JC Jacobsen, The Carlsberg Brewery, and Their Place in Brew History

Tucked away, off a main street in Copenhagen, is quite the beer museum. The museum is actually The Carlsberg Brewing Company, and it is far more interesting than just a brewery. (By the way, I are not complaining... I love breweries!).

Carlsberg is more than just a brewery in Denmark. It is a global brand and fourth largest brewery in the world, with breweries in 35 countries and more than 500 brands. Known as one of the great brewers of Europe, Jacob Christian "JC" Jacobsen created his business on November 10, 1847. Jacobsen was a strong believer in science, and industry, while balancing that with his love and devotion for the arts and philanthropy. The brewery named after Jacobsen's son, Carl, and a variant of the Danish word (bjerg) for mountain, as the brewery was at the hill of Valby, is also a great example of his other loves; his family and Denmark. Jacobsen had little formal education, but he did recognize that the production of beer in Denmark had to move from small batch breweries to use more modern, and scientific techniques they were capable of producing mass amounts. Jacobsen was a force during Industrial Age. This passion for science, industry, and forward thinking drove him to create the Carlsberg brewery in record time. The first export was a single barrel of Carlsberg beer to Edinburgh, Scotland in 1868. Within 20 years, the name Carlsberg is internationally recognized, and would continuing to experience rapid growth in the years to follow. The original brewery burned to the ground in a fire in 1867. In true Jacobsen fashion, he rebuilt the brewery in less than a year using new modern materials, steel. Today, the building is virtually untouched by time, and is considered a moment of the industrial age.

Jacobsen established the Carlsberg Laboratory in 1875 to address scientific problems relating to brewing. This laboratory, and its scientist Emil Christian Hansen, made major discoveries, especially in relation to yeast, that would soon revolutionize beer brewing globally. Jacobsen shared that information with his fellow beer makers, as he believed that it would be for the common good. The majority of the great beer brands that we have today are built on the shoulders of Jacobsen’s work and discoveries. The laboratory also developed the concept for pH and made advances in protein chemistry.

It is possible that Jacobsen was the "original hipster". Every Friday, Jacobsen would have an open house for scientists, writers, artists, actors and musicians at the brewery to get together and share ideas and thoughts. We imagine the dialog was freethinking, and slightly intoxicating. Further, Jacobsen’s overall goal was not profitability. He believed that the beer made at Carlsberg should always be affordable, regardless of the opportunities for profit. Good beer was more like a right, than a privilege.

Now that we understand the man better, it is easy to understand why there is such an interesting space for guests to view. The Carlsberg Brewery Museum has an extensive collection of beer relics, documents as well as early Carlsberg ads and machines. Also on exhibit, a Guinness Book of World Record collection of unopened beer bottles from around the world (notably absent, beer from the United States). As a nod to JC, there is a beautiful garden between the museum and the gift shop (other wise known as the bar). In the garden are large sculptures and statues, including a Rodin statue purchased in 1901 by Carl Jacobsen. JC's great love was Denmark, as such; a version of "The Little Mermaid" is in the garden. The brewery space provides you with art, education, examples of achievement, and a free beer at the end – this IS the ultimate compliment to the man and his beliefs.

The museum walks you through the history of beer, which was quite interesting. I have highlighted some of our favorite points below, but this is only the tip of the iceberg.

  • 4000 BC: Barley and grain are grown during the Neolithic period. This is the prerequisite for beer making. Prehistoric man ground corn with a so -called quern

  • The human skull were used as a drinking vessel.

  • 1370 BC: The Egtved discovery near Kolding revealed that a kind of beer making, probably most like mead, was customary in the Bronze Age. (An Egtved girl and beer pot are pictured above)

  • The Swedish Viking Fjolne drank himself into a stupor on a visit to Lejre and drowned by falling into a vat of mead. The Vikings drank not only mead, but also large quantities of beer. Nordic Mythology and legends tell of violent happenings and violent drinking customs. Yikes! Beer was drunk during everyday life and festival events. It was also the Vikings belief that beer was drunk in death, in Valhalla (heaven) the gods awaited vanquished warriors with drinking horns filled with beer. ​

  • During medieval ages, the monasteries and culture of the monks spread to all parts of Denmark. As well as their knowledge and cultivation methods, the Cistercians brought with them new plants. Hops, known from imported beer from Germany, displaced myrtle as a flavoring in Denmark.

  • On the farm, in the Middle Ages, it was the woman who brewed the beer in the "brewery pantry"

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