Today is the 41st birthday of Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, founder of the Danish gypsy brewery Mikkeller. I first met Mikkel in Burton-on-Trent in 2008, during I trip when I accompanied Matt Brynildson to Marston’s where he was doing a collaboration beer. And I most recently ran into him at the Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival a few of the past five summers in Paso Robles. Join me in wishing Mikkel a very happy birthday.
Today is the birthday of J.C. Jacobsen, or Jacob Christian Jacobsen (September 2, 1811-April 30, 1887). He “was a Danish industrialist and philanthropist best known for founding the brewery Carlsberg,” which he named for his son Carl Jacobsen.
Here’s a short biography from his Wikipedia page:
He had no formal academic or scientific training (although he had attended some lectures by Hans Christian Ørsted). In the 1840s he had come to realise that production of beer, which had until then been done in numerous small breweries, now had to be based on scientific methods and to be industrialised.
Jacobsen was only 24 when he founded the brewery.
Starting in 1847, he established his brewery Carlsberg (named after his son, Carl Jacobsen), in Valby on the outskirts of Copenhagen, on a site where it has remained since. Being extremely scrupulous as for the securing of high quality beer, in 1875 he founded the Carlsberg Laboratory.
He took much interest in public affairs and supported the National Liberal Party – being gradually more of a conservative – both as a Member of Parliament for some periods between 1854 and 1871 and as a strong supporter of the case of defence. Besides he was a well-known patron of art. After the fire of Frederiksborg Palace in 1859 he paid its rebuilding.
1876 he also founded “Carlsberg-fondet” – the Carlsberg Foundation that became his heir because of family problems of the next years. A bitter conflict with his son Carl led to the latter’s foundation of the Ny Carlsberg (New Carlsberg) Brewery 1882. A reconciliation was however obtained 1886. This conflict was the theme of a debated Danish TV drama series aired in 1997.
J.C. Jacobsen, by Danish portrait artist August Jerndorff
Here’s the biography that Carlsberg Group has on their website, entitled “Creating Carlsberg: The Greatest Gift of J.C. Jacobsen.”
It wouldn’t be hyperbolic to dub Jacob Christian Jacobsen, better known to most as J.C., “a legend.” The man did, after all, found one of the world’s most renowned breweries. And well over a century after his death, he remains one of Denmark’s most epochal characters.
It was a Wednesday – November 10th, 1847 – when J.C. Jacobsen’s newly created brewery Carlsberg completed its first brew. Shortly after, his traditional Bavarian lager was introduced to the Danish masses. The name Carlsberg was chosen to combine the name of his sole-surviving son “Carl” and the German word “berg,” meaning hilltop after the hilltop it was built upon.
Established in record time, the brewery used groundbreaking science to bring new brewing methods into the age of industrialization. Twenty-one years later, Carlsberg began exporting beer to Great Britain.
A young boy’s passion for brewing and science
Strange as it may sound today, it was clear from a very young age that J.C. would dedicate his life to brewing. He was, after all, the son of a brewer. It was in his blood.
As a child, J.C. could often be found experimenting in the basement of his father’s brewery on Brolæggerstræde in central Copenhagen. He was completely dedicated to the craft of beer and the intricacies of the natural sciences, both of which he went on to study as an adult at the new Technical University in Copenhagen. He sat in on lectures taught by H.C. Ørsted—a chemist who was particularly interested in the fermentation and brewing industries—and it was these lectures that inspired J.C.’s lifelong journey to “develop the art of making beer to the greatest possible degree of perfection.”
The year was 1836 when, in a wine merchant’s cellar, J.C. tasted his first imported Bavarian lager beer. Impressed and intrigued, J.C. ventured to Hamburg to study the production method first-hand. Upon returning to Copenhagen, he spent the next several years producing and selling small batches of Bavarian beer.
In 1838, J.C. married Laura Holst, a merchant’s daughter, and on March 2nd, 1842 their son Carl was born. But becoming a family man didn’t slow down J.C.’s pursuit towards crafting the perfect beer.
In 1845 he traveled to the Zum Späten brewery in Munich, where he was introduced to bottom-fermenting yeast. Although he didn’t know it at the time, this was to become the backbone of the beer produced at Carlsberg.
Beyond Beer: Establishing The Carlsberg Foundation
But more than a brewer and entrepreneur, J.C. was a patron of the arts, sciences, and, most notably, his home country of Denmark.
In 1875, he founded the Carlsberg Laboratory to explore and improve the beer-making process. It was here where the method for cultivating pure yeast was discovered—a discovery that J.C. shared with brewers all across the globe to improve the quality of beer everywhere – not just in his own brewery. A year later, using funds from the brewery, he created The Carlsberg Foundation to provide support to the Carlsberg Laboratory and also to Danish research ranging from the natural sciences and mathematics to the humanities and philosophy. The Carlsberg Foundation still exists today as a major contributor to modern science and art. It is run by a team of scientists who are the deciding shareholders of Carlsberg A/S and are also responsible for appointing a handful of the company’s board of directors—including the chairman.
Due to the turbulent nature of the relationship between J.C. and his son Carl, J.C. left his brewery to the Foundation—not Carl—when he passed away. In 1902, about a decade before Carl’s death, the Foundation also claimed ownership of the New Carlsberg Brewery.
Historically, The Carlsberg Foundation has been a part of many momentous projects in Denmark. In 1878, it sponsored the restoration of Frederiksborg Castle during its transformation into the Museum of National History. And in the spirit of J.C. himself, the Foundation continues to provide generous support to Danish pioneers. For example, it funded the building of The Danish Institute in Athens, a research center for archeologists, Greek historians, and philologists. There’s also the Danish Institute in Rome, established by The Carlsberg Foundation in 1967 to facilitate a cultural exchange between Denmark and Italy. In addition, The Foundation awards yearly monetary grants to Danish scientific researchers.
Outside of Carlsberg, J.C. held interests in politics and the arts. He served as a member of the Danish Parliament (“Folktinget”) for two terms. He designed and funded the Palm House at the University of Copenhagen’s Botanical Garden. He also designed his own Villa, which became a meeting grounds for the era’s intellectual elite like author Hans Christian Andersen and chemist Louis Pasteur.
J.C. died in 1887, on a visit to Rome.
His ingenuity and generosity continue to inspire generations of Carlsberg employees, who want to achieve, as their predecessor once said, “the greatest possible degree of perfection.”
J.C. Jacobsen with his entire staff.
Photographed in 1885 at the Carlsberg brewery.
J.C. Jacobsen’s Childhood
Before J.C. created Carlsberg, he was simply the son of Caroline Frederikke Schelbeck and Christen Jacobsen. Caroline was the daughter of a Copenhagen silk weaver, while Christen grew up a farmer’s son in Northern Jutland. In 1801, Christen packed his bags and made way for Copenhagen to start a better life for himself, quickly finding work as a brewery hand in the King’s Brew-House (Kongens Bryghus) and shortly thereafter becoming the director. By 1826 he’d set up his own brewery on Brolæggerstræde in central Copenhagen, in the same building where his son J.C. spent his childhood.
J.C., the first and only child of Caroline and Christen, was born on September 2nd, 1811. Drawn to his father’s work at an early age, J.C. took on many responsibilities as his father’s health began to fail. In 1835, when Christen died, J.C. continued his father’s legacy and ran the family brewery. When his mother died a decade later, J.C. inherited both the brewery and also a great sum of money, which was later invested into the founding of Carlsberg Brewery.
And here’s a promotional video history of Carlsberg, created by the Carlsberg Group:
Today is the birthday of Johan Gustav Christoffer Thorsager Kjeldahl (August 16, 1849-July 18, 1900) He was a Danish chemist who developed a method for determining the amount of nitrogen in certain organic compounds using a laboratory technique which was named the Kjeldahl method after him.
Kjeldahl worked in Copenhagen at the Carlsberg Laboratory, associated with Carlsberg Brewery, where he was head of the Chemistry department from 1876 to 1900.
He was given the job to determine the amount of protein in the grain used in the malt industry. Less protein meant more beer. Kjeldahl found the answer was in developing a technique to determine nitrogen with accuracy but existing methods in analytical chemistry related to proteins and biochemistry at the time were far from accurate.
His discovery became known as the Kjeldahl Method
The method consists of heating a substance with sulphuric acid, which decomposes the organic substance by oxidation to liberate the reduced nitrogen as ammonium sulphate. In this step potassium sulphate is added to increase the boiling point of the medium (from 337 °C to 373 °C) . Chemical decomposition of the sample is complete when the initially very dark-coloured medium has become clear and colourless.
The solution is then distilled with a small quantity of sodium hydroxide, which converts the ammonium salt to ammonia. The amount of ammonia present, and thus the amount of nitrogen present in the sample, is determined by back titration. The end of the condenser is dipped into a solution of boric acid. The ammonia reacts with the acid and the remainder of the acid is then titrated with a sodium carbonate solution by way of a methyl orange pH indicator.
In practice, this analysis is largely automated; specific catalysts accelerate the decomposition. Originally, the catalyst of choice was mercuric oxide. However, while it was very effective, health concerns resulted in it being replaced by cupric sulfate. Cupric sulfate was not as efficient as mercuric oxide, and yielded lower protein results. It was soon supplemented with titanium dioxide, which is currently the approved catalyst in all of the methods of analysis for protein in the Official Methods and Recommended Practices of AOAC International.
And Velp Scientifica also has an explanation of his method, which is still in use today.
Kjeldahl (center) in his laboratory.
Today is the birthday of Emil Christian Hansen (May 8, 1842-August 27, 1909). Hansen was a “Danish botanist who revolutionized beer-making through development of new ways to culture yeast. Born poor in Ribe, Denmark, he financed his education by writing novels. Though he never reached an M.Sc., in 1876, he received a gold medal for an essay on fungi, entitled “De danske Gjødningssvampe.” In 1879, he became superintendent of the Carlsberg breweries. In 1883, he successfully developed a cultivated yeast that revolutionized beer-making around the world, because Hansen by refusing to patent his method made it freely available to other brewers. He also proved there are different species of yeast. Hansen separated two species: Saccharomyces cerevisiae, an over-yeast (floating on the surface of the fermenting beer) and Saccharomyces carlsbergensis, an under-yeast (laying on the bottom of the liquid).
Here’s his entry from Encyclopedia Britannica:
Danish botanist who revolutionized the brewing industry by his discovery of a new method of cultivating pure strains of yeast.
Hansen, who began his working life as a journeyman house painter, received a Ph.D. in 1877 from the University of Copenhagen. Two years later he was appointed head of the physiology department at the Carlsberg Laboratory in Copenhagen, where he remained until his death. His research was concerned mainly with yeasts that convert carbohydrates to alcohol, and in 1888 he published an article that described his method for obtaining pure cultures of yeast. The yeast grown from these single strains was widely adopted in the bottom-fermentation brewing industries. Further investigations led him to the discovery of a number of species of yeast. He defined the characters of the different species and devised a system of classification. After further study he devised additional methods for the culture and isolation of certain species.
This is how Carlsberg describes Hansen’s breakthrough in 1883:
The Carlsberg Laboratory made its first major scientific breakthrough when Dr. Emil Chr. Hansen developed a method for propagating pure yeast.
Fluctuations in the beer quality were not unknown at the time, but had until then been solved by thorough cleaning of all installations after suspension of production. If a brew failed, there was no use in pasteurising it; it had to be destroyed.
In 1883, the Old Carlsberg beer got infected with the beer disease and all efforts were made to find a solution to the problem.
Dr. Emil Chr. Hansen who joined the Carlsberg Laboratory in 1878 was examining the beer, and he found that it contained wild yeast. Through his studies and analyses, he discovered that only a few types of yeast (the pure yeast) are suitable for brewing, and he developed a technique to separate the pure yeast from the wild yeast cells. The problem had been solved, and the new Carlsberg yeast – Saccharomyces Carlsbergensis – was applied in the brewing process.
The propagating method revolutionised the brewing industry. Rather than to patent the process, Carlsberg published it with a detailed explanation so that anyone could build propagation equipment and use the method. Samples of the yeast – Saccharomyces Carlsbergensis – were sent to breweries around the world by request and young brewers came to Carlsberg to learn the skills.
So-called bottom fermenting strains of brewing yeast were described as early as the 14th century in Nuremberg and have remained an indispensable part of both Franconian and Bavarian brewing culture in southern Germany through modern times. During the explosion of scientific mycological studies in the 19th century, the yeast responsible for producing these so-called “bottom fermentations” was finally given a taxonomical classification, Saccharomyces pastorianus, by the German Max Reess in 1870.
In 1883 the Dane Emil Hansen published the findings of his research at the Carlsberg brewery in Copenhagen and described the isolation of a favourable pure yeast culture that he labeled “Unterhefe Nr. I” (bottom-fermenting yeast no. 1), a culture that he identified as identical to the sample originally donated to Carlsberg in 1845 by the Spaten Brewery of Munich. This yeast soon went into industrial production in Copenhagen in 1884 as Carlberg yeast no. 1.
In 1904 Hansen published an important body of work where he reclassified the separate yeasts he worked with in terms of species, rather than as races or strains of the same species as he had previously done. Here Hansen classified a separate species of yeast isolated from the Carlsberg brewery as S. pastorianus, a name derived from and attributed to Reess 1870. This strain was admitted to the Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures (CBS) in 1935 as strain CBS 1538, Saccharomyces pastorianus Reess ex Hansen 1904. In a further publication in 1908, Hansen reclassified the original “Unterhefe Nr. I” as the new species Saccharomyces carlsbergensis and another yeast “Unterhefe Nr. II” as the new species Saccharomyces monacensis. The taxonomy was attributed to Hansen 1908 and the yeasts entered into the Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures in 1947 as CBS 1513 and CBS 1503 respectively.
Since the early 1900s, bottom-fermenting strains of brewery yeast have been typically classified as S. carlbergensis in scientific literature, and the earlier valid name assigned to a bottom-fermenting yeast by Reess in 1870 was rejected without merit. This situation was rectified using DNA-DNA reallocation techniques in 1985 when Vaughan-Martini & Kurtzman returned the species name to S. pastorianus under the type strain CBS 1538 and relegated the two former species assigned by Hansen in 1908, S. carlsbergensis CBS 1513 and S. monacensis CBS 1503, to the status of synonyms. These experiments also clearly revealed the hybrid nature of the lager brewing yeast species for the first time, even though one of the parental species was incorrectly classified in retrospect. Nonetheless, over the last decades of the 20th century, debate continued in scientific literature regarding the correct taxon, with authors using both names interchangeably to describe lager yeast.
Although most accounts mention that he wrote novels to put himself through school, one has a slightly different take, though I’m not sure how true it is. “Emil earned his bread and butter as a painter but he yearned for another life and left Ribe so he could study. He graduated from High School relatively late – he was 29 years old.”
Emil Christian Hansen, taken in 1908, a year before his death.
Today is Danish brewer Anders Kissmeyer’s 60th birthday. He was a co-founder of Nørrebro Bryghus in Copenhagen. I first met Anders through corresponding with him for an article on collaboration beers I did for All About Beer magazine several years ago. Then we met in person at GABF a few years ago and judged together at the World Beer Cup in Chicago. Anders more recently started his own company, Kissmeyer Beer & Brewing. Join me in wishing Anders a very happy birthday.
Today is the birthday of Danish author Hans Christian Andersen (april 2, 1805-August 4, 1875). Although he wrote numerous plays, travelogues, novels, and poems, Andersen is best known for his fairy tales, like the Little Mermaid, the Emperor’s New Clothes, the Ugly Duckling and the Snow Queen, which was loosely adapted into Disney’s Frozen in 2013. Those are just the highlights, he also wrote many more you’ve probably heard of and undoubtedly quite a bit more you haven’t. One of those lesser known stories is “Ole, The Watchman of the Tower” or “Ole the Tower-Keeper.” It was written in the 1850s and was included as part of his third collection of “New Fairy-Tales and Stories,” which was published in 1859.
Here’s a synopsis of the story of Ole:
There was a man named Ole who was rumored to be the child of several different people and had been said to have done many interesting things in his life. As time wore on, he became less than enthused with society and decided to become a hermit.
He lived in a church tower because it was the only place where he could easily get bread and still be away from other people. He read books and had visitors around New Years. One person in particular visited him each year around New Years and that person had three stories to tell that Ole had told him.
And here’s another, shorter, one:
Our first-person narrator tells us that he likes to visit a watchman of a tower named Ole. He visits twice on New Year’s Eve and hears some kooky stories about cobblestone, the Bible, and alcohol.
But it was during the end of his second of three nights that Ole visited and listened to the Tower-Keeper, after he’d explained about the first five glasses, who was in them, or how they would change you, he told Ole about the sixth glass:
“The sixth glass! Yes, in that glass sits a demon, in the form of a little, well dressed, attractive and very fascinating man, who thoroughly understands you, agrees with you in everything, and becomes quite a second self to you. He has a lantern with him, to give you light as he accompanies you home. There is an old legend about a saint who was allowed to choose one of the seven deadly sins, and who accordingly chose drunkenness, which appeared to him the least, but which led him to commit all the other six. The man’s blood is mingled with that of the demon. It is the sixth glass, and with that the germ of all evil shoots up within us; and each one grows up with a strength like that of the grains of mustard-seed, and shoots up into a tree, and spreads over the whole world: and most people have no choice but to go into the oven, to be re-cast in a new form.
That’s why there’s a devilish demon on the label, because that’s what’s in the bottle, too. Drink it at your own peril. Don’t say you haven’t been warned. Frankly, it only make me want to drink it even more. I love the idea that after reading that passage, founder John McDonald and/or brewmaster Steven Pauwels, were inspired to create a beer fitting that description.
Today is the birthday of Carl Jacobsen (March 2, January 11, 1914) who was the son of J.C. Jacobsen, who founded the Carlsberg Brewery, which is now the Carlsberg Group, and named it after his son Carl, who became a brewer, as well.
Here’s how Carlsberg’s website tells the story.
Carl had to be a brewer – family tradition dictated it – and JC Jacobsen wanted him to get a solid theoretical and practical training as well as a thorough knowledge of the international brewery industry.
In 1866 Carl left Denmark for his educational tour of Europe, not to return until 1870. He went to France, Germany and Austria to study and work, and spent a year in Scotland as his father also wanted him to familiarize himself with the top-fermented English and Scottish beer types.
JC was moving away from the idea of retiring for Carl to take over his brewery, and decided instead to finance and build a second brewery for Carl to run as a tenant brewer. Carl’s interest in brewing was awakened, and the intense correspondence between father and son now focussed on plans for the new brewery.
When Carl returned to Denmark, JC gave him the new Annexe Brewery to run as an independent business, and the first brew was made on 17 February 1871.
JC advised Carl to produce ale and porter for the home market and for export, as he believed there was no room for two lager breweries in Copenhagen. However, the demand for lager beer increased rapidly, and as porter and ale proved difficult to sell, Carl quickly changed production to the more popular lager beer. – Father and son became competitors.
In 1893, Danish artist August Jerndorff did a painting of Carl.
The SAGE Encyclopedia of Alcohol: Social, Cultural, and Historical Perspectives, published in 2015, has a nice overview of the Carlsberg brewery’s history of father and son.
And this is Carl Jacobsen in 1913, the year before he passed away.
AleSmith Brewing of San Diego, California announced this morning that they’ve entered into a “creative enterprise” with Mikkel Borg Bjergsø to establish Mikkeller Brewing,” taking over day-to-day operation of San Diego’s second-oldest craft brewing facility. So essentially, as far as I can tell, Mikkel will be taking over the original AleSmith location, with Pete Zien retaining a minority stake in the business. Mikkel will get the older, original 30-barrel brewing system — which will become Mikkeller San Diego — and AleSmith will operate the newer 105,500-square-foot facility located two blocks west of MSD.
San Diego, California (December 8, 2015) — Two world-renowned brewing interests are proud to announce the launch of a creative partnership that will result in the planet’s most famous gypsy brewer acquiring a brick-and-mortar brewery to call his own. Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, the founder and creative mind behind Denmark-based Mikkeller, has officially entered into an agreement with AleSmith Brewing Company owner and brewmaster Peter Zien for the duo to establish a new company called Mikkeller Brewing San Diego. Bjergsø and Zien will possess ownership stakes in the business, which will be based within the storied confines of AleSmith’s original headquarters on Cabot Drive in San Diego’s Miramar community and produce beers for worldwide release.
“People have always asked me when I’m going to open my own brewery, and my answer has always been ‘never.’ It’s the easiest answer, but it’s been on my mind for several years,” says Bjergsø. “I like being a ‘gypsy brewer,’ but know that having a stake in a U.S. brewery will change our position here. Brewing in one of the best breweries in the world really makes sense. If they can brew beers like they do at AleSmith, it really can’t go wrong.”
Bjergsø’s vision will guide brewing operations at Mikkeller San Diego, which is equipped with the same 30-barrel brewing system AleSmith used to produce 15,000 barrels of beer annually before moving into a much larger, 105,500-square-foot facility two blocks west earlier this year. To ensure the fastest, most efficient transition, Zien will initially oversee multiple components of the brewing process and provide ongoing assistance on an as-needed basis. Additionally, several members of AleSmith’s original brewing team, the bulk of whose careers with the company have been spent operating the original brewery, will become employees of Mikkeller San Diego and usher the facility through its exciting second life.
“I am very excited to announce this partnership to the brewing world,” says Zien who will maintain a minority stake in the business. “Mikkel and I expect to create unique and flavorful beers of the highest quality, as we are both known for brewing with AleSmith and Mikkeller.”
Eager to embark on this shared next chapter in their brewing careers, Bjergsø and Zien worked with the eventual Mikkeller San Diego staff to craft two beers based off brand new recipes conceived by the former. Those beers, AleSmith-Mikkeller IPA (India Pale Ale) and AleSmith-Mikkeller APA (American Pale Ale) are currently on tap at Mikkeller Bar in San Francisco, Calif.; AleSmith’s recently debuted 25,000-square-foot Miramar tasting room; and numerous craft beer-centric venues throughout San Diego County. Thus far, they have been met positively by beer enthusiasts. Next up on the brew schedule is an imperial take on an English-style porter, which will be released via a similar distribution method. Eventually, numerous Mikkeller San Diego beers will be bottled, canned, and distributed more widely nationally and internationally.
In addition to beers brewed solely by Mikkeller San Diego personnel, Bjergsø intends to make a center of craft collaboration of his new digs by inviting respected brewers from all over the world to conceive and brew recipes that push the envelopes of what ales and lagers can be. In doing so, he will build off relationships forged during his decade spent trotting the globe in an ongoing mission to bring his beery ideas to life with the help of gifted brewers the world over. He will also reach out to new and upcoming brewers making waves within the industry, providing the basis for many happy returns among brewery visitors.
While the brewing component of Mikkeller San Diego’s campus—which consists of five suites within an intimate business complex—will remain mostly untouched, construction will soon commence to convert the 750-square-foot tasting room to an interior design concept more consistent with that of Mikkeller’s global beer bars. The sampling space is projected to open to the public in early 2016, offering an array of beers that simultaneously display traditionally stylistic roots while coming across as exploratory, adventurous and, in some cases, downright twisted. It will be the only place in the world to taste the entire array of Mikkeller San Diego beers in a single sitting.
Saturday’s ad is for Carlsberg, from 1955. This is the third one of these narrow Carlsberg ads from the same time using the tagline “The Call is for Carlsberg. Lager at its best!” The weird horn players are apparently a parody of the Luur Players statue in Denmark, although they claim it’s “famous” I couldn’t find any information about it on a quick search, not even that it just exists, so maybe they were trying to be funny.
Wednesday’s ad is for Carlsberg, from 1968. Although Carlsberg was founded in 1847, apparently they first started exporting in 1868, so 100 years later, in 1968, they created a special beer for the UK market. It was “specially brewed for the British taste,” whatever that might have been. NOt sure how rare that would have been, but I guess give them points for trying something newish.