History & Beer at Carlsberg Brewery
I know there are many breweries to choose from when visiting Copenhagen that are much more hip and trendy than Carlsberg Brewery, but we chose to visit Carlsberg during our recent trip to the city because it’s the pioneering beer brand that put Danish beer on the map. Now, I’m by no means a beer connoisseur as it’s very rare that I’ll even have a sip. But knowing that Carlsberg is such a big part of Copenhagen’s history, we felt compelled to make a visit.
Founded in 1847 by J.C. Jacobsen and named after his son, Carl, Carlsberg created a pure strain of yeast in 1883 that completely revolutionized beer brewing. A year prior, Carl opened the Ny (New) Carlsberg and J.C. changed the name of his brewery to Gamle (Old) Carlsberg.
No more than a 30-minute metro and bus ride from our centrally located hostel, Carlsberg is very convenient and easy to get to. As we entered the brewery grounds, we noticed the Elephant Gate which was built at the same time as the Ny Carlsberg Brewhouse .This gate was inspired by the Elephant and Obelisk, a sculpture by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the Piazza della Minerva in Rome.
The new and old breweries didn’t combine to form Carlsberg Breweries until 1906. When Carlsberg merged with its rival, Tuborg Brewery in 1970, it became a beer brewing force to be reckoned with known as United Breweries A/S. Today, in addition to brewing Tuborg, the Carlsberg Group also produces Kronenbourg, Somersby cider, Russian Baltika, Belgian Grimbergen abbey beers, and over 500 local beers.
During our self-guided tour of Carlsberg, we got insight into this well-oiled beer brewing machine, its history, and the history of beer in general.
Among other things, this exhibit explains the significance of the Swastika symbol which appeared on several Carlsberg buildings. The symbol is of Indian origin and meant “that which is good.” It’s crazy how Nazis and neo-Nazis totally tarnished the symbol’s original meaning. As a result, from 1940-1945, the Swastika was removed as the trademark of Ny Carlsberg.
While exploring exhibits that explain the origins of beer in Europe, we were welcome to enjoy a complimentary tasting of Jacobsen Dark Lager made with Münchener malt which was used in the Gamle Carlsberg beer.
Throughout the old brewhouse we came across exhibits explaining the brewing and barreling process and some of the tools of the trade. As we continued our tour, we eventually made our way into the Granary which was used to store malting barley, the raw material for beer brewing, after it was dried and cleaned.
The brewhouse even features exhibits highlighting what working life was like for brewhouse employees back in the day, including details on how much beer they were rationed. Employees had to adhere to a strict set of rules per their employment contracts, and anyone who violated the rules was required to make a financial contribution to Valby Children’s Orphanage.
On the upper floor of the old brewhouse, there’s a unique exhibit featuring row-upon-row of dusty beer bottles. This is the Bottle Collection, a large and varied collection of beer bottles from around the world – from Asia to Africa and everywhere in between. The compilation was started by a Danish engineer, Leif Sonne, who kept the bottles in his home until they were transferred to Carlsberg in 1993. In 2007, Guinness World Records certified it as the largest collection of beer bottles in the world. Hopefully, the beers are secured and reinforced in case of an unexpected earthquake.
Another reason I wanted to visit Carlsberg was because I wanted to see its Jutland horses, also referred to as “brewery horses,” which were used during the early days of the brewery to transport beer barrels for delivery. While the horses are no longer used for deliveries, they are still lodged in the Stables on the brewery grounds and are used as ambassadors at festivals, competitions, demonstrations, and on special occasions.
Named after the Jutland Peninsula and used by the Vikings during raids of present-day Great Britain, these horses are gorgeous, but they’re huge! While some visitors took their chances and pet the horses, albeit with some trepidation, we took the warning signs to heart and kept our distance.
Apart from the stables, my favorite part of our visit was the Aroma Room. The circular display features fragrant bottles that release a variety of aromas from cloves to caramel.
After you find a taste-worthy scent, you can make your way to the Jacobsen Brewhouse & Bar and order your favorite complimentary beer. The tasting room and bar is huge and features over 40 Carlsberg products for purchase. You can also buy lunch at the bar, and during the summer, you can dine in the Beer Garden.
Click here to plan your visit to Carlsberg Brewery and for details on hours and pricing. Note that the cost of admission includes two complimentary beers.