Last week I was in Copenhagen, Denmark. I was there to attend the fifth biennial conference of the Beeronomics Society. Yes, you read that correctly, Beeronomics – a conference that brings together scholars from around the world who are doing research on some aspect of the beer industry. The first conference of the Society was held in Leuven, Belgium in 2009. This was followed by conferences in Freising, Germany (2011), York, England (2013), and Seattle, USA (2015). I attended the conferences that were held in York and Seattle. As a beer researcher I have found the conferences to be extremely valuable. At some of the academic conferences that I attend I am often the only person presenting a paper on the beer industry; at best there might be an entire breakout session devoted to the topic. So to be able to attend a conference where there are fifty or sixty people, all of whom are interested in the beer industry, is very exciting. Not only do I get to hear what others are working on but, probably more importantly, I also get to chat with fellow beer scholars face-to-face during coffee breaks, over lunch or dinner, or while enjoying a beer. In Copenhagen I had some particularly interesting and productive conversations with Brett Stubbs, an independent scholar who specializes in Australian brewing history and Martin Stack of Rockhurst University who, in my opinion, is doing some of the most interesting work on changes (both historical and contemporary) in the American brewing industry. Despite all the advantages of, and advances in, communications media (smart phones, e-mail, Skype, etc.) there is still no substitute for what can be gained by being together for a few days in the same place with your academic peers.
The conference kicked off with a keynote lecture and reception at the Copenhagen Business School. The lecture was presented by Majken Schultz, Professor of Management at Copenhagen Business School. Professor Schultz’s lecture was titled “Always Burning: How the Brewing Industry Makes Use of its History”. The lecture focused on the Danish brewing giant Carlsberg and the ways in which the motto semper ardens (always burning) had been leveraged by the company at various points throughout its history. Semper ardens was the motto of Carl Jacobsen, son of Carlsberg’s founder J.C. Jacobsen. Before, during, and after Professor Schultz’s lecture there was beer available; not just any beer, but a rather special beer. In recognition of the one hundredth anniversary of the Copenhagen Business School, Carlsberg brewed a special celebratory beer – CBS Centenary IPA. Made with four different hops from Washington’s Yakima Valley the beer is 6.5% ABV. It was a great beer with which to kick-off the conference.
Following the keynote lecture, the next two days of the conference were held in the rather splendid surroundings of The Carlsberg Academy. The building that houses the Academy was completed in 1854 and started life as the residence of Carlsberg’s founder, J.C. Jacobsen and his family. Jacobsen lived there until his death in 1887. His wife, Laura, continued to live in the magnificent residence until her death in 1911. In 1914, in accordance with Jacobsen’s wishes, the house became an honorary residence for a man or woman who was engaged in science, literature, or art. Perhaps the most famous honorary resident of the house was Niels Bohr, who in 1922 was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics. Bohr lived in the house between 1931 and 1962. In 1955 the decision was made to renovate the house and establish The Carlsberg Academy. The ground floor of the Academy includes space for symposia and conferences. It is here that the Beeronomics 2017 conference was held. And it proved to be a fantastic venue. We were also very honored to be welcomed to the Academy by Professor Flemming Besenbacher, the Chairman of the Foundation’s Board of Directors. Professor Besenbacher provided us with a highly informative talk on the background and work of the Foundation.
During the next two days there were a total of forty-four presentations from delegates representing fifteen different countries. Presentations covered a wide range of topics, including “Markups and Advertising Expenditures in the German Brewing Sector”, “Why is Belgian Beer the Best in the World?”, and “Branding and Performance in the Global Beer Market”. I like to use the conference as a barometer to gauge what scholars in the academy are working on when it comes to the beer industry. As I perused the conference program I did a count on the number of papers devoted to craft beer. There were twenty-two, including mine, that dealt with some aspect of the craft beer segment of the broader beer industry. What was particularly fascinating about this sub-set of presentations was their geographic diversity. In addition to the United States there were presentations about the craft beer industry in Australia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, and the United Kingdom. I found this to be exciting and an indication of the growing importance of the craft beer segment in a growing number of countries outside of the United States. This is something I have also witnessed in my overseas travels. Consumer demand for higher quality beer, made by small-scale independent breweries, and which provides the beer drinker with a greater diversity of styles and flavors is on the rise in more and more countries.
On the final evening of the conference there was a gala dinner. This was held in the Jacobsen Brewhouse which is located next to The Carlsberg Academy. The dinner was another opportunity to network with conference attendees as well as to sample a rebrew of one of Carlsberg’s historic beers. In 2013 a Carlsberg employee discovered, in a forgotten beer cellar, three unopened bottles of a late nineteenth century Carlsberg beer. The beer had been unpasteurized and so scientists were able to isolate and cultivate live yeast from the old beer. Nineteenth century brewing records were used to recreate the 133-year old lager recipe. The lager has an ABV of 5.7%, is darker in color, sweeter, and less carbonated than the standard Carlsberg Pilsner of today.
One of the features of the lunches that we enjoyed at The Carlsberg Academy was the fact that beer was available with our lunch buffet (it was a beer conference after all). It was from Carlsberg’s portfolio of beers brewed under the Jacobsen brand. This beer is brewed in the Jacobsen Brewhouse, which opened in 2005. The Brewhouse focuses on specialty beers and is Carlsberg’s response to the growing demand for craft beers. The beers available under the Jacobsen brand include an IPA, a porter, and a weissbier.
Following the conclusion of the scientific portion of the conference, delegates had an opportunity to spend a day visiting two breweries (Nørrebro Bryghus and Warpigs) in the Copenhagen area. We also visited Mikkeller Baghaven, which is Mikkeller’s barrel ageing facility. I will not go into any detail on these visits here, but will devote a blog entry to them at a later date.
So Beeronomics 2017 has come and gone. It was a fantastic event. At the gala dinner it was announced that the 2019 Beeronomics Conference will be held in the Pilsen in the Czech Republic. What an appropriate choice for a conference on beer. For my non-beer loving friends, the city of Pilsen is the birthplace of the style of beer known as Pilsner.