Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Tour of Carlsberg’s Brewery and History

Carslberg Taps Carlsberg Brewery Copenhagen Denmark

Carlsberg is an internationally distributed beer and one of the world’s largest brewery groups.  I would be willing to bet there may be quite a few people who know of Carlsberg beer and yet don’t even know it’s Danish.  It is easy to forget that such a conglomerate came from small beginnings, and what is really interesting about Carlsberg is its history.  Carlsberg did more for Denmark than just brew beer.  It all comes down to Carl Jacobsen’s motto: laboremus pro patria, let us work for our country.  Carlsberg’s history is nicely illustrated in a tour of the Carlsberg Brewery in Copenhagen.

Carlsberg was established in 1847 by J.C. Jacobsen.  The name Carlsberg came from a combination of his son’s name, Carl, and the Danish word for mountain, as the brewery was situated on the hill of Valby.  Twenty years later Carlsberg was an internationally recognized brewery.  Around the same time, in 1867, the brewery burnt down, but was rebuilt the same year and is now listed as an industrial monument.  As a result of the fire, J.C. Jacobsen bought a large number of fire pumps both for the brewery and the city’s fire service. 

Carlsberg Brew House Carlsberg Brewery Copenhagen Denmark
The old Carlsberg brew house.
In 1882 Carl Jacobsen opened his own brewery, New Carlsberg.  Father and son differed over brewing methods and marketing.  Carl Jacobsen used advanced technology and experimented with shorter beer maturation times.  New Carlsberg flourished, and in 1906 Carl Jacobsen united the two breweries.

A tour of Carlsberg begins in the old brew house where Gamle Carlsberg, or Old Carlsberg, was brewed in the 18th century.  Visitors have the opportunity to taste beer made from the 1854 recipe while reading about Carlsberg’s early history.  Visitors can even taste the Münchener malt which was used in the Gamle Carlsberg beer and is now used in the Jacobsen Dark Lager, which is based on the original recipe.

Carlsberg 1854 Recipe Beer Carlsberg Brewery Copenhagen Denmark
Tasting Carlsberg's 1854 recipe.
Upstairs is the world’s largest collection of unopened beers.  The collection, which was first started by Leif Sonne but was later transferred to Carlsberg in 1993, was certified by Guinness World Records in October 2006 when the collection contained 16,384 bottles.  The collection continues to grow, and as of March 2014 had reached 22,250 bottles.  The beers come from all over the world, and there is a section dedicated to Carlsberg bottles from multiple countries in different languages.

Guinness World Records Unopened Beer Collection Carlsberg Brewery Copenhagen Denmark
Carlsberg's Guinness World Record holding collection of unopened beers.
A tour of the Carlsberg Brewery continues through the old brew house where visitors can read their way through an illustrated exhibit explaining the history of Danish beer and Carlsberg.  The tour then moves into an exhibit displaying the working conditions of the brewery employees.  J.C. Jacobsen was a kind employer who paid his employees well.  He felt an obligation towards his workers and provided social assistance such as medical care and pensions in a society where such things were not required nor were they the norm.  Carl Jacobsen followed the principals started by his father.  However, this type of management ceased with the formation of the brewery workers’ union in 1897.

Employee Beer Rations Carlsberg Brewery Copenhagen Denmark
Cupboards workers used to store their daily beer rations and packed meals.
Another example of Carlsberg’s motto, let us work for our country, is illustrated by a visit to the 1871 laboratory.  The Carlsberg laboratory was meant to provide a “complete foundation for the company’s malting, brewing, and fermenting operations.”  J.C. Jacobsen made the declaration that “no result of the laboratory’s activity of theoretical or practical significance shall be kept confidential.”  In this laboratory in 1883 Dr. Emil Christian Hansen developed the world’s first pure yeast.  True to Jacobsen’s word, rather than taking a patent out on this discovery, it was shared with other brewers, which changed beer production around the world.  Another discovery made in the laboratory was S.P.L. Sørensen’s formulation of the pH concept.

Carlsberg Laboratory Carlsberg Brewery Copenhagen Denmark
Helping out in the Carlsberg laboratory.
The Carlsberg Brewery tour next moves through the Sculpture Garden, which contains a few pieces of the Carlsberg art collection.  More of the Carlsberg art collection can be viewed at Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen’s art museum built by Carl Jacobsen.  The next building on the tour route contains the Carlsberg stables.  There are horses in the stables, along with some of the early Carlsberg delivery vehicles.

The Carlsberg Brewery tour ends in the Jacobsen Brewhouse & Bar.  In this building is the modern brewery.  Here is also where visitors can sample the products of this prolific brewery.  Tasting possibilities are practically endless, as Carlsberg now makes a number of brands including Tuborg, Somersby and more. 

Carlsberg Brewery is not the only place where the influence of the Jacobsen family on Denmark can be seen.  In addition to building the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek for Copenhagen and commissioning the sculpting of The Little Mermaid, Carl Jacobsen paid for the restoration of a number of churches and public buildings.  When part of Frederiksborg Slot was consumed by fire, J.C. Jacobsen and the Carlsberg Brewery helped fund the restoration.  When traveling throughout Denmark, there are little reminders here and there of how far reaching this family was.

Carlsberg Brewery is a 15 minute bus ride from the city center of Copenhagen.  But touring the Carlsberg Brewery is well worth the trip.  In fact, it was one of my favorite things to do in Copenhagen.  Allow a couple hours for the Carlsberg Brewery tour, and arrive in the morning so you can eat lunch in the Jacobsen Brewhouse & Bar.  Visit the Carlsberg Brewery website for more information about opening times. 


Katherine Belarmino has been traveling for over ten years on a quest to see as much of the world as possible, experience new cultures, and sample other cuisines and libations. She also writes the travel blog Travel the World, which journals her world travels with her husband Romeo and seeks to encourage others to take the time to travel.