Brewing in Denmark has a very long tradition and Copenhagen, where Carlsberg originates is still the center of the Danish brewing industry.
Although the original Carlsberg was available in Canada as early as 1950, only after 1972, when Carling O’Keefe (now absorbed into the Coors-Molson Brewing) started to brew it under license in Canada did it start to become popular.
This was mostly due to constant promotion but the novelty factor soon faded making it a “mainstream” beer, particularly since the taste profile was adjusted to the then prevailing Canadian palate.
During a visit to Denmark recently, I thought a visit to the Carlsberg breweries in Copenhagen was in order.
The brewery is impressively large, well organized, and super clean. Management takes brewing seriously, and maintains quality.
By tradition J.C. Jacobsen (1811 – 1887), the founder of Carlsberg, valued quality and emphasized it from the beginning. Christen Jacobsen, J.C. Jacobsen’s father, had come to Copenhagen from Jutland in 180l. After working at a brewery for a few years, he had saved enough to rent a brewery in Knabrostraede in 1811, where he started to brew according to his ideas.
J.C. Jacobsen was born in the same year. As a boy, he participated in the work at the neighboring brewery on Brolaeggerstraede, which his father had purchased in 1826. At the time Danish brewers were lacking appropriate brewing techniques. Christen Jacobsen was the first brewer in Denmark to use a thermometer to monitor both brewing and fermentation temperatures realizing that brewers knew little about the science and intricacies of brewing. Also, he decided to research the chemical processes of brewing in an attempt to implement the best scientific methods. To achieve his objective father Jacobsen sent his son to the Technical University of
Copenhagen to attend lectures on chemistry.
J. C. Jacobsen was 24 years old when his father died. At the time brewing technology in Germany, especially in Bavaria, was relatively advanced, so young Jacobsen felt compelled to visit the breweries in Munich, to learn more about brewing.
During one his visits he learned about the so-called cold fermentation (i.e. bottom fermentation). He obtained a yeast, sample and upon his return to Denmark attempted to brew a similar style beer in his washtub. The first experiments were unsuccessful, he was determined to master the technique.
After his failed first experiments, he concluded that he needed cool cellars and applied to the Danish court to establish a brewery on the ramparts of the city. His request was granted and soon construction began.
Gabriel Sedlmayr, his mentor at the brewery in Munich, supplied him with a large quantity of his specially developed, bottom-fermenting yeast. In 1846 J.C. Jacobsen started brewing a Bavarian style beer in Denmark.
A year later he started construction of a new brewery in the suburb of Copenhagen called Valby. He called it Carlsberg after his son Carl, and the hill on which it was located. Brewery No. 1 was started November 10 1847. During the first year, 3500 hectoliters of beer were produced, a quantity, today in the vastly enlarged plant, is brewed in two hours.
Soon demand exceeded the capacity beyond his wildest expectations and expansion became an absolute necessity. J.C. Jacobsen was still searching for more refined brewing technology and travelled famous brewing countries frequently in an attempt to learn more. In 1875 he decided to establish the laboratory, Carlsberg Research, devoted solely to scientific research on beer. The laboratory was divided into two sections: chemistry and physiology. In the chemistry department, headed by Johan Kjeldahl, a new method of determining nitrogen in organic substances was developed – a breakthrough. With this discovery the chemistry department became world famous, and even today, technicians everywhere refer to the Kjeldahl process.
S.P.L. Sorensen, the successor of Kjeldahl, was instrumental in protein research, and with his discoveries the department became the leader in brewing, not only in Denmark, but the world.
In the physiology department, Christen Hansen showed through his experiments that consistent yeast quality was instrumental in brewing. This discovery led to the development of a pure yeast culture, today known as saccharomyces Carlsbergensis. Today a modified strain of this yeast is still used and carries the same name.
In 1871, J .C. Jacobsen established another brewery, called Annex brewery for his son Carl. Young Jacobsen, however, decided to brew exclusively top fermented beers. The public did not like this type of beer and soon the Amex Brewery was forced to brew lager beers. Now both breweries were catering to the same market. While the son wanted to increase the production capacity, the father felt it unnecessary. Finally in 1879 father and son parted company.
Carl Jacobsen called his brewery New Carlsberg competing directly with his father.
In 1886, they reconciled but unfortunately J.C. Jacobsen died one year later.
Carl Jacobsen was keenly interested in art. He believed that art should be integrated into the daily life of people and in 1897 offered Denmark and the city of Copenhagen his collection of sculptures and paintings. At the same time, he submitted a plan for a Museum, which was accepted.
The Ny (New) Carslberg Glyptothek is free to all visitors.
A foundation was established to oversee the development of the museum, and soon after, the brewery was put under the jurisdiction of Ny Carlsberg Foundation. Profits of the brewery are channeled through the foundation.
After the death of Carl Jacobsen in 1914, both Carlsberg Breweries were amalgamated, increasing the income of the foundation. During and after World War I ,the business was depressed. Regardless, in 1938 an experimental farm was purchased to study the different strains of barley to determine optimal cereal growing conditions in Denmark. Also, a small experimental brewery is devoted to study all the phases of brewing.
After World War II, international development resulted in rapidly increasing exports and in 1960’s a new concept of international business was developed and through Carlsberg designs, constructs and operates breweries in several countries. Carlsberg is also brewed under license in many countries. Canada is one of them. Now Carlsberg is imported from Denmark, after Molson and Coors amalgamated.
In 1970 Carlsberg breweries merged with Tuborg breweries and although both produce and market their beers separately, there is one board of directors and one concept; to produce the best beer possible regardless of location.