Beer Necessities

In my quest to make this blog as diverse and informative as possible, I read a wide range of probing, erudite periodicals. Such as Real Ale News.

beerSomehow, my love of good beer has so far escaped this ongoing exploration of the Crisis, which seems strange, since at times the evening bottle of Maudite seems to be one of the few things that makes life bearable. (Of course, some might argue that the occasional overindulgence in malt beverages creates its own crisis.)

The recent issue of Real Ale News contained a brief blurb that both startled me and stirred fond memories. A columnist said that the Carlsberg brewery in Copenhagen was being decommissioned and would be demolished. On further research, I found a website that suggested brewing will indeed stop in Copenhagen, with the plant’s equipment being sold off.

Not your typical brewery

Not your typical brewery

I once visited that fine old establishment (more on that later), so I began to look for more info. The Carlsberg website seems to indicate tours are ongoing there, so you can still meet the horses that pull beer wagons through the city (think Budweiser Clydesdales on a slightly smaller scale), or sample the wide range of Carlsberg products, some of which look quite interesting but are not available here.

Now, Carlsberg is not and never was one of my favorite beers. We drank the Elephant beer in high school because it packed a higher alcohol content than other beers and tasted slightly better than our usual “malt liquor,” the Green Death (otherwise known as Haffenreffer, a local brew that was cheap and potent). But Carlsberg was the first brewery I ever visited, and I enjoyed seeing the process laid out before me, smelling the brewing wort, and wondering how the hell the workers did their job on their 8-bottle-a-day allotment (I suppose a few of the bottles went home for dinner). Compared to other tours, like Heineken’s, the one at Carlsberg was not slick, and the visitors seemed as equally interested in learning something as downing the free samples at the end.

(We did the Heineken tour later in the same trip, back in 1983, along with a winery tour along the Mosel River,  which was memorable because it was only in German, which we didn’t understand, and we were only on it to down the free samples at the end. Merriment ensued; gonzo tourists on a rampage.)

On the tour, we learned about the four elephants carved into a gate at the brewery (see above), each representing one of the owner’s children. And we learned about the founding Jacobsen family’s philanthropy in Copenhagen. For instance, it was the Jacobsens who donated the statue of the Little Mermaid, now a city landmark.

Lots o' lager paid for this little lady

Lots o' lager paid for this little lady

Today, Carlsberg is just another of the beer conglomerates that dominate world brewing. (You may have heard about Belgium-based InBev recently swallowing up Anheuser Busch. So now the maker of perhaps the worst Belgian beer, Stella Artois, runs the producer of some of the worst American beers. Great.) While trying to dig a little deeper into the status of the brewery, I learned the company has raised a ruckus in England with its plans to shut a brewery there it acquired in one of its recent purchases. The plan is not surprising, from a business sense; beer drinking at the local pub is way down across the UK. But the Tetley brewery facing mothballs is more than 180 years old, and its closing reflects one more step in the sad homogenization of beer making. Thank god for the microbrews and brew pubs that are trying to keep brewing a craft as much as a business. (A craft, by the way, that was dominated by women for centuries, when most brewing was done in the home. It was the rise of the industrial breweries in the 19th century that made brewing a male-dominated endeavor in the US. For more beer history tidbits, go here.)

Back to Copenhagen: So near as I can tell, perhaps only some very specialized craft brewing will go on at the old Carlsberg plant, which is located in a part of Copenhagen called Valby. The buildings, or most of them, will still stand, the tours will go on (though they’re self-guided now, as is the one at Coors, which I recently took. Yes, I know I said above I go for good beers. The Coors visit was strictly for something to do while in Denver for a weekend), the free samples will be quaffed. But another piece of beer history bites the dust. Tonight’s Maudite is for the Jacobsens and their first brewery. Cheers.

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~ by mburgan on December 2, 2008.

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