The Tippling Point | Thought, Research and Inspiration Behind Brewing the 'Best Beer in World'
JC Jacobsen visualized his destiny the moment he tasted Bavarian-style beer in his youth. He would establish a brewery.
A bartender serves a glass of Carlsberg beer at a bar in Kuala Lumpur. (Image: REUTERS/File)
When Carl entered the room at the Hotel Quirinale in Rome, the 75-year old JC Jacobsen was babbling incoherent sentences from his bed. The latter had caught a cold on his family trip to Italy, which had worsened by then.
"It's time," the doctors confided it to Carl.
As he walked closer, the babbling stopped and the old man began to talk about his business, the Carlsberg Foundation.
"Father, are you happy to see me?" Carl asked, taking the old man's hand.
"How can you ask such a thing!" JC rasped between heavy breaths, "Of course, I am happy to see you."
Then he breathed his last.
JC Jacobsen, industrialist and philanthropist, learned the basics of brewing from his father at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It was a time when beer was preferred over water, which was considered unpotable all around Europe. JC visualized his destiny the moment he tasted Bavarian-style beer in his youth. He would establish a brewery. What should his beer be called! JC didn't have to think twice about the name, for he called it after his beloved son Carl. He added to it a Danish suffix, Bjerg, which means Mountain. So, Carlsberg stood for 'Carl's Mountain'.
JC didn't want to make some sloppy beer for short-term profits. It should be the best. He kept his standards high and the price low when he started his production. The latter move led to widespread complaints from other brewers who thought they were all getting shunted out from the mainline. Unfair, they screamed. JC's response was laconic. He wanted to make the best beer as cheaply as possible. Even at the cost of losing all his money.
Such passion landed him in the world of scientific research. He knew the best beer is not made in stills, but in laboratories. JC established the first industrial research in 1875. Such a humanitarian he was, JC decided not to cash in on the findings of his lab. Knowledge has to be shared. Free of cost. Just imagine. While hundreds of distilleries play their game holding their brewing secrets close to their chest, the research lab of Carlsberg was distributing the yeast it had painstakingly isolated to the public, sharing it even with its competitors.
Why should we be worried when we are brewing the best beer in the world, JC thought.
And yet you haven't seen it all. Heard about the pH scale for measuring acidity in liquid? That one will take you on a nostalgic trip back to those science classes at schools. Where did the pH scale come from? The laboratory of Carlsberg.
Soon, JC became the most important industrialist of the period. He won the hearts of his countrymen as a philanthropist and a patron of the arts. He supported Danish artists by acquiring their works and extending his hand for the beautification of Copenhagen city. The reconstruction of the Renaissance fortress at Fredriksborg (which was destroyed by fire) wouldn't have become possible without his generosity.
The dinners he threw were famous. He invited the best talents of the time to share his table. Scientists, actors, musicians like HC Anderson found themselves heaped with adulation in the parties. Serious discussions were encouraged over nine-course dinners. Records say that it was during one of such dinners with the luminaries that JC decided to establish the Carlsberg Foundation to promote art, science culture.
Those were his heydays, so JC wouldn't have a hint that it was time, that he met his match.
Carl, his dear son, had returned from Europe after his studies. With a girl, the old man could not approve of as his daughter-in-law and a host of new ideas about brewing JC could never probably stomach.
To be continued...
(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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