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Family Feuding and Beer: A Tasty Tour of Carlsberg Brewery in Copenhagen

The entrance to the Carlsberg Brewery complex could be confused for a grand palace’s front door.  As one of the Nordic region’s oldest breweries and now one of the largest names in the beer business, a tour of the Carlsberg Brewery complex lends not just a tasty look behind the famous beers but also a sampling of a little old fashioned family feuding, grand art and architecture and even a few quirks only found in Copenhagen.

The History: Even if you aren’t much of a beer drinker, the history behind the Carlsberg brewery will captivate most tastes.  J.C. Jacobsen founded the brewery in 1847.  He was the practical, scientific side to the brewery. He is credited with pioneering steam brewing, refrigeration techniques and the propagation of a single yeast strain. J.C. was more concerned with the chemistry side of beer making.

However his son Carl would shake things up at the brewery by opening his own just a short walk from his father’s brewhouse. While J.C. had aspirations for his son to take over the brewery, Carl wanted to be a painter instead. Even though he couldn’t pursue this dream, Carl created the New Carlsberg, rivaling his father’s Old Carlsberg. When J.C. died in 1887, he left his business to the Carlsberg Foundation, not to his son. The two breweries would merge by 1906. Over the next decades, Carlsberg would expand by acquiring other breweries to become one of the leaders in the beer industry today.

The Art and Architecture: The Carlsberg Brewery complex features a surprising amount of notable art and architecture. Visitors can see a little piece of Italy in the Italian villa J.C. designed for himself along with the sculpture garden, a sampling of the Carlsberg art collection. Carl’s New Brewhouse also makes the trek up the hill worth it. A great lover of art, Carl designed his brewery to outshine his father’s old brewhouse in opulence. Stepping into Carl’s New Brewhouse has the air of crossing into a cathedral. From shiny gold details to giant elephant sculptures watching the scene unfold just outside, the brewery is surprising in its appearance. This is not just a former place for beer making, but also a piece of Copenhagen’s art scene.

All About The Beer: The Carlsberg Brewery remains all about the traditions J.C. laid out in 1847. Visitors can sample not just Carlsberg’s classic pilsner at the Jacobsen Brewhouse and bar, but also try the only brew made onsite today. Brewing operations for Carlsberg stopped in 2008, but the Jacobsen Housebrewery still churns out tasty beers on site. With a whiff of hops and barley in the air, visitors can continue their beer education to the Old Brewhouse for one of the site’s other quirks. The Old Brewhouse is home to the world’s largest beer collection, with a count of 21,850 in October of 2012.

The Location: The Carlsberg Visitors Center sets up in Vesterbro, just outside the city ramparts. From Central Station, the brewery is around 2 kilometers away. You can go by metro with a 15-minute walk or by bus with a short stroll up to the brewery. The complex of buildings of the Carlsberg site is where the original brewery was born.

The Tours: Both self-guided and guided tours are offered of the massive complex. The self-guided tour hits all of the high points of the brewery, including the historic brewery, the site’s stables, the sculpture garden and the Jacobsen Brewhouse and bar. Guided tours are more intensive, taking visitors through not just the old brewhouse but also on a walk around the complex and a peek in Carl Jacobsen’s New Carlsberg Brewery.

Check out the airberlin flights to Copenhagen on OneTravel to sample the hometown brew.

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Photo: Suzy Guese

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