Danish gypsy brewer Mikkeller is planning to open its second U.S. brewery this fall, complementing its San Diego location with an east coast operation in Flushing, Queens. This brewery won’t just be about beer, though: Mikkeller NYC is being built out inside Citi Field, the home stadium of the New York Mets.
Speaking with GBH, Jim Raras Jr., executive vice president of Mikkeller NYC, says the location inside a major league baseball stadium will enable the company to not only establish a beachhead on the east coast, but also grant it a gateway to meet a new type of customer in a more unique setting.
“We look at this as an awesome opportunity to showcase what Mikkeller does well, which is to make things more accessible, appeal to the consumer perhaps in a more whimsical and less serious way, but still with an extremely high quality product,” he says. “We view that as a really profound part of this project.”
Plans currently call for a 10,000-square-foot brewery and restaurant to be built out in a non-ticketed area of the stadium, meaning visitors don’t need to attend the game for a brewery outing. Furthermore, the space will be open year-round, not just during baseball season.
“That’s certainly a big piece of what we’re trying to do—enhance the experience for Mets fans,” Raras adds. “But likewise, we have this other really cool opportunity in the 200-plus other days of the year—we’ll take advantage of that to do pop-ups and collaborate.”
As for the space itself, the restaurant and bar is slated to feature 60 taps' worth of Mikkeller beers, collaborative concoctions, and other craft offerings from around the state and country. The food program, meanwhile, will be bolstered by year-round partnerships with Fuku and Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors. And lastly, the beer production area is pegged to include a 20-barrel brewhouse and a number of single-batch fermenters “so we can be agile and give the type of experience we think people are craving,” Raras says. The majority of production will be sold for in-house and off-premise consumption, though a smaller amount of beer might see broader distribution.
The company wouldn't disclose financial details relating to the project, saying only it was leasing the space from Mets ownership. The Mets organization itself, Raras adds, is not investing in the project.
This isn’t the first collaboration between the Mets and Mikkeller, though. To commence the 2017 baseball season, the brewery made a pair of beers specifically for Citi Field: Henry Hops, an IPA, and Say Hey Sally, a Pilsner. The beers are canned in Mets blue and orange respectively, and feature their namesake characters wielding bats and gloves on the packages' artwork.
These beers weren’t necessarily a precursor to the brewery, but Raras says it was Mets fans’ positive reactions to these beers that gave the company the confidence and assurance that New York—and Citi Field specifically—was the right place for the project.
“There’s that kind of thread, I’ll call it fanaticism, but not in a negative way,” he adds. “Whether you’re collecting baseball cards, or you go to Grateful Dead or Phish shows, or you’re going to different breweries to try new releases, we started to experience that crossover [at Citi Field] with Mikkeller beers.”
Adds Mikkeller founder Mikkel Borg Bjergsø in a statement: “Since launching Henry and Sally at Citi Field in April, the Mikkeller team and I have come to appreciate how baseball fans in Flushing are quite similar to Mikkeller fans around the world. Devotees like The 7 Line Army are fanatical about the quality and performance of their team and their community.”
Henry Hops and Say Hey Sally, the so-called “ballpark beers,” are currently brewed in San Diego, but production is expected to shift in-house when Mikkeller NYC is up and running.
It’s also worth noting, Evil Twin, the fellow Danish drifter brewer operated by Bjergsø’s estranged twin brother, will soon be opening a space in nearby Brooklyn.
Although they're the latest, Mikkeller certainly isn’t the first brewery to operate a ballpark location. In Colorado, Blue Moon, owned by MillerCoors, operates The SandLot inside Coors Field, home of the Rockies. And this past October, Terrapin—also majority owned by MillerCoors—partnered with the Atlanta Braves to build a microbrewery and taproom at the newly opened SunTrust Park.
Baseball and beer have always been inextricably tied. But sporting organizations have in many ways begun shifting away from large-scale domestic offerings in favor of smaller, higher end beer. The most notable proof of this can be found in Kansas City, where the Royals named Boulevard its official craft beer partner this past March. About a week after that, the Chicago White Sox ended a three-decade marketing partnership with Miller, naming, among others, Goose Island, Bell’s, and Founders as new marketing partners. Notably, they also began stocking smaller-scale local alternatives like Off Color and Pipeworks.
The move is also a logical next step for the Mets, though, as the organization has in recent years bolstered its lineup of available cuisine. “If a sports team is only as good as its concession stands,” wrote Thrillist earlier this year, “it would appear the New York Mets are in for a fantastic season.” (The Mets are currently middling in the NL East, but hey, it’s a long season.)
Mikkeller NYC represents the beer maker's 32nd location worldwide, but only the third with brewing capacity. The other two are Mikkeller in San Diego and WarPigs Brewpub in Denmark, a collaborative project with Three Floyds.