One of the most influential moments in beer history has been scandalously forgotten. Until now. Carlsberg’s new on-trade only 1883 celebrates one of the key moments in brewing history
Every single day, millions of drinkers around the world inadvertently raise a glass to the memory of
Dr Emil Christian Hansen.
Not many beer drinkers know who Hansen is – but they really should. He is probably the most important white-coated boffin to have shaped modern brewing history, and his petri-dish prowess eclipses even that of Louis Pasteur.
Pasteur may have first found out about the fundamentals of fermentation, but it was Hansen, a former odd-job man turned celebrated chemist, who managed to identify, isolate and propagate individual yeast strains while working at the Carlsberg Laboratory in Copenhagen in the 1880s.
Much like a lion tamer wielding a small chair, he domesticated insubordinate cells, he distinguished between ale yeast and lager yeast, and it is his discoveries that allowed brewers to finally make yeast do what they wanted it to do.
Hansen created modern brewing and he was the first person to discover how we can brew with any kind of consistency. And as any modern craft brewer will testify, consistency is the key to success.
In 1883 he published a paper pronouncing the first pure lager yeast strain – entitled Saccharomyces Carlsbergensis – which, in an astonishing display of industrial altruism, was donated to brewers of bottom-fermenting beers all over Europe.
Hansen’s discovery occurred in the Carlsberg Research Laboratory, part of the Carlsberg Foundation that was set up in 1876 by the founder of Carlsberg, JC Jacobsen. A famed philanthropist, Jacobsen was renowned for his unwavering dedication to Danish scientific research, and his laboratory is responsible for some of the most extraordinary inventions of the past century.
History has been hard on Hansen, who simply doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Few know his name, and even fewer really know what he did, but every time you lift a pint of lager to your lips, remember that you’re drinking his remarkable discovery.
Or better still, pour yourself a glass of Hansen’s brew legacy in the shape of Carlsberg 1883, a limited-edition dark lager brewed in Fredericia, Denmark. It is produced with the original yeast sourced from the bottles used for the ‘Rebrew’ project conducted by the Carlsberg Foundation back in 2016, when the Danish brewer went to extraordinary lengths to breathe life back into its legendary recipe.
Liam Newton, vice-president of marketing for Carlsberg UK, says: ‘We blew the dust from century-old brewing records, resuscitated an ancient barley variety, collaborated with an old-fashioned floor maltings and, as well as exhaustive research into the hop varieties that were used, we recreated the original brewing water – and even commissioned a cooper in Lithuania to create original oak casks.’
Only 600 bottles of Rebrew were produced, but its unwavering fidelity to the original recipe did prove rather a challenge to the modern beer drinker’s palate. So, with 1883, Carlsberg has tweaked the taste to create a beer that celebrates the past without getting stuck there, and appeals to a contemporary beer drinker who is becoming much more adventurous in their repertoire.
With its malt aroma, sweet-biscuit body and a well-balanced finish, 4.6% Carlsberg 1883 is set to reinvigorate a standard lager market that has been rather quiet of late.
‘Following on from the recent successful relaunch of Carlsberg Expørt, which drew on Carlsberg’s rich Danish heritage, Carlsberg 1883 further enhances our firm commitment to what is the engine room of the on-trade – mainstream lager – which is worth £3.8bn in sales,’ says Newton.
‘The beer market has changed immeasurably in the last few years. While the craft beer boom has expanded people’s beer-drinking horizons, the standard lager market still represents four out of every 10 pints of beer sold in pubs and bars.’
‘In the past, we have been guilty of perhaps not celebrating the hugely influential part Carlsberg played in the history of brewing,’ adds Newton. ‘Contemporary beer drinkers want flavour, they want authenticity, they want history and they want provenance – Carlsberg 1883 delivers all of this and more.
‘It celebrates the discovery, by Carlsberg, of the first purified yeast strain that was shared with brewers worldwide to ensure consistency and quality in every brew and it also inspired the invention of the pH scale.’
Carlsberg 1883, which will be available exclusively to the on-trade, for a limited period only on draught, is set to be followed with an array of further innovations in 2018. Other plans in the pipeline include the rebirth of an iconic brand and serious continued support for its core Carlsberg Pilsner brand too.