Thursday, November 20, 2014

Danish Beers: Mega Beers to Craft Brews

Roskilde Beer at Restaurant Vigen

Countries like Belgium and Germany probably pop to mind first when thinking of European beers.  But Denmark also has a huge beer culture.  Not only does Denmark have one of the largest beer brewing companies in the world, it also has a number of craft breweries around the country producing local Danish beer.  However, it can sometimes be difficult for travelers to find Danish craft beers since Carlsberg dominates the beer taps of Denmark.  When we traveled through Denmark we sought out some of the best places to enjoy Danish beer, both mega and micro.

Danish Beers in Copenhagen

The quintessential beer drinking experience in Denmark is to be had in Copenhagen along the Nyhavn canal.  In fact, drinking Danish beer along the Nyhavn canal is on my list of 10 things to do in Copenhagen.  There are a number of bars and cafes along the water serving Danish beer.  However, if you want to have a real local experience, and save some money, head to Nyhavns Vin & Tobak Kiosk and buy a can of beer to enjoy while sitting in the sun along the canal.  Most of the beers sold at the kiosk are Carlsberg and Tuborg, but there are some varieties of those brands that are not regularly served at the bars.  Romeo enjoyed a Tuborg Fine Festival, which was originally created for the English market in 1953 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s coronation.  I chose a Gl. Carlsberg Porter Imperial Stout, a dark beer first brewed in 1930 featuring, amongst others, a flavor all Danes love, liquorice.  During our travels through Denmark we also tasted Carlsberg’s Master Brew and Elephant.

Enjoying Danish Beer Along the Nyhavn Canal Copenhagen Denmark

Another important experience for beer lovers visiting Copenhagen is touring the Carlsberg Brewery.  The Carlsberg Brewery tour illustrates in great detail the history of the family-owned Carlsberg Brewery and also provides tastes of Carlsberg’s original beer recipe during the self-guided tour and countless Carlsberg, Tuborg, and other Carlsberg-owned beers in the onsite Jacbosen Brewhouse & Bar.

Another fun place to enjoy Danish beer in Copenhagen is in the Tivoli Biergarten.   The Biergarten serves the standard Carlsberg and Tuborg beers plus has some foreign beers on tap like Edelweiss Weissbier from Austria, just in case you want to take a break from Danish beer.

Tivoli Biergarten Copenhagen Denmark

Since Carlsberg is brewed in Copenhagen, it was a little difficult to find craft Danish beer in Copenhagen.  But we did find one place in Copenhagen brewing craft beers, Told & Snaps.  Told & Snaps is a restaurant serving the classic smørrebrød, but they also distill their own craft snaps and brew their own craft beer.  Told & Snaps brews four beers: Pilsner, Classic, Organic Wheat, and Dark Lager. 

Danish Beers in Roskilde

While we loved all of Denmark, I felt a special affinity for the city of Roskilde.  One reason is because of Roskilde’s love for and celebration of their local beer.  While in other Danish cities it was sometimes difficult to find the local beer in bars and restaurants, in Roskilde all of the restaurants were serving local Danish beer and we also found a bar showcasing craft Danish beers.

Roskilde has two popular local breweries: Hornbeer Brewery and Herslev Bryghus.  Every restaurant we visited in Roskilde, including Gourmethuset Store Bors, Raadhuskaelderen, and Restaurant Vigen, served one or both of these breweries’ beers.  Even our hotel bar at Hotel Prindsen was serving Herslev Bryghus beer.

Herslev Bryghus Danish Beer at Gourmethuset Store Bors Roskilde Denmark

My favorite beer discovery in Denmark was Roskilde’s beer bar Bjergtrolden.  Bjergtrolden is a beer lover’s dream come true.  Bjergtrolden has a rotating selection of 14 beers on tap, both Danish and foreign.  Each tap is numbered and a menu board lists the corresponding beer of the evening.  The bar also features live music and a store selling an even greater selection of bottled beers.  I was so thrilled with this beer find we visited Bjergtrolden both of the nights we stayed in Roskilde. Some of the beers on tap during our visit were Hornbeer Hophorn, Hornbeer Vårøl, and Hornbeer Dunkelhorn, all brewed in Roskilde, Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast Stout brewed in Copenhagen, Crooked Moon True Rebel brewed in Copenhagen, and Stronzo Proud Blonde brewed in Gørløse.

Danish Beer at Bjergtrolden Roskilde Denmark

Albani Danish Beer Odense Denmark

Danish Beers in Odense

Unlike what I’m used to in San Diego where small craft breweries can be visited practically any day of the week, the craft breweries of Denmark are not as easy to visit.  If open to the public at all, some of Denmark’s craft breweries are only open for a few hours on select days of the week.  Our desire to taste Odense’s local beer is one of the reasons we chose to stay at Hotel Plaza during our visit to Odense, the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen.  When researching hotels I found Hotel Plaza has a small lobby bar serving local Danish beers.  During our stay we tasted Albani beer, which is made in Odense, including Albani Classic and Albani 1859.  Hotel Plaza serves some other Danish beers as well, including beer from Indslev Bryggeri and Ugly Duck Brewing Co.

Danish Beers in Aarhus

We were able to visit one Danish brewery, the Sct. Clemens Brewery in Aarhus.  This local brewery is unusually located in a chain restaurant, A Hereford Beefstouw.  Even though the brewery is located in a restaurant, it is still a fully functioning brewery, and we even witnessed one of Sct. Clemens’ brewers testing a new brew during our visit.  In addition to their standard beers, Sct. Clemens Brewery brews a beer of the month including a Christmas beer and an Easter beer.

Danish Beer Sct. Clemens Brewery Aarhus Denmark Sct. Clemens Brewery Aarhus Denmark

One of the great things to do in Aarhus is visit Den Gamle By, an open-air museum featuring buildings from around Denmark and from different periods of history.  One of these buildings contains Den Gamle By’s working brewery.  The Den Gamle By beer cannot be sold or served outside of the museum, so brewers dressed in period costume brew and serve old recipe beer to Den Gamle By visitors.

Danish Beer Den Gamle By Brewery Aarhus Denmark

Another place to enjoy a Danish beer in Aarhus is along the Aarhus Canal.  The Aarhus Canal was once covered by concrete, but the concrete has been removed and the canal is now lined with restaurants and bars.  The Aarhus Canal is a relaxing spot to drink a beer, but most of the bars and restaurants only have Carlsberg, Tuborg, and other big beer brands on tap.

Danish Beers in Ribe

Even the tiny town of Ribe, Denmark’s oldest town, has its own brewery, Ribe Bryghus.  We weren’t able to visit the brewery itself, though we did get to walk by and peek in the windows, but we were able to taste Ribe Bryghus’ Blond Ale and Brown Ale with our dinner at Weis Stue, a restaurant in one of Denmark’s oldest inns.

Ribe Bryghus Danish Beer Ribe Denmark

Denmark surprised me with its beer quality and selection.  While I was familiar with Carlsberg before we traveled to Denmark, I was unaware of the vast selection of beers being brewed by Carlsberg and Tuborg.  I was also surprised to learn that practically every city and town in Denmark has its own local brewery.  While it took a little extra work to try more than the standard mega-brewery beers, beer travelers to Denmark will be rewarded with a variety of tasty local beers which can be sampled in a diverse array of locations ranging from beer bars, to restaurants, to hotels, to canals, to museums, to amusement parks.

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.