Carlsberg….one of the best words ever invented by man. Living in Copenhagen gives you a certain amount of pride of their most famous contribution to world culture. In fact us Brits have been raised on adverts such as “If Carlsberg did Holidays/Football/Flats/Girlfriends etc” or The Danes hate to see it leave which are completely alien to the Danes who have not got a clue when I start going on about “If Carlsberg did football blogs…..”
I’d been over here in CPH for a few months without being able to venture down to Valby to the Brewery, or heaven as its known, and then two opportunities come along in one week. Firstly as part of a Management awayday we got a “behind the scenes, access all areas” tour down into areas that are never seen by the general public, and then a week later I took the Fuller clan on a public tour which ends with a session in the bar sampling the likes of Jacobsen Dark Lager – classic stuff. So how about a few facts I hear you ask…Well OK then – here are ten of the best…
1. The Swastika – An Indian peace symbol. Long before the rise of the Nazi party in post First World War Germany the Swastika was known as a symbol of peace in many Indian cultures. Carlsberg adopted the symbol during the 19th century and had it carved into their Elephant Gates at the turn of the century. During the 1930’s they actually started legal proceedings against the Nazi party to stop them essentially infringing their copyright. Guess who won???
2. Little Mermaid – Last year when the process of clearing some of the old storage rooms started in Old Carlsberg they came across a room that had been sealed for over 50 years. In the back of this room they came across a sheet, which hid one of the original five Little Mermaid sculptures which nobody had a clue why it was stored down underground. The good news is that with the “original” Mermaid due to go on loan to the Chinese next year, Copenhagen needs to bring in a sub and Carlsberg have started negotiations to “loan” the city this one.
3. Special Brew – In 1950 the then master brewer Thomas Marfleet brewed a new beer to commemorate the visit to Copenhagen of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Churchill loved it and Carlsberg produced two crates especially for Winnie. It then went on sale under the name “Easter Brew” before becoming Special Brew in 1951.
4. Carlsberg – The brewery was founded by Jacob Christian Jacobsen in 1844 on the outskirts of the city in a suburb called Valby. It was named after his son, Carl. He was so grateful to his Dad that he soon founded his own brewery thinking that “he knew best” called the Valby Brewery, before changing the name to Ny Carlsberg and moving next door to his Dad’s brewery.
5. Cathedral Brewhouse – The original “brewhouse” in Ny Carlsberg only stopped producing beer just over a year ago. It is a magnificent four story galleried building and the copper “kettles” still dominate the room. The next owners of the building are still not known. A TV station, internet company and another brewery have bid for it but as it is listed no fittings can be removed and so it is becoming quite problematic.
6. Brands – Carlsberg is the 4th largest brewer in the world based on output but the biggest in terms of brand ownership. Through years of acquisitions it today owns more than 45 brands including such well known ones as Kronenbourg, Holstein, Tuborg and Tetley plus the not so well known Law in Serbia, Kuche Kuche in Malawi and Koff in Finland.
7. Carlsberg Mansion – In the grounds of the Brewery sits the Carlsberg Mansion. The red brick mansion is home to a number of famous Scientists who have won the Danish equivalent of the Nobel prize. All winners of this prestigious prize are invited to live at the Mansion, rent free for the rest of their lives AND THEY GET FREE BEER! There are currently three such award winners living a live of permanent drunkenness. Possibly the best known resident is Niels Bohr the Nobel Scientist who worked on the Manhatten Project.
8. 18,242 unopened bottles – Carlsberg own the largest collection of unopened beer bottles in the world. Some years ago they were approached by an individual who had over 10,000 DIFFERENT bottles in his possession but his wife wanted to use his beer room as a nursery (priorities!) and so they donated his collection to the brewery. The collection includes a bottle from every brewery in the world as well as some special limited edition ones such as the Red labelled Carlsberg (see left) produced to commemorate the Danes reaching the 1986 World Cup finals (the bottle was a flop unlike the football team), a tetra-pack carton of beer, the original Winston Churchill produced Special Brew and the last ever bottle (end one on the right) produced at the brewery in December 2008. Prior to this Carlsberg produced over 4 million bottles A DAY! They still produce the very limited edition Jacobsen beer which sells for over 2000 Danish Kroner a bottle (the 2008 edition sells for 2008DKR, this years will be 2009DKR etc) – probably the most expensive beer in the world
9. Workers rights – At its peak whilst producing 4million bottles per day, the brewery employed over 5,000 people on the site in Valby. Part of their working rights was the right to drink 6 beers per day free of charge. They could drink these at any time, but amazingly could only have 2 cigarettes a day! They could also purchase cheap beer in the staff pub. On pay day the workers wives used to arrive at lunchtime to collect their wages to stop them pissing it all away! Technically this perk has never been rescinded although few workers today partake in this practice. Also quite surprising for such a huge operation was the fact that people only ever worked from 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday – no weekends or long nights as the Jacobsen family prided itself on offering all of its workers a healthy private live.
10. Carlsberg and Football – “Carlsberg don’t sponsor football teams, but if they did they would probably be the best teams in the world”….Well actually they do sponsor four football teams at the moment and none of them are world beaters! They have been the main sponsors of FCK (FC Copenhagen – see here for more on their history) for years but apart from one decent season in the Champions League a few years ago they have failed to make an impression on the European stage. OB from Odense are the other domestic club they sponsor. OB are the new domestic force and could well take over the mantle from FCK. Then you have two clubs in England. No prizes for getting Liverpool as the first one, although that long term deal (18 years) is coming to an end in May 2010 when the Anfield club reluctantly accept over £20m per season from Standard Chartered. But could you easily get the 4th club? Well they actually played Liverpool at Anfield in January 2008? Still no idea? Well it is actually Havant & Waterlooville! They played Liverpool in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup, losing 5-2. Of course you knew (liar).
So next time you order a pint of Carlsberg, pause before you down it and think about all of the toil that went into producing that pint….or simply down it and order another one!