If you’re an avid beer fan, a visit to Copenhagen will not be complete without calling in at Visit Carlsberg. Visit Carlsberg is where it all started for the famous Danish – and now international – beer brand.
For most beer drinkers, Copenhagen in Denmark means Carlsberg. After all, the brewing company has called the city home since being founded by J.C. Jacobsen in 1847. Today Carlsberg is a large conglomerate, brewing beers such as Carlsberg and Tuborg, and owning brands such as Mythos in Greece, Pan in Croatia, and Ukraine’s Livivske and Slavutych, amongst others.
Visit Carlsberg – also known as the Carlsberg Brewery Visitor Center – is located in the Vesterbro district of the city about 2km away from the city centre, and as a tourist attraction it is worth dropping in even if you don’t really enjoy beer. But if you do, it’s a literal shrine to all things Carlsberg, and pretty much a museum experience with a huge bar and restaurant attached. For the price of entry – about DKK70 (S$14) – you get to check out the museum proper, and get two free beers at the bar as well.
From observation though, most visitors simply zoom through the exhibits to get to the bar. Which is a waste, especially if you’re a student of history or making beer. The exhibits themselves are the usual artefacts, running the gamut from old brewing equipment to vehicles used in transporting and distributing beer. It’s not quite as exciting as The Heineken Experience in Amsterdam – there are no high-tech rides and virtual reality machines here – but is far more informative and educational.
What was fascinating is Carlberg’s own history. Carlsberg is actually named after founder Jacob Christian Jacobsen’s son Carl Jacobsen, but what most people don’t realize is that there’re really two parts of Carlsberg.
The Carlsberg we know today is really Ny Carlsberg (New Carlsberg), when Carl started his own brewery in 1882 to tap on the explosive demand for light easy-drinking lagers during those days. But J.C. Jacobsen’s legacy was Gamle Carlsberg (Old Carlsberg), which pioneered steam brewing, refrigeration techniques and – probably the most important – the propagation of a single yeast strain to brew beer.
It’s clear even from the exhibits that father and son didn’t quite agree on many things, and they only reconciled just before old Jacobsen – who was a well-loved philanthropist – passed away in 1887. Gamle Carlsberg was then subsumed under young Jacobsen’s Ny Carlsberg in 1906.
But back to the museum. Visit Carlsberg hosts the world’s largest beer bottle collection, which currently stands at over 22,000 bottles. Assuming you drink 4 beers a night, it would still take you more than 15 years to amass that many bottles.
The most modern part of Visit Carlsberg would be the bar, the final stop of the self-guided tour. Try not to arrive behind a large group of tourists, otherwise it can be a long wait to get your beers.
It’s just too bad that Jacobsen beers, which Gamle Carlsberg makes, is only mostly available in Copenhagen and precious little is exported, if at all.
You’re given two beer tokens per person as part of your entrance fee – our advice is to save at least one of those for whatever is being served on tap in Gamle Carlsberg proper and isn’t available at the main bar. When I was there, they were serving an really awesome dark lager that was based on one of elder Jacobsen’s oldest recipes, which showed Carl’s old man really knew what he was doing.
As the old gentleman manning the tap poured me one of these dark lagers, two visiting Swedes came bounding back from the far more modern bar to queue up behind us.
“I told you so,” the old man winked at them.
We’d recommend you pick up a limited edition Jacobsen at the merchandise shop on the way out.
Visit Carlsberg (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Address Gamle Carlsberg Vej 11, 1799 København, Denmark (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 11am to 3pm Tuesdays to Thursdays; closed Fridays to Mondays