While You Enjoy a Glass of Chilled Carlsberg Beer, Swords Were Drawn Inside Its Family over Brewery Feud
Recently, despite being one of the most popular beers in the world, Carlsberg admits in a campaign that it is not the best beer in the world anymore. The campaign assures that the brand is on the threshold of a major overhaul of its beer.
Carlsberg beer cans are seen at a pub in Mumbai. (Image: Reuters)
The old man, JC Jacobsen, knew what his son Carl should do, once he returned from Europe after his studies. He allotted him a new brewery and asked Carl to make ale and porter, the kind of beers that were past their prime.
So Carl would not. Instead from the son's brewery rolled out a new lager with the same name - Carlsberg, in direct competition with his dad's.
How could that be ever possible! The father was alarmed when production at the new brewery broke through the roof. Not that it posed any immediate danger to the beer he was making, but JC always preferred quality to quantity. And when two beers were marketed with the same name, and if one of them does not rise to the standards he had set for quality, it spells doom not for the beer, but for the brand.
The father and the son also differed on whether the beer should be marketed in barrels (JC's method) or in bottles supplied from the plant (as Carl). JC wanted the production to be based on science and that the brewery should not grow unchecked. Carl had his ears pressed to the demands of the market and so would brook nothing to stand on the way of mounting production.
The duo competed with each other on other fronts too. Being patrons of arts, architecture and science they looked at opposite directions. While the Carlsberg Foundation supported science, Carl set up the New Carlsberg Foundation to support art.
So in little time swords were drawn inside the family.
The battle took on caricaturish features when the road between the two divisions of the brewery was named and renamed infinitely. JC called it Alliance Vej, his son renamed it Pasteus Vej, after the renowned French chemist. Boards announcing the name of the road were placed one on top of the other, with a purpose to hide what the other wished to see.
For six years they did not speak to each other, the father and the son, even though that didn't take a bit from the soaring popularity of the beer they both made. JC changed his will leaving his entire fortune to the Carlsberg Foundation. An enraged Carl responded by sending to JC's apartment, two horse-drawn wagons full of presents his father had gifted - books, furniture, artworks and all.
But in 1886, the enmity between the father and the son finally tapered off. JC was concerned about the kind of money his son was squandering away on procuring precious art pieces. A deal was soon made. After a full twenty years, Carlsberg and the New Carlsberg breweries would be merged. After signing the agreement, the new friends decided to return to Rome where there would be a family reunion. But fate had a different plan. The spring rains in the south gave JC a chill from which he could never recover.
Honouring the agreement, in 1906, the two breweries were united and Carl became its first managing director.
Recently, despite being one of the most popular beers in the world, Carlsberg admits in a campaign that it is not the best beer in the world anymore. "We focused on brewing quantity, not quality. We became one of the cheapest, not the best." The words hark back to the fears of the old man JC, as he fretted about his son dancing to the tune of the market. He always had his head in its right place.
The campaign assures that the brand is on the threshold of a major overhaul of its beer.
Let us keep our glasses chilled and ready.
(Manu Remakant is a freelance writer who also runs a video blog - A Cup of Kavitha - introducing world poetry to Malayalees. Views expressed here are personal)
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