Historic Beer Birthday: Emil Christian Hansen

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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).

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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.

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Emil Hansen as a young man.

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.

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This is the entry from Wikipedia on the history of Saccharomyces Carlsbergensis:

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.

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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.”

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Emil Christian Hansen, taken in 1908, a year before his death.

Beer Birthday: Anders Kissmeyer

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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.

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Anders with Kjetil Jikiun, from Nogne O, at the Local Option during CBC Chicago.

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Anders with Jacob Storm, John Mallett, and Matt Brynildson at the World Beer Cup Gala Awards Dinner in 2012.

Hans Christian Andersen & The Sixth Glass

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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.

It was from this short tale that Boulevard Brewing of Kansas City, Missouri, was inspired to create their Quadrupel (although they also refer to it as a “Belgian Dark Strong Ale”), The Sixth Glass.

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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.

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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.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Carl Jacobsen

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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.

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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.

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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.

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And this is Carl Jacobsen in 1913, the year before he passed away.

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AleSmith Partners With Mikkeller

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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.

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Matt Brynildson, from Firestone Walker, and Mikkel comparing beards with Sir Thomas Gresham at a pub in London.

Beer Birthday: Mikkel

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Today is the 40th 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 the past four summers in Paso Robles. Join me in wishing Mikkel a very happy birthday.

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Matt Brynildson and Mikkel comparing beards with Sir Thomas Gresham, and wondering if it’s a coincidence?

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Me and Mikkel at the recent Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festval earlier this year.

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Goofing around with the Firestone Walker logo.

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In the cellar at one of the J.D. Wetherspoons in London, with Matt, Toshi Ishi, from Japan, and Australian brewer Richard Adamson, from the now-defunct Barons Brewing.

Beer In Ads #1656: The Horn Is For Carlsberg


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.

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Beer In Ads #1533: Rare As The Bottle It Comes In


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.

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Pandering To Women

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I may not be a woman, but I grew up around them quite a lot as a child, perhaps more than some others (my folks divorced when I was one and I spent most of my formative years among my mother, grandmothers, aunts, etc.) and am fully in touch with my feminine side. Plus, I love quite a few women — one a lot more than others — but count quite a few among my closest friends. So I cringe every time I read about the efforts of big companies to market beer directly to women, believing all it will take to increase market share is more attractive packaging or sweeter flavors. How many of these failed efforts have we endured in just the last decade?

A few days ago, yet another one surfaced, in a Fast Company interview with Carlsberg Group CEO Jorgen Buhl Rasmussen entitled Carlsberg Taps The Next Big Beer Market (Really): Women. This morning, I saw quite a few exasperated tweets and posts from women in the beer industry that I respect, and decided to read the interview. It’s a head-shaker, alright. Riddled with so much wrong, it’s hard to address it all, so I won’t. I’m sure someone will dissect it better than I can.

But, just a few points. First, Rasmussen claims that the “beer category has been suffering in terms of image,” but for just “the last 10 to 15 years.” Um, I can’t actually remember a time when beer wasn’t marketed almost exclusively to men. There are a few post-World War 2 ads that reach out to women — primarily because they were the ones doing the grocery shopping — but by the 1960s it was all men, all the time. And it’s been that way ever since, from the Swedish Bikini Team to Miller’s infamous mud wrestling. But he soldiers on.

Rasmussen and others still think product innovation and marketing brewed drinks toward women is possible. Increasingly, women know about different, palate-friendly beers like Abbey Ales, fruit lambics, ciders, ginger beers, and dark stouts — as well as about the more varied glassware they require and how to pair them with foods. Women want “a less bitter, non-bloating beer that does not give you a malty/hoppy aftertaste and breath,” says Carlsberg spokesman Ben Morton. “Flavor proliferation has become a key feature of beer innovation.”

So what’s the plan? “[H]e wants to come up with new types of drink recipes that can be made in Carlsberg-owned breweries but are lighter in alcohol, refreshing in taste, and perceived as healthy enough to take on wine, champagne, and other drinks vying for women’s dollars.” Rasmussen used to work for Duracell, Gillette Group, Mars, and Unilever, and seems to believe that beer is just the same as marketing razors and candy, but I don’t think that’s true.

Then there’s this bit of wisdom, by Carlsberg’s VP of Marketing, Kirsten Ægidius. “Many young people aren’t keen on the bitter aftertaste of beer.” Uh, huh. That’s why IPA has been the fastest growing category for years.

So I know they can’t help themselves, but I really wish the big beer companies would just stop this insane, asinine belief that reaching women is a matter of finding beer that’s female friendly and is marketed to them like Virginia Slims’ “you’ve come a long way, baby” pandering.

Not surprisingly, I have a lot of female friends who love beer every bit as much as I do. My wife is a beer lover, and probably drinks more beer at home than I do. I know countless female brewers, beer writers and female fans who love craft beer. This is the same craft beer, mind you, that I love, and that every other beer-loving male loves, too. There doesn’t need to be gender-specific beer. That’s a ridiculous notion, but one that keeps resurfacing, even though it fails every single time. I remember an “I Love Toy Trains” video that Porter used to watch when he was younger that showed how in the 1950s Lionel created a toy train set aimed at girls in which all the cars were pastel colors, pink, lavender, etc. It bombed, because the girls who wanted to play with toy trains wanted the same trains that the boys had. It’s hard to imagine why anybody would have thought otherwise.
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So while I hate to speak for women beer lovers, who are quite capable of fending for themselves, I’m just as eager for this nonsense to stop. So here’s a few tips I have for the big beer companies on how to reach women:

  1. Stop pandering to women, just treat them like people.
  2. Stop the obvious sexism in most of your advertising.
  3. Stop ignoring your own involvement in creating the perception that beer is not for women.
  4. Stop assuming women won’t drink anything bitter; coffee is bitter and you don’t see this issue in the coffee industry, do you?
  5. Stop creating packages that you think will appeal to women.
  6. Stop believing that marketing is the answer.

Beer In Ads #729: J-Day 2012


Friday’s ad is specifically for today, 2012. It’s for Tuborg’s Christmas beer, Julebryg, which is released each year at 8:59 p.m. on the first Friday of November. It’s become a big holiday in Denmark, known as J-Dag (or J-Day). It’s hard not to love a beer holiday called “J-Day,” or that just me? NPR has the full story.

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Back in 1980, they debuted an animated television commercial which was such a huge hit that it sparked the tradition for the seasonal beer’s release each year, and the same ad has now run every year since then.