One of the most popular stops for those visiting Copenhagen is the home of the famous green label and sponsor of many of their European sports teams—and no, I don’t mean Heineken.
Carlsberg beer is Europe’s leading lager, popular in pubs from Galway to Riga, and its ancestral home is easy to find just outside the heart of historic Copenhagen. On a recent visit to this fascinating city, we spent an afternoon poking around the self-guided experience—enjoying a classy plastic cup of beer in the land of the alcohol-positive Danes.
The visit begins and ends in the proverbial gift shop, where we could have stocked up on goodies and gifties anytime. Tours come with two drink tickets, not a bad value when compared to the price of food and drink in this expensive city (see below). Most visitors—ourselves included—seemed to get the tour started with the classic lager in the handy bar in the first room. Before venturing too far into the old brewery, we paid a visit to the world-famous Carlsberg bottle collection—tens of thousands strong, a Guinness world record. This recognition is I’m sure in no way influenced by the impressive Guinness shelf in the staggering bottle room.
Continuing on, we paid a short visit to the obligatory “This is how Beer is Made!” exhibits to the “This is how Carlsberg was Made!” material. Of particular interest was the high esteem granted the revolutionary and still-famous Carlsberg yeast labs.
Shortly after Louis Pasteur “discovered” that it was indeed a living microorganism responsible for the fermentation of beer, wine, and bread, Carlsberg corporate heads invested in a professional lab to work on mastering this “fourth ingredient” of beer. While others continued to treat yeast as an incidental part of the process, Carlsberg scientists worked to isolate yeast that showed favorable traits—paving the way for modern yeast genetics.
Also of interest—but less helpful to the advancement of modern science—was the advertising archive. I have always enjoyed retro ads, and had a good laugh at many of the print and television spots used to hawk beer in years gone by.
Stables and draft horses are still kept here at the Carlsberg complex—strictly for the tourists today, but they once served as the muscle of the primary beer-transportation system in Denmark. Other beer tourists, or the beery curious, would also enjoy the replicas of the barrel shop (cooperage), the classic and kitschy collection of old Carlsberg trucks, and the sculpture garden displaying the personal collection of the founding family, long patrons of the arts in Copenhagen.
Super beer nerds and the uninitiated alike will have fun with the aroma station just before the tour finale. Here, they have isolated more than a dozen of the individual flavor and aroma compounds commonly found in beer. Astute sniffers can get a sometimes pleasant, sometimes too-strong whiff of citrus, grass, chocolate, smoke, nuts, bread, honey, anise, and others.
The tour finishes at…another bar. This one on a balcony level above a still-working part of the factory floor; if you visit during the week, you’ll see the brewers hard at work with the stainless steel equipment. For better or for worse, long gone are the days of wooden barrels and horse-drawn beer carts.
Before leaving, wander through to the back entrance to find the iconic Carlsberg Elephant Gate. One of several unique and interesting pieces of art and architecture on the large campus, this one is the most widely recognized. In Copenhagen, you’ll see it on cans of one of Carlsberg’s best-loved local beers.
— Cory Hanson (@HansonCory1) October 25, 2015
Nuts and Bolts
- Copenhagen is an expensive city to visit; food and drink prices in the city center can be staggeringly expensive thanks to high tax rates. The Carlsberg Experience admission fee (85.00 DKK, about €12.00 euro*) isn’t much more than the price of the two beer tickets included with admission. If and until this becomes proportionately expensive, it goes down as a great value in my book. It’s open every day from 10:00–17:00 (closed Mondays in the offseason*), and tickets can be booked online in advance.
- Carlsberg operates a handy shuttle to and from the city center. In the offseason, you’ll have to go public transport or take a nice long walk. We took the train to Enghave and walked through the sizeable Carlsberg campus to the tourist entrance on the far side.
*Admission prices and opening hours are accurate as of December 2015, and are subject to change. Before your visit, I recommend visiting the brewery website to confirm your details.