Back in 1845, a young Danish brewer travelled all the way from Copenhagen to Munich to get hold of special yeast for his beer. His name was JC Jacobsen and the name he gave to his new brewery was Carlsberg. Probably the beginning of a great story.

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The Carlsberg Pioneers


Probably the first hipster

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Probably The First Hipster

JC Jacobsen, born in 1811, brewed his first lager in his cellar. In 1847, he established his first micro-brewery in Copenhagen. A believer in science, he shared his knowledge with fellow brewers. He loved and supported music and art, and was heavily involved in politics and society. A true Danish hipster, his bow ties and remarkable beard were part of his trademark look.

So Who Is Carlsberg?

Well, now you know. Carlsberg wasn’t the name of our founder but that of his brewery. He named it after his son, Carl, and Valby Hill (“bjerg” in Danish), where the brewery was built. We still climb it today on our bikes.

Open Source Ante Litteram

JC Jacobsen’s establishment of the Carlsberg Laboratory in 1875 marked Carlsberg as the world’s first large industrial enterprise to invest heavily in research and innovation. Even more revolutionary, anything discovered at the lab was freely shared with the whole brewing industry. The same applied to yeast, which was distributed from the yeast tower at Carlsberg up until 1988. As JC used to say, there’s nothing to fear from your competitors when you brew probably the best beer in the world.

Good Beer, Affordable To All

JC’s mantra was to make great beer “regardless of immediate profit.” He often got into trouble with others brewers, who complained he was keeping his prices so low that he was destroying the market. JC would reply that it was his job to brew “as well and as cheaply as possible”, adding that “he would keep doing this even if he didn’t make any money at all”. JC for president.

The First Brainstorming In History

Every Friday, JC would have an open house party. Scientists, artists, writers, actors and musicians would sit around the Jacobsens’ table to share a nine-course dinner and a lot of ideas. It was probably during one of these dinners, in 1876, that the brewer got the idea to establish the Carlsberg Foundation, which would direct the Carlsberg Lab. To this day, the Foundation still supports science and research.

Probably The Biggest Fan Of Denmark

JC was very fond of his country. Despite being incredibly busy with the brewery, he was actively involved in politics, a benefactor in the Danish society and contributed an impressive share of his wealth to national monuments and museums. Sometimes he was so involved that he ended up drawing building plans himself. Probably not the best client an architect could dream of, but surely a great patron.

Beer Geeks United

Throughout his life, JC visited many breweries around Europe. This allowed for a continuous exchange of knowledge and technology and the consequent improvement of the brewery. For example, in 1879 Carlsberg installed the first refrigeration machine in Denmark to allow bottom fermentation at low temperatures. Probably one of the many firsts in our history.

And The Winner Is...

At an exhibition in Vienna in 1873, JC Jacobsen was awarded the prestigious Progress Medal for brewing. He repeated his success at the 1878 World Trade Exhibition in Paris, where he won the Grand Prix. We have a history of being probably the best beer in the world.

Probably The Toughest Dad

JC was a very demanding father and never mollycoddled his son. Carl grew up to be a great brewer too, but he had ideas of his own. As the saying goes: too many cooks spoil the broth – sorry, the beer. Father and son soon became fierce competitors. Due to their disputes, JC didn’t leave his brewery to his son but instead left it in the hands of the Carlsberg Foundation. The two reconciled in 1887, just before JC’s death.

The Carlsberg Pioneers


A life for beer and beauty

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Probably The First Student Exchange Programme

Today, it is common for students to go on exchange programmes abroad. This wasn’t the case when Carl was young, but Jacobsen senior was, as usual, ahead of his time and wanted Carl to be educated around Europe. Carl spent four years in France, Germany, Austria and Scotland where he became familiar with top-fermented British beers. He came home with the two treasures of his life: a great knowledge of beer and his bride-to-be, Ottilia.

Brewing Disagreements

When Carl returned, in 1871, JC gave him the new Annexe Brewery to run as a tenant brewer. JC’s plan was that Carl would produce Ale and Porter, leaving the lager to him. Unfortunately, the new beer didn’t go down too well so Carl decided to brew lager in competition with his Dad. That didn’t go down well either.

Probably One Of The First Trademark Rights Dispute

After the fallout with his father, Carl set up his own brewery. The year was 1882 and he called it Ny (new) Carlsberg. At this point the two Jacobsens disagreed on everything from Carl’s expansion plans to the name of the brewery. JC didn’t want Carl to use the same name and took him to court. Carl won the battle. JC had met his match.

Brewing As Art

The new brewery was a success; Carl combined his training abroad, his experience with the first brewery and his connections to practically every brewer in Europe to build a model brewery. He employed the architect Vilhelm Dahlerup and master builder P.S. Beckmann to create the new chimney for his factory. The new construction is nothing like a usual industrial stack. At 56m tall, it features motifs of Egyptian lotus flowers and Gargoyles similar to those on Paris’ Notre-Dame. It is considered one of the ten most creative chimneys in the world. Carlsberg had reached new heights.

The Power Of Beauty

Carl grew up surrounded by art and started his own collection very early on in his life. He believed that “art must not only be the rich man’s possession. It must be just as joyous for the common man so that he too can feel the power of its beauty.” He established several trusts in support of art, opened his private collection to the public and eventually, in 1882, founded the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen. You probably know the statue of the Little Mermaid? Well that’s just another gift from Carl to his beloved city. As his father had established the Carlsberg Foundation to support science, Carl established the New Carlsberg Foundation to support art. Father and son probably had more in common than they would ever have admitted….

Birth Of An Icon

The famous Carlsberg logo was introduced in 1904 when Old Carlsberg commissioned the Danish architect Thorvald Bindesbøll to design a label for their Carlsberg pilsner. Both the label and the logo are still in use today and have become so iconic that they received the award of the Danish Design Centre.

A Rose A Day...

In his later life, Carl Jacobsen developed slightly eccentric habits. Just to mention one, every morning his gardener would deliver a dark red rose to him, which he carried around all day between his teeth. He believed the fragrance of the rose would add to the beauty of his life.

One Carlsberg Is Better Than Two

In 1906, New and Old Carlsberg were officially reunited under the Carlsberg Foundation and Carl became the first managing director of the Carlsberg Breweries. He instituted a pension fund and introduced an eight-hour work day to his employees. Probably pioneering in workers rights.

The Carlsberg Pioneers

Emil C.

Carlsberg yeast man

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When The Going Gets Tough...

Emil came from a very poor and eccentric family. In his youth he tried almost everything to make a living, from theatre performances and house painting, to a career in art and studying to be a teacher. He also wrote stories. At one point he was so poor and desperate that he considered traveling south to join Garibaldi’s army in Italy.

The Tough Gets Going

Luckily for him and for all beer lovers of the world, he was then accepted for a job as a tutor. He could finally support his studies and even won a gold medal at Copenhagen University for his study of Danish fungi. It’s a short step from fungi to yeast, so he soon started to work at Carlsberg as a researcher on “organisms in beer.”

Good Beer Is A Science

In 1883 he announced his system of pure yeast cultures. Hansen understood that “bad beer” was not only a result of bacterial infection, as Pasteur had assumed, but contamination by wild yeast. He then worked to isolate a single cell of good yeast and propagated it into a pure culture. The new “Carlsberg bottom yeast n.1” was used for the first time, and with great success, on a production scale in November 1883.

A Celebration Of Beer Love

In 1902 Hansen celebrated 25 years of work at Carlsberg and was presented with a gold medal by Carl Jacobsen. The award was recognition for being one of the most influential pioneers in the fermentation industry.

The Carlsberg Pioneers

Søren P.L.

When chemistry met beer

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How To Measure A Great Beer

Did you know the pH scale was developed at Carlsberg? Søren Sørensen, head of Carlsberg Laboratory’s Chemical Department, invented it in 1909. pH means ‘power of hydrogen’ and the scale provides a simple way of measuring the amount of hydrogen in a solution, so as to determine its acidity on a scale from 0-14. For the brewing process, the pH scale was a revolution and its applications have been countless throughout all fields. Awesomeness on a scale from 1 to 10? Probably 10.

Some Great Chemistry

Søren Sørensen was head of Carlsberg Laboratory’s Chemical Department from 1901 to 1938. He conducted pioneering research into proteins, amino acids and enzymes - the basis of today’s protein chemistry. Some more great chemistry was happening at Carlsberg Lab… Søren married Margrete Høyrup, who was also his assistant.

The design freak-master

Søren A. van der Aa Kühle was a brewmaster and the director of Old Carlsberg in 1880. With a great intuition for business, he fully understood the industrial potential of Hansens’ discoveries and laid the basis for the unification of Old and New Carlsberg and the merger between Carlsberg and Tuborg. He also had a great mind for design. As the story goes, his house was always open to artists and designers. It was he that commissioned Bindesbøll to design the label and the logo of the Carlsberg Pilsner, which is still used today. He was so in love with Bindesbøll’s style that all his furniture and apparently also his tombstone were designed by him.