Wandering amongst the largely empty brick warehouses that makes up the sprawling historic Carlsberg brewery in Copenhagen you can’t help but feel the enormous scale of the family run business that created such a conglomerate and left such an indelible mark upon the city.

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Not unlike the Guinness family that reshaped a Victorian Dublin with their philanthropy so to did Carlsberg founder J.C. Jacobsen with the creation of the Carlsberg Foundation for scientific research related to brewing and the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek museum that’s comprised of his personal art collection. Future generations of the family would commission public art including the Little Mermaid status who graces Copenhagen’s harbour and has become a city symbol.

Located two kilometres from Central Station and accessible at regular intervals by free shuttle bus that stop just opposite Tivoli Gardens, the Visit Carlsberg exhibit – or Copenhagen Exbeerience as it’s been dubbed – is a brewery tour through the former factory used  from 1847 – 2008, when the production was moved to Jutland. Admission is Danish Krone 95 or about $17 Canadian Dollars but Copenhagen Card holders enjoy free admission to this and many other sights.

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The self-guided tour includes a stop at the largest bottle collection in the world, displaying more than 16,600 different kinds of beer bottles, all sadly behind glass and out of reach. Fortunately I’ve managed to hang on to entrance ticket which includes two complimentary beers in the tasting room in a short while.

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The massive copper vats gleam in the bight light but expect it wasn’t so pristine in the breweries heyday of the late 19th century.

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It’s well worth exploring all the nooks and crannies of the old brewery complex which include the statue garden and a fountain with a miniature version of the Little Mermaid.

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After the self-guided tour and time out sampling the two beers included in the admission one unique feature is a walk through the horse stables with real live horses!  photo by author

A quick exit from the stables and some of those real live horses are waiting to transport you both around the complex and back in time as their hooves echo off walls ready for redevelopment.

 

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The redevelopment of the decommissioned brewery is being spread over the next 15 – 20 years to transform it into a new neighbourhood called Carlsberg City District and the early phases of this reconstruction can be can be seen on the right of  this in this picture as a few new condo blocks, shops and restaurants have appeared amongst the former industrial landscape. As it was a crisp Autumn  day the driver, who was a grandfatherly figure,  wrapped a little rider in a Tuborg blanket.

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Sadly the horse carriage rides were cancelled shortly after my visit because of the construction within the old brewery complex raising concerns for the safety of the horses.

A short walk from the main entrance to the Visit Carlsberg exhibit is a small street with two very interesting architectural features, the first being the Dipylon Gate built in 1892 with its elegant curved arches anchoring a clock tower, a relief with Carlsberg family figures and brewery workmen and a company motto promising to always put the quality of its beer ahead of company profits in what we might call a company mission statement these days.

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Creative Commons Licence
Decorations on Dipylon at Carlsberg, Copenhagen by Alan Samuel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Unported License.

Elephants have been a Carlsberg symbol since its early years and nowhere within the complex is this more apparent than the  so called Elephant Gate directly opposite the Dipylon Gate, a work completed in 1901 with a quartet of pachyderms holding up the gate and tower. Notice the swastika on the elephant’s side, an ancient good luck symbol from India  Carlsberg stopped using permanently in 1940 due to its appropriation by German’s Nazi party.

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A tour of  the Visit Carlsberg attraction should be paired with a visit to the surrounding Vesterbro district, a once rough part of the city but one that’s been reborn as a hip quarter in recent years with trendy designer shops, boutique hotels and chic cafés. The former Meatpacking District has some noted restaurants including the seafood at Kødbyens Fiskebar or the craft beers at the  brewpub War Pigs.

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