Denmark/USA: Enemy-twin brothers open breweries just 10 miles apart

Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, a former math and physics teacher, who started in 2006 the renowned Denmark-based experimental beer brand Mikkeller and his enemy-twin brother Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, who followed with a similar operation four years later and named it in an act of winking provocation Evil Twin, will both soon start their own breweries in the same New York borough, thus taking their feud to the next level.

The 42-year-old identical twins from a small town in the outskirts of Denmark’s capital Copenhagen, are both acting as contract brewers, sometimes also called gypsy or cuckoo brewers. They do not operate their own brick-and-mortar breweries but, instead, collaborate with other brewers to produce their recipes or experimental one-off brews.

Mikkel was the first of the two to establish an own “brewery”  in 2006 called Mikkeller, a combination of his name with that of his friend Kristian Keller, who left the business one year later.  Jeppe was running at that time a beer store called Olbutikken where he also sold his brother’s beer.

The break came in 2010, when Mikkel opened a flagship bar just a short walk from his brother’s shop in Copenhagen, which also attracted Jeppe’s customers. Soon after that Jeppe started Evil Twin, which name speaks for itself. In order to resolve their problems both went to something like a couple’s therapy and in 2012 Jeppe went with his company to New York. "We want to establish Evil Twin as a true New York brand and felt that this was the step we needed to take to do that,” he justified the move at that time. Since then both haven’t hardly spoken to each other.

While Jeppe was more focused on the greater New York area with his beers Mikkel started expanding his business worldwide to more than 50 countries and created in the meantime more than 1,000 different beers. Mikkeller has now (including the recent opening) 32 locations worldwide and is running a club that has 160 chapters in 30 countries and more than 10,000 members.

In April 2016 Mikkeler started its first own brewing facility in San Diego, California, when it bought the former site of AleSmith Brewing Company from owner and brewmaster Peter Zien. “People have always asked me when I’m going to open my own brewery, and my answer has always been ‘never.’ It’s the easiest answer, but it’s been on my mind for several years,” said Mikkel at that time. “I like being a ‘gypsy brewer,’ but know that having a stake in a U.S. brewery will change our position here,“ he added. Critics argue that he already had his next move in mind which was the jump to the East Coast, where his twin brother has his operations.

On Sunday Mikkel  will open its second large-scale brewery, Mikkeler Brewing NYC,  and taproom at Citi Field, home of the New York Met,  in Flushing, Queens. The premise will occupy a space of about 10,000 square meters and features an industrial design with concrete floors, 30-foot-high ceiling and exposed steel beams.

His brother Jeppe is following suit a few month later. Evil Twin will open its first brick-and-mortar brewery only 10 miles apart in a former banquet hall with saloon-style bathroom doors, heavy drapes and disco balls. The new site in Ridgewood, Queens, will also have a 10,000 square feet production room, and an additional 4,000 square feet for a taproom and outdoor area.

While Mikkel operates all of his operations including the new one from Copenhagen, Jeppe is based in New York and will be closer to the US business than his brother. For this reason Mikkel has teamed up with Jim Raras Jr., formerly CFO of Hill Farmstead Brewery, who has joined Mikkeller NYC as Executive Vice President, responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations, with a focus on the customer experience, collaborations and partnerships. In his previous role, Raras had worked with Bjergsø and Mikkeller on several joint initiatives “and hit it off with the team in Copenhagen given their like-minded focus on quality and experience.”

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