwich.  It's a smørrebrød ... sort of.  Technically it's the Warpigs smørrebrød, likely the first of its kind and my humorous (and indulgent) homage to the cultural marriage of Texas and Denmark.  Smørrebrød, for those who may not know, is the traditional open face sandwich of Denmark.  It is much beloved and typically served on rugbrød (rye bread) with a variety of dainty toppings ranging from pickled herring to roast pork.  Aside from its open faced-ness, the Warpigs version totally breaks from tradition. It stretches the entire length of a bread loaf, is topped with 1.5 lbs of sausage, brisket and pork and is basically one big healthy helping of Texan gluttony.  I'll admit that I was a little nervous developing this item.  As the new chef in town, risking desecration of Denmark's favorite dish felt perilous, even despite the fact that our esteemed leader (a Dane) gave me the thumbs up (though, unlike me, he's kind of a Jedi and, I suspect, intimidated by nothing).   Much to my relief he was right.  The locals totally "get" the intended playfulness and embrace it.  Very cool.  Very cool indeed.  And I must say, coming from a city where one is publicly berated for ordering ketchup on a hotdog, also a refreshing change of pace.  Take note, Chicago.

4. Danes Appreciate High Quality

Which is great!  They keep us on our toes and they acknowledge when we're getting it right.  There's fairness and honesty in their critiques and in their compliments and I've been happy to receive both!

5. Danes Can EAT!

In an average week, our guests consume multiple tons of meat.  Did you get that?  Tons!  That's literally thousands of kilograms. Make no mistake, coming from a husky Midwesterner, this is high praise but seriously, that's a lot of meat!  

6. Danes Can DRINK!

Whoever said the Irish can drink, never went to Denmark.  Our beer is good and strong and the Danes can put them back.  Our brewers are power team of two and hustle like the ballers that they are.  They're pretty awesome and if you spot them (they're the ones in rubber boots who smell like malts) give them the nod of respect that they deserve.

All in all, the Danish are a pretty terrific group of people to be cooking for and even though Sarah still can't pronounce our street name (Oehlenschlægersgade) and I would happily trade our first born for just one can of Dr Pepper, we're pretty content here.  I've been blessed with a particularly stellar kitchen crew and now that I've finally found a place to get real tacos its beginning to feel a little more like home.  So thank you to the fine people of Copenhagen and to the even finer people of Warpigs and Mikkeller for making these first 6 months all we could have hoped for!


Pairing Notes
Lazurite IPA
7.4% ABV

The Warpigs' Smørrebrod will certainly pair well with any Warpigs beers but for me, a dish this rich and with so much meat, needs some fairly aggressive hops.  Lazurite cuts through the fattiness of the meat with the strong but balanced American hops and its higher alcohol content helps to balance the bitterness.  Big notes of tangerine and grapefruit play well against the sweetness of subtle malts, while the acidity of the citrus accents the acidity of the coleslaw and the pickles, brightening each other to further refresh the palate. 

The color is a deep, golden straw, produces a creamy head and a clean finish.  Thirst quenching and terrific for summer!  For those outside of Copenhagen, consider these equally hoppy subsitutions: 

Blind Pig IPA, Russian River Brewery
Two Hearted, Bells Brewery
Sculpin IPA, Balast Point



  1. A Good read. Thanks. Also regarding Dr Pepper, quite a few Danish supermarkets with a foreign section (look for the Brit/US flags) will have plenty of cans of it (our Super Brugsen in Christianshavn does at least)

    1. TheBeerAndFoodProjectJune 24, 2015 at 5:09 AM

      You're most welcome - glad you enjoyed it! Excellent tip on the Dr Pepper. Thank you! The hunt begins!

  2. Your right on for the observations indeed! I will pass by Warpigs again soon(already been here twice) an old student of Mikkels.
    Nikolaj Noel

  3. TheBeerAndFoodProjectJuly 1, 2015 at 8:20 AM

    Hey Nikolaj - Glad to hear my observations are sound! If you spot me the next time you're at Warpigs (broad shouldered guy, black baseball hat) be sure to grab my attention so we can say hello!

  4. I love everything about this post!
    Nothing (well almost) more interesting than reading/hearing about foreigners' view on us. "Whoever said Irish can drink never went to Denmark" cracks me up!!!
    Have to tell you that you live in a street that most Danes may be able to say, but no-one can spell. You beat us on the spelling, and there's the real challenge.
    See you around!
    (MRC coach Christina typing)

    1. TheBeerAndFoodProjectSeptember 1, 2015 at 8:13 AM

      Hi Christina! I had to double and triple check that spelling, believe me.