Thursday, 14 June 2018

A Copenhagen freebie

One of the joys of getting slightly known in the beer world is that I sometimes get to travel for free. By no means always. Most of my travel I pay for myself.

But only once have I had a trip for both me and Dolores paid for: a jaunt to Copenhagen last year, courtesy of Carlsberg. I didn't need to be asked twice. I like the city, but it's even more expensive than Amsterdam.

I must admit to having a bit of a soft spot for Carlsberg. Not for most of their beer, but for the company itself. Despite them closing and demolishing the Tetley brewery in Leeds.

There are a couple of reasons I like them. The first being that they let me look at their brewing records. I like any brewery that lets me rummage around in their drawers, so to speak. But also for their role in developing brewing science. Hansen and Claussen's work on yeast, obviously. But also more recent research. Meeting some of their current scientists was one of the biggest thrills of the trip.

Having time away with Dolores is always fun. It helps that she likes beer. And is reasonably toleerant of me dragging her around endless pubs.I'm sure a reward awaits her in heaven.


“Do you fancy a couple of days in Copenhagen, Dolores?”

“Who’s paying for it?”


“For both of us?”


“Of course I’m interested, then.”

I didn’t think Dolores would want to pass up on a free trip to Copenhagen

“When were you last there? It was before the kids were born, wasn’t it?’

“It must be over 20 years.”

“There are loads more bikes now. You’ll see. It’s like here.”

Our flight is at 10:30. So we aim to get to Schiphol around 8:30. That doesn’t quite go to plan as there’s a snarl up on the A10 motorway. The bus ride takes twice as long as usual.

We check in one bag. Luckily there isn’t much of a queue at SAS checkin. Never flown with them before. I mostly fly KLM. For frequent flyer reasons.

Amazingly, there’s no queue to speak of at security. It’s our lucky day. Denmark being a Schengen country, there’s no passport control. What to do now?

Our flight departs from pier C, so we head that way. No Irish pub on this pier. But there is an strange Spanish-themed bar, draught Cruzcampo and all. Me and my gut say hello to the bar while Dolores heads off to a massage machine. She always likes to get massacred when in the airport. Me, too. That’s why I’m at the bar.

After a while, it becomes obvious I’m wasting my time expecting to get served at my seat. I join the queue for take-out service. I don’t go for Cruzcampo. And can resist Heineken Extra Cold. Instead I have a Heineken normally cold. And a double Jamesons. It is 9:30, after all. I have a cold, too. So it’s medicinal.

We eat the sandwiches Dolores made for us as we wait for boarding at the gate.

No red wine for me during the flight this time. Only tea and coffee is free. I make do with a coffee.

The airport has changed a lot since Dolores was last here. When I spot a ticket machine, I suggest we take advantage of it. Last year there was a huge queue at the ticket machines landside. It takes a while. Dutch couple is struggling to make it work. They eventually leave without a metro ticket.

Dolores is getting a little edgy as she doesn’t want to leave her bad unattended on the carousel. We navigate the machine easily enough, but struggle when it comes to paying. After trying a couple of cards - and a bit of swearing – I eventually manage to pay. I then go off in search of Dolores and her bag.

They’ve added a metro and mainline railway connection since Dolores was last here. We take advantage of the former, as there’s a stop a couple of hundred metres from our hotel. I realise I’ve never taken it before. It’s one of those scary driverless jobs. Though the platforms have anti-suicide doors like in Singapore or on the Jubilee line in London.

Surfacing at Kongens Nytorv, things are confusing. The square itself is boarded off. They’re still hard at work on a new metro line. It’s hard to get my bearings.

“I think it’s this way” Dolores says.

“I’m pretty sure it’s this way.” I say pointing in the opposite direction.

After a while of looking at the map to no avail, we walk 50 metres to find a street name. Dolores was right. It is that way.

We’re too early to check in so dump our bags and walk off into town. We’re looking for a cash machine. I always like to have some local dosh. Strøget, the main pedestrianised shopping drag seems a good spot to seek one. Which, eventually, we do.

“You’re right about the bikes. At least they have racks here for them.”

Dolores wants to stop by a supermarket to buy some stuff. I suggest the Irma close to Radhusplads. Coincidentally, that means we’ll just about have to walk past BrewPub. Luckily, Dolores is thirsty.

As it’s a lovely sunny day (apart from the odd evil black cloud and random shower) we sit in the courtyard. As Dolores is also feeling peckish, we look at the food menu. Two open-topped sandwiches are only 160 crowns – 20-odd euros in real money.

The sandwiches are very nice. But not 10 euro nice. Just as well Dolores is in a good mood. I wash it down with something IPA-ey, while Dolores has a wheat beer.

Brewpub Geronimo IPA (6.5% ABV)
Dark for an IPA – a reddish dark amber. Not far off the colour of a paler Dark Mild. Served too cold for my taste. Not a great deal of aroma. Then again, I do have an annoying bastard cold. Pretty bitter in the mouth.

“Try this Dolores, It’s like Mild.”

Tentative sip.

“It’s OK. I could drink it.” Praise, indeed.

“Not a Mild really. It’s an American IPA.”

We only stay for the one. Not sure I could afford a second beer for each of us.

The Irma is smaller than Dolores remembers it. She could well be right. But they have a reasonable enough beer selection.

“Oh look Dolores – there’s a Mumme.”

“Yes, really exciting. Do you think I should get a large or a small jar of sild?”

“I bet it isn’t authentic.”

“What, the herring?”

“No, the Mumme. The ABV is too high for a start.”

We load up on snacky stuff like bread, cheese, herring and beer. Lots of that. I’ve seen the pub price for beer.

“You know the upside to Amsterdam having become so expensive, Dolores? Almost everywhere we go seems cheap in comparison.”

“Except here.”

“That’s very true.”

On the way back we notice an off-licence. We have a look to see if it’s cheaper than the airport for akvavit. The cheapest bottle is 79 crowns. Not much more than the 65 crowns my beer cost in Brewpub. And about the same price as Dolores paid for two bags of sweets for Alexei. What a weird pricing structure this country has.

Akvavitted up, we return to our hotel. We laze around for a short while, snack and drink beer. Well, only I do the last one. It passes an hour or so.

Dolores wants to try another supermarket in Christianshavn, then continue on to the street food place on the harbour. That’s fair enough by me. The advantage of having a central hotel is that we can walk everywhere.

I pick up another couple of bottles of beer at the SuperBrugsen. And some frikadellen. Meat balls, really. I lead such an exciting life.

Dolores takes a look at the cider: “Pah! I’m not paying 19 crowns for that little bottle.”

There’s been a lot of building on the waterfront on this side of town. Lots of new flats. Some not bad, some pretty bland. While other buildings have been adapted from their original industrial use. Like the food market. On the wonderfully-named Papirøen (paper island). I think you can work out which industry used to be here.

All that walking has made me thirsty. “Fancy a drink, Dolores?”


There’s an outdoor bar right outside the food hall. I get a Schotz IPA and Dolores a Royal Classic.

“Ow!” Dolores brushes something from her arm. “Something’s bitten me.” A wasp has randomly stung her. She has no luck with insects. The mosquitoes in our house always go for her, too. I think of her as my insect lure.

It’s a lovely day. With the sky and water competing for who can have the most gorgeous shade of blue. The light really does something to the colours up here. An enchanting sight. Which enchants us right through our drinks. Well, me at least. Dolores still seems bothered by the pre-emptive insect strike.


“That was the point of coming here, Ronald.” As she rubs the sting on her arm.

Between the bar and the hall there’s a little clump of white trees with labels hanging from them. It’s an art project of Yoko Ono, the wish tree. You’re supposed to write a wish on a label and attach it to a tree.

“I know what my wish would be: ‘John Lennon never met you.’”

“That’s a bit mean, Ronald.”

“But sincere.”

The food is all very tempting. Eventually we settle on a Brazilian meat platter to share. It’s very meaty, which I guess is the point. I fetch us some beer while Dolores gets the food.

As we sit chomping on our meat, I wonder why the toddler next to us keeps staring at the ceiling. Then I look up. There’s a glitterball cow hanging there. No wonder he’s hypnotised.

Once we’ve eaten we take our drinks to finish outside. As the sun sets, the colours concentrate even more before fading into darkness. It really is a wonderful spot, with a variety of boats sailing gaily past.

We stroll slowly back to the hotel. Where I guzzle another couple of beers in our room. What a fun day. Tomorrow is the serious stuff with Carlsberg. Though exactly what, other than a dinner in the evening, I’m not totally sure.

* Carlsberg paid for two return flights, two nights in the Strand Hotel, a lunch, a dinner and various beers.


BrewPub Copenhagen
Vestergade 29,
1456 København K.
Tel.: +45 33 32 00 60

Vesterbrogade 1A,
1620 København V.
Tel.: +45 33 13 03 53

Skjold Burne
Østergade 1,
1100 København K.
Tel.: +45 33 14 04 81

Christianshavns Torv 2,
1410 København K.
Tel.: +45 32 64 06 00

La Halle
Trangravsvej 10-12,
1436 København K.

Copenhagen Street Food
Hal 7 & 8 Papirøen,
Trangravsvej 14, 7/8,
1436 København K.
Tel.: +45 33 93 07 60

A day with Carlsberg (part one)

We awake still not 100% sure of the plan for the day. So we get stuck into breakfast.

Dolores is disappointed by the lack of herring. “I thought they always had herring in Scandinavia?” She has to make do with cake instead. Of which there‘s a good selection. My disappointment comes in fried form. Or rather the lack of it. I content myself with a boiled egg.

As we’re getting out of the lift we bump – pretty much literally – into Jay Brooks and his wife Sarah. He doesn’t have much more clue of the day’s plan than we do. Other than that someone from Carlsberg should be here at ten.

Which is indeed the case. I get a call from reception to tell me of her arrival. We trail downstairs and find a very nice young lady called Caroline, who outlines what will be happening. Starting at noon, when we’ll be picked up by a bus and taken to the Glyptotek. Which gives us a couple of hours.

Dolores fancies taking a look at Christiansborg Slot, a royal palace that isn’t far away. So off we set.

It’s another beautiful summer day, the sky and water brilliant blue again. The city looks wonderful in bright sunlight.

We pass a church on our way and Dolores suggest we take a look inside. It’s a bit tardis-like, seeming much bigger inside that it appears from the street. There’s a model ship hanging from the ceiling.

“I’ve never seen a ship in a church before.” Dolores remarks. Neither have I. And I assume the other visitors haven’t either, as they’re all snapping it.

Someone is playing the organ which adds nicely to the atmosphere. As we’re leaving I notice a poster advertising an organ recital every Wednesday morning. Mmm. It hadn’t drawn much of a crowd.

As we wait at the traffic lights to cross over to the palace, something strikes me.

“They don’t seem to have perfected the Amsterdam cyclist’s method of negotiating traffic lights. They actually stop when the light is red. Amateurs!” I say to Dolores.

“Have you noticed something else about the cyclists here? Loads are wearing helmets. No-one over six wears a helmet in Amsterdam.”

Being cheapskates, we don’t plan entering the palace, just having a nose around outside. There’s a lovely little garden around the back of the national library. With a wonderful show of dazzling yellow flowers that glow in the sun. Very relaxing.

Looking at a map of the complex, I notice something called Christian IV’s Bryghus.

“Oh look, Dolores, there’s a brewery.”

“I suppose you want to go and look at it.”

“How did you guess?”

It isn’t far. Handsome and substantial, is how I’d describe the red brick edifice. It looks like German buildings of the period, with its massive roof. Christian IV was king from 1588 to 1648, so it was probably built in the early 17th century.

Currently it houses a lapidarium. Isn’t that a collection of butterflies?. A quick glance through the windows reveals that it’s really a collection of statues. We can’t go in because it doesn’t open until noon.

Back at the hotel, we’ve time to make ourselves beautiful before going downstairs for the bus. First destination is the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, a museum built by Carl Jacobsen, son of Carlsberg’s founder, to house his art collection. It’s weird thinking that I’ve handled documents written by Carl Jacobsen.

As the bus inches through the city’s traffic, we chat with Caroline. She’s only been with Carlsberg for three weeks, working as an intern. Before that she spent six months as an exchange student in Amsterdam. Which gives us lots to talk about. Like the crazy behaviour of Dutch cyclists.

There’s a mob of people hanging around outside the museum. Including an unruly gang of British beer writers. Martyn Cornell, Adrian Tierney-Jones, Tim Hampson, Roger Protz, Matt Curtis and Mark Dredge. Obviously all people I know.

We’re in the museum for a TEDx talk. No idea what that is*. They’ve brought back J. C. Jacobsen, Carlsberg founder, for the first talk. In hologram form. We’re led through the museum to the room where the talks will happen. Very attractive it is, too. Though the statue in the fountain is a little disturbing.

We walk past lots and lots of ancient sculptures, mostly Greek and Roman it looks like.

They’re handing out cider and beer. I’m not going to say no.

“How did you get a full glass?” Roger Protz asks me. “Easy, I poured two into one.” I’ve been to events like this before.

It’s quite hot. And some of the older members of our party soon look like they’re dozing off.

The general theme is uncertainty. One speaker says how he and a few mates regularly go away for the weekend. They get another friend to plan and book everything, and only discover their destination when they get to the airport. A bit weird, I think. Then I realise that I sort of do that with my US trips. Several places I visited on my Midwest trip weren’t really planned. Just where someone offered to hold an event.

After three talks, it’s time for lunch. Though I think I’ll pass on the snack insects in the box that was on our seats. We’re dining al fresco in the garden at the back of the museum. It’s quite pleasant, given the lovely weather. And there’s plenty of Carlsberg to drink. I wouldn’t normally drink their Pils. But it’s free. And it’s hot. And I’m thirsty.

* Andrew was shocked that we’d never heard of it. He’s watched some of the TEDx talks on the internet.

Disclaimer: Carlsberg paid for two return flights, two nights in the Strand Hotel, a lunch, a dinner and various beers.

Holmens Kirke
Holmens Kanal 21,
1060 København K.
Tel.: +45 33 13 61 78

Christiansborg Slot
Prins Jørgens Gård 1,
1218 København'

Kongernes Lapidarium
Christian 4.s Bryghus,
Frederiksholms Kanal 39,
1220 København K.

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
Dantes Plads 7,
1556 København

A day with Carlsberg (part two)

Lunched, we’re bused over to the Carlsberg Laboratory. Where we’re split into groups for the “breakout sessions” whatever they might be.

Maybe it’s a sign of how nerdy I am, but I get a real thrill being in the building where so much important research was done. Carlsberg basically invented serious brewing science. When William Younger wanted to start their own lab in the 1880’s, they sent their chemist out to Carlsberg for three months to see how things were done.

There’s a lovely motto over the staircase:

“No result of the institute's work which is of theoretical or practical importance can be kept secret”

A very noble sentiment

I’m thrilled at the chance to meet and talk to real scienticians. As we’re walking to the auditorium, Dolores speaks to Birgitte Skadhauge, one of Carlsberg’s top scientists and an expert on barley:

“Can you tell me where the toilets are?” All that beer at lunch is having an effect.

We’re given some short – and very interesting – talks about the barley research that Carlsberg is doing. They’ve developed a type of barley that doesn’t contain the precursors for DMS and staling compounds. Meaning that beer will have a longer shelf-life without being pumped full of chemicals

Slightly weirder, they’ve also bred a red barley. And have been experimenting with brewing from unripe, green barley.  We head down to Hansen’s lab to try three beers.

The beers are presented by Zoran Gojkovic, director of research strategy at the lab and Erik Lund, head brewer at the lab’s pilot brewery. The first beer is from their non-staling barley.

We’ve positioned ourselves right next to the taps. Handy for getting beer quickly. Sadly, my bastard cold stops me from really tasting any of the beers. Which is a bit annoying. So instead I chat a little to the young female Danish journalist who’s standing next to us. Very pleasant and friendly, as most Danish people seem to be.

(For a more detailed account of the science bits, read Martyn Cornell’s post.

Once we’re done we have two options: take a look around the brewery or take the bus back to the hotel. We opt for the latter. I’ve seen the brewery before and we need to get ready for the posh dinner this evening.

I have one set of clothes for such occasions. How often they come around is demonstrated by the fact that my jacket still had stuff in its pockets from the beer writers’ guild dinner last December.

Another slow bus ride takes us back to the Carlsberg complex. This time to the former villa of Carl Jacobsen, now a museum and business centre.

The evening kicks off with a couple of speeches from Carlsberg people and one from a Danish government minister. Luckily they don’t last too long and we can soon take our places for dinner.

I’m pleased to discover that Zoran Gojkovic is one of our table companions. Great. My chance for a chat with an expert.

I warned Dolores not to expect huge portions. At least the food is served on plates. White plates. Starting with oysters.

There’s a story behind the meal. Everything used could appear in beer. Or something like that. Meaning the oysters are the closest thing to meat we can expect. To go with it we’re given a blend of Carl’s Classic and Porter. The reasoning being that Porter goes with oysters, but it was too strong straight for the start of the meal. Luckily a couple of bottles of Porter are left on the table and I can drink some straight.

They’ve got really good sourdough bread to accompany the courses. Which pleases Dolores no end. She’s a big fan of sourdough. Well, she would be, being German.

Zoran, I discover, did his PhD on yeast. We get chatting about Brettanomyces, which is one of his specialties. He has a collection of 250 or so strains.

“Real Brettanomyces strains. Lots of strains of Saccharomyces have been misidentified as Brettanomyces.” He informs me. Only by looking at the DNA can we be certain which strains are really Brettanomyces.”

It’s great – but also slightly intimidating – to chat with someone who know his subject so well.

The courses come and go, along with the beer. Carlsberg 1883 is the next beer. It’s a commercial version of the rebrew beer of last year. Then Saaz Blonde, a spicily hoppy Jacobsen beer. Finally, it’s the oddest of the lot: India Dark Ale, a zero alcohol beer fermented with lactobacillus. Weird, but not bad.

Returning from a toilet visit, Dolores tells me that she spotted a famous Danish actor. “He was in that 1864 thing. He played the father.”

The dinner is running late. We’re supposed to be back at our hotel by 10:30 for an “open bar”. But it’s almost midnight when we get there. And there’s no sign of an open bar. Some of the others discuss a nightcap somewhere. I’m too knacked. We head instead for our room and the sweet embrace of sleep.

Disclaimer: Carlsberg paid for two return flights, two nights in the Strand Hotel, a lunch, a dinner and various beers.

Carlsberg Research Laboratory
4, 1799, J. C. Jacobsens Gade,
1778 København V.

Carlsberg Museum & Business Centre
Valby Langgade 1,
2500 Valby.

Back to Amsterdam

I awake glad that I finished yesterday sensibly. I can’t be doing with late nights any more.

The quality of breakfast cake just about manages to offset Dolores’s disappointment at the lack of herring. I really like cheese, but it can’t really replace bacon in the morning. What Could? Once Dolores is sated on cake and I’ve finished sobbing into my boiled egg, we head back upstairs.

I’ve still got a couple of beers and, as I can’t be arsed to pack them all, I polish off a couple. It gets me nicely warmed up for the day.

Our plan is achingly simple: check out, drink cask beer in Charlie’s Bar, and take the metro to the airport.

We take our bags with us. Makes sense, as Charlie’s Bar is closer to the metro station than it is to the hotel. Not really a problem as we’re travelling pretty light. As Charlie’s opens at noon, we check out at 11:45.

It’s another lovely day as we trundle through town, our trolley bags trundling behind us. Charlie’s is on a side street. My memory not being what it was, I need to consult a map to find it.

We’re the first customers. Not really surprising as it’s only just opened.

A slight miscalculation has left us with far too many crowns. What on earth can we do with them all?

“A pint of Full Nelson and a double Lagavullin, please.”

Dolores gives me a look.

“I’m just trying to make sure we get through the money.”

“And destroy your liver.”

“But I’m on holiday.”

“That’s what you always say.”

Dolores is struggling to find something to drink. Most of the cask beers they have on are too modern for her tastes. Eventually, after a couple of tasters, she settles on a Wild Beer Wild in the Cask.

I’ve heard lots about Tiny Rebel, but never tried their beer before now. This one is pretty good. And disappears stomach-bound pretty quickly. I like it so much, I think I’ll get another.

“No more whisky.” Dolores warns me as I head for the bar.

“But I’m on holiday.”

“No more whisky.” She repeats, accompanied with a look. Best skip the whisky, then.

Our flight is at 15:30 so we can’t linger. Luckily it’s not that long a trundle to the metro.

It’s all so civilised. The metro is clean and actually ends in the terminal, not at some random location half a mile away. Security isn’t mobbed and we’re soon airside.

“You know what we could do with that spare money?”

“What Ronald? And don’t say ‘Buy whisky.’”

Damn. Dolores know me annoyingly well. Thinking on my feet, I say “Get Lexie some vodka. It only seems fair, given all the bottles of spirits we’ve brought back for Andrew.”

Hah. She can’t argue with that one. While we’re in the duty free, I have a quick look at the budget end of the akvavit range. And slip a litre bottle into my basket.

“What’s that, Ronald?” Dolores asks accusingly.

“It’s not whisky. You didn’t say anything about akvavit. And we’ve still oodles of money left. It would be a shame to waste it.”

Dolores seems too tired to argue.

We’ve still got plenty of time. And some money.

“I wouldn’t mind a beer somewhere.” I suggest.

Though, in the millions of shops in the airport, there doesn’t seem to be a suitable bar. Except . . . over there is an Irish bar. It’ll have to do I guess.

I wedge myself twixt a barstool and the bar. Dolores leaves me there and disappears off for some more shopping or something.

“A pint of Guinness, please. And a double Jamesons, no ice.” I quickly knock back the whiskey and move the glass away before Dolores returns. I don’t want her to think that I’ve been disobeying her again.

The flight is uneventful. Except for me drinking coffee again. That’s unusual.

Poor bus selection makes the journey home longer than necessary. My fault. How was I to know what a roundabout route the 300 takes?

Disclaimer: Carlsberg paid for two return flights, two nights in the Strand Hotel, a lunch, a dinner and various beers.

Charlie's Bar
Pilestræde 33,
1112 København K.
Tel.: +45 51 21 22 89

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