Monday 4 September 2017

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.

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