Carlsberg Brewery, Copenhagen Brewing Yeasts Scientific Home

In 1847 J.C. Jacobsen established his new brewery on what was then the outskirts of Copenhagen. He’d spent some time in Bavaria and his goal was to brew Bavarian-style beer in his hometown, using bottom-fermenting lager yeast that he sourced from Gabriel Sedlmayr’s Spaten Brewery in Munich. The beer was a success and the brewery grew and expanded from there. However, something was holding back Jacobsen’s beer because, while he had excellent clean water, he didn’t have clean yeast. In 1875, the brewery built a laboratory so that they could study their ingredients better and, in 1883, Dr Emil Christian Hansen, who knew that most bad beer was down to bad yeast, made a major breakthrough in his studies: he developed a method of isolating and propagating pure yeast, which took the name Saccharomyces carlsbergensis (although now it’s better known as Saccharomyces pastorianus, after Louis Pasteur). Before this point brewing yeast would’ve been made up of a mix of different yeast strains and bacteria, but, with this discovery, yeast could be “clean” and pure. This was a revolution in world brewing and, rather than keeping it a secret, the brewery told others about it, thus enabling better brewing for everyone.

Carlsberg Brewery, Copenhagen Brewing Yeasts Scientific Home Photo Gallery

In 2013 the brewery found three very old bottles of Carlsberg and opened one to examine it. They took the yeast from that bottle and in 2016 got the Carlsberg Laboratory to brew a beer using this original Carlsberg yeast, following the original brewing process and recipe as closely as they could. “The Re-Brew Project” was a coppery-amber beer with some residual sweetness in the middle and a dry bitterness, in keeping with the Munich Dunkel style that the beer would have been like at that time.

Today you can visit the Carlsberg Brewery in Copenhagen and the self-guided tour is definitely worthwhile—it ends in a large, smart bar where you can drink some beer, including those from their varied and interesting Jacobsen range.

Dr Emil Christian Hansen’s discovery enabled beer to leap forward in quality and consistency. It was a very important moment in the history of brewing and indeed the Carlsberg Laboratory continues to be an industry-leading pioneer in brewing research.

Don’t overlook the big breweries—often they are the most interesting places to learn about and visit. If you’re in Copenhagen, go to Carlsberg.

The Lowdown

WHAT: Carlsberg Brewery

HOW: The brewery is situated about IV2 miles (2.5km) from Copenhagen Central Station (

WHERE: Gamle Carlsberg Vej 11, 1799 Valby, Copenhagen, Denmark

The entrance to the Carlsberg Brewery, which is one of the most ornate in all the beer world.

Sharing Brewing Secrets

In the late 1830s, there were brewers who were willing to share their knowledge with others in the hope of improving the overall quality of beer. The grandfathers of this knowledge are Gabriel Sedlmayr, of Munich’s Spaten Brewery, and Anton Dreher, from his eponymous brewery in Vienna. They took a study leave to travel through northern Europe and into Britain, visiting as many breweries as possible. They would’ve seen huge Porter vats and barrels of Pale Ale destined for India; they learnt about different yeasts (famously stealing samples by using a walking stick with a valve in the base).

British malting techniques, which gave paler malts, were among the most significant things they learnt about. Sedlmayr and Dreher took this knowledge back to their hometowns and produced Munich malt and Vienna malt respectively, turning these into new paler beers in 1841. We know that the German brewing brethren were smart about good-quality yeast and fermentation, passing on that knowledge to others, including Jacobsen at Carlsberg, who then, in turn, passed on his new discoveries to other brewers. We can assume that

Pilsner Urquell’s first brewmaster Josef Groll (see post 126) also learnt something about malt from these guys and probably about bottom-fermenting lager yeast too.

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