The Carlsberg Brewery was founded in the mid-1800s and is located just outside of the city center of Copenhagen. Now a beer known worldwide, the small beginnings of the beer and brewery are really quite interesting. Before venturing to the brewery I wouldn’t have been able to tell you much about the beer, except that I’ve had it and liked it (groundbreaking I know).
When Ben and I started planning our trip to Copenhagen the small brewery was listed as a must to see so we thought why not. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Carlsberg Brewery if I’m being honest. We are the type to love to partake in tours when we travel, it’s the best way to learn more history about a city from the locals. However,the last brewery tour we did was the Heineken tour in Amsterdam and found that to be wildly overrated and incredibly commercial. Hesitant, to do another we decided to go for it and am I ever glad we did – this was one of the best city experiences I’ve had. It was arguably our favourite part of our Copenhagen trip (excluding the food of course).
The Carlsberg Brewery is located in the Vestboro district of Copenhagen. You can get there by bus, the 8A or 26 buses take you the closest so you don’t have to walk too far. Being an avid walker, Ben and I had actually walked there from our hotel, the Absalon, which didn’t take too long at all.
One of the tour guides we had explained that a couple of years ago the brewery actually sold off a bit of the land and buildings they no longer used for brewing to developers. In the next 5-10 years the whole area will be turned into a retail and residential area. From the promotional photos I was seeing the area is going to look really cool and worth touring around once it’s done as well!
The only time of day we could really fit the brewery in was probably a bit earlier than I would have liked but it worked out. We got tickets for the general museum, the beer tasting and a guided tour. We arrived just after 11 so we were on the first beer tasting of the day at noon and then a guided tour just after at 1pm.
The general museum was quite a interesting. It’s small and shouldn’t take you more than half an hour to walk through it on your own. The first place you get to visit is the beer collection on the floor just above the ticket booths. This was one of the coolest things I’ve seen. It’s one of the biggest beer collection in the world!
There are about 5 rows stacked with beer bottles, all full of course. At first I thought the collection was limited to beer just from Denmark or at least the Scandinavian countries. Looking closer though I realized the beers were from all over the world including Asia! It was really quite amazing to just walk around the outside of the case and try to see the different beers that were in there. I couldn’t spot a Canadian beer though!
After leaving the beer collection you were brought through the rest of the building where you learned more about the history of Carlsberg and how the beer is made. This could be the history nerd in me talking but I found it really interesting learning about the workers at Carlsberg back in the day. Apparently the single men were housed and fed by the brewery in exchange for working. Even married men would hide the fact that they were betrothed so they could get free room and board! Obviously after a while the Carlsberg caught on and families were eventually welcomed as well.
I also learned that the men were given an allowance of 8 pints a day. 8 PINTS A DAY. Could you imagine drinking that much at work (or hopefully after) every day? You’d never have to worry about a hangover I guess!
The Beer Tasting
One of my favourite things to do is a wine or beer tasting. It’s always learning the thought process and workings of what goes into creating some of these drinks. Our tasting guide for the day was Yannik. He was very knowledgeable, and funny.
The tour really began in the tunnels underneath the brewery where Yannik explained that in World War Two the tunnels were actually used to help the military. With over 10km worth of tunnels, there was plenty of room for people to hide or have important meetings in private. The room just before the beer tasting room was actually a real military room with extra concrete incase there had been a bomb. In the middle was a large table like you would have seen in the movies where they recorded the whereabouts of the enemy.
The beer tasting consisted of three beers; Jacobsebn Weissbier, Jacobsen Extra Pilsner and the Jacobsen Dark Lager. I can be really picky with my beer but I actually loved all three of these. The Weissbier was my favourite being a wheat beer, unfiltered and tasting almost fruity. The Extra Pilsner is an organic beer that requires a special kind of hops to be made. In fact the hops is so special to this beer they stopped making it for 3 or 4 months because they couldn’t find it. Last was the Dark Lager which is actually the original Carlsberg recipe. They stick to it so strictly that they even replicate the water to what it would have been back in 1850 in order to make it.
Yannik also explained that Carlsberg was the first brewery in the world to purify yeast. They shared this secret for free to other breweries – most notably Heineken! The PH scale was also invented by Carlsberg. The lesson? Beer would definitely not be the same without this small Danish brewery.
The Guided Tour
If you plan on doing the guided tour and the beer tasting on your visit to Carlsberg (I strongly suggest you do) I would recommend doing the tour first. After a few beers first thing in the morning, it can be a bit .. hard to pay attention! However I tried my best and did learn some interesting facts about the brewery.
Our tour started in the main square, the same spot as the beer tasting. This time however we walked around the outside of the buildings to admire the original buildings (or at least where they would have been) and the family home. We also learned about the tumultuous relationship between Jacob Christian Jacobsen and his son, Carl Jacobsen. The two never saw eye to eye on how the brewery should have been run and the relationship between the two was very stilted.
Carl grew up on the grounds of the brewery in their home nearby but once the home came into his possession after his fathers death he refused to live there. His childhood wasn’t the best apparently. He decided to donate the home to the best scientists of Denmark and so whoever had the privilege of living there would do so rent free for as long as they wished! What?
Even though the brewery is now owned by the Carlsberg foundation, it still very much feels like a family business. Everything from the grounds, to the tours or the taste of the Jacobsen beer gives off the impression it’s made and produced by a family.
Feeling a little buzzed from all the delicious beer we were off to explore the rest of what Copenhagen had to offer!
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*We did receive the Carlsburg brewery tour in exchange for a review but all opinions, thoughts and experiences are my own!