I don’t think it’s any secret that I
like love beer. Dark beers, light beers, red beers, bottled beers, canned beers, beer on tap, whatever. Heck, after living in Mexico for 3 years I’ve even grown to like (well, tolerate) warm beers since cold ones can be in short supply. In short, beer is great and I love it. I’ve never really been much of a beer nerd or beer snob, I just like trying new beers when I get the opportunity. Luckily for me, constant traveling presents endless opportunities to find and try new things, including new kinds of beer. In fact, sometimes I don’t have a choice but to try something new.
Spending the holidays in Copenhagen was a great example of one of those times. To be honest, prior to our trip overseas I had never even given much thought to Danish beer. I also hadn’t spent much time mastering the language of Denmark, so when I was confronted with labels on bottles of beer that I couldn’t understand, what choice did I have but to just start trying them? I suppose I could have not drank any of them, or I suppose I could have bought the occasional Budweiser I saw on the shelf, but that’s just crazy talk. I grew up a couple of hours from the Budweiser brewery so trust me, I’ve had a few, but I was thousands of miles from there and it was time for something different. I decided that while in Denmark I should drink beer as the Danish do and I’m telling you now – if you haven’t already found this out yourself – you should be drinking Danish beer. Lots of it. It’s delicious, affordable and nice and cold. There’s even Christmas Beer for cripes sake!
Lots and lots of this delicious beer comes from the Carlsberg Brewery, the fourth largest brewer in the world. Now, I already told you that I’m not a beer nerd so I don’t know all the ins and outs of being a brewery versus being a distributor and all that. But what I do know is that Carlsberg is huge, provides many kinds of delicious beer and is located in Copenhagen. Oh yes, there was a giant beer factory a few minutes’ walk from our apartment, they give tours and those tours involve beer. You can guess what happened next.
You guessed it, we drank beer. But first, we took a tour of the brewery where we learned a bit about the long and storied history of Carlsberg, pretended to be interesting in the brewing process, saw some cool cars and petted some giant horses.
Okay, admittedly I wasn’t paying much attention to the history bit of the tour but one thing did stick out to me – the concept of beer rations. For much of Carlsberg’s existence, its workers were given a daily beer ration as one of the perks of employment and to keep spirits up (forgive the pun). Every day each worker received 4 liters of beer to sip during the day, drink with their lunch etc. Sounds fantastic right? Where do I sign up?
Hang on, let’s do some math (it’s okay, it’s beer math so stick with me). Four liters is 135 ounces and 135 ounces is equivalent to almost 12 beers. Wait, what? These guys and gals drank about 12 beers a day AT WORK? A delicious beer often signals the end of my workday but a twelve pack before 5:00 sounds a bit much to me. However, I’m not one to judge other people’s beer drinking habits so I’d be willing to give it a try. But only if required by my employer. Now where did I put that job application again?
Trucks seemed pretty dangerous given all that beer drinking so it makes sense that for more than a hundred years Carlsberg was delivered by horse drawn wagon. (Some people say that this is because trucks weren’t available in the 1800’s but I still suspect that it has something to do with the on-the-job beer consumption.) The brewery has a nice exhibit detailing the various ways they’ve transported beer to the thirsty masses and they’ve still got a stableful of specially bred horses on site. These days, though, the role of these Danish versions of the Clydesdales are largely ceremonial, just like their brethren at Budweiser. They spend their time eating hay and getting petted by tourists in between parades, inaugurations and other special events requiring giant beer delivering horses. I’m not sure if they get beer rations or not but they seemed pretty content.
In the end, they didn’t offer me a job but they did offer me a couple of beers and that’s good enough for me. I may not have thought about Danish beer in the past but Carlsberg has such a fine selection that they quickly become one of my favorite brewers in the world. For over 200 years the folks at Carlsberg have been helping people all over the world wind down their days with a nice glass of beer and for that, I thank them.