August 24th/25th 1973

• “Went (hic!) to the (hic!) Carlsberg factory (hic!) with Dad – good! – got souvenirs.. 18 beermats”
• “Went to Holgers for the day – nufin’ much done except eat, drink, walk, eat, drink and eat”

Ah yes… the famous Carlsberg brewery. It is located  just half a mile or so outside Copenhagen’s city limits. Unlike many other beer tourism attractions (i.e The Guinness Brewery in Dublin) the Carlsberg brewery (more correctly named the “The Jacobsen Brewhouse”) remains a fully working brewery, continuing to churn out some of the specialty beers the company (perhaps less famously) is responsible for.

For a 15-year-old who apparently has already discovered beer, a trip with my Dad to the brewery must have been a special event. I know I held onto many of those mentioned beermats for many years afterwards, only discarding them when the cardboard had rotted and broken down to such a degree that they were unusable.

Carlsberg was founded in 1847 by JC Jacobsen who pioneered the concepts of steam brewing, refrigeration techniques and the first propagation of a single yeast strain.  The first brew was poured on November 10th – co-incidentally my wife’s birthday – and Carlsberg beer has been enjoyed all over the world since.

In 1939, a staggering 55% of all the imported beer in the UK came from Carlsberg. Their famous – very strong – “Special Brew” was launched to commemorate a 1950 visit to Copenhagen by Winston Churchill.

It would be two years after my visit that the beer would launch its iconic “Probably the Best Lager in the World” slogan – voiced by Orson Welles – and another 19 before it controversially merged with English tea maker Tetley.

In 1973 there was one thing on my mind… the very end of the tour you take round the brewery.

Back then – unlike now when you get a 1 free beer token when you buy your admission ticket – each group were taken to a set of tables in a very stately room and told they could drink as much as they wanted from what was available in front of them. In the middle of the table there would be at least 6 bottles of every beer and soft drink they produced, from the regular Pilsner via the aforementioned Special Brew, and right up to the export-only “Elephant Blend”.

I’ll bet my Dad had a few (not too many) and I’ll bet I had a few (too many) that day, before snaffling away those beermats in my coat pockets.

—————————
Holger was my uncle, one of my grandmother’s many brothers. He was a somewhat misogynistbachelor who lived in a sizeable bungalow on the inner Danish coast in a tiny village called Sønderby. Getting there required the services of several buses, tube trains and overland connections from Denmark’s excellent public transportation system. (The system remains astonishing to this day, and I often dream of living in Denmark and not needing a car at all!). Upon arrival at Holger’s place we would – seemingly immediately – all chow down on a stunning selection of foods, beers and spirits he would have ‘brought in’ that very morning from a local store.

After lunch we would invariably take a stroll down to the shore, paddle our feet in the sea and then walk back for…. even more food and booze.

Sønderby North Church

Holger had a clever (and super intelligent) agreement with the local authorities in Sønderby regarding his property. Instead of having to pay property and land taxes every year he instead willed his home to the authority, the latter taking the (well judged) opinion that the value of the property would always be worth more than any unpaid taxes accrued over Holger’s lifetime.

This arrangement has always sat well with me as an idea and I trot it out to friends on a regular basis. It won’t appeal to families who would doubtless prefer to leave the house to their children, but for childless individuals/couples I think it is a perfect local taxation compromise.

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