Tag Archives: Beeronomics Society

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen

This is my third entry about my recent trip to Copenhagen, Denmark. You can read my other two entries here and here. I was there to attend, Beeronomics 2017, the biennial conference of the Beeronomics Society.

Carlsberg is Denmark’s largest brewer. Tuborg was once an independent brewery but is now owned by Carlsberg

Let’s begin with some facts about the Danish brewing industry and beer market. When it comes to beer Denmark is, in many ways, a very unremarkable country. The Danes themselves are not particularly big beer drinkers. Their average annual consumption of sixty litres per capita places them nineteenth in the European Union; well behind Europe’s leading beer drinkers, the Czech Republic whose residents in 2015 consumed an average of 143 litres per capita. Indeed, Danish  beer consumption per capita  decreased by thirteen percent between 2010 and 2015. With a fifty-three percent market share Carlsberg is the most important brewer in Denmark. Second place is held by Royal Unibrew who have a twenty-five percent market share. The most popular style of beer is Pilsner, which accounts for eighty percent of the Danish beer market. Craft beer accounts for approximately five percent of the volume of beer sold in Denmark; this is up from ~two percent in 2005. Of the 150 breweries in Denmark, one hunded are microbreweries. Interest in and demand for craft beer started much later in Denmark than in the United States, with some commentators signaling 2002 as a watershed year for the Danish craft beer industry. Between 2002 and 2008 the number of breweries in Denmark increased from nineteen to one hundred.

Nørrebro Bryghus is housed in an 1856 building
Rosemary, my friendly and efficient bartender, at Nørrebro Bryghus

I was able to visit two of Denmark’s microbreweries while in Copenhagen – Nørrebro Bryghus and Warpigs. Nørrebro Bryghus is named after the Copenhagen neighborhood (Nørrebro) where it is located.  It seems an appropriate neighborhood for a craft brewery; it was recently ranked as the twelfth most hipster neighborhood in Europe.  Nørrebro Bryghus was opened in 2003 by former Carlsberg brewmaster Anders Kissmeyer. Like many European craft brewers, Kissmeyer was inspired by the craft brewing movement in the United States. Specifically, he found inspiration from brewmaster Garrett Oliver, whom he met on a visit to Brooklyn Brewery. Nørrebro Bryghus made international headlines earlier this year when they made a beer using malted barley that had been fertilized by the 50,000 litres of urine that had been generated from 2015 Roskilde Music Festival. The brew, appropriately enough, was called Pisner and Nørrebro Bryghus became known as the brewery that puts the “P” in Pilsner. The Nørrebro Bryghus brewpub that I visited is located in an 1857 building. There is a second production brewery about twenty minutes away. The beers brewed in the Nørrebro Bryghus are listed on green chalkboards in the taproom while those brewed at the other location are on black chalkboards. I tried a number of Nørrebro’a beers on my two visits to the brewpub – Beer With No Name (a 7.7% ABV Stout), Zee Germans Had It Figured Out (a 6.6% ABV Märzen), Bombay Pale Ale (a 6.5% India Pale Ale), Ravnsborg Rød (a 6.5% ABV Irish Red Ale), Twenty 2 Lager a 5% ABV Pale Lager), La Secret De La Lcorne (a 5.9% ABV Farmhouse Saison Ale), and Nørrebro Pilsner (4.6% ABV). Nørrebro Bryghus is a great place to spend a couple of hours while in Copenhagen; the staff are friendly and attentive, the beer selection is good, and the general ambience very pleasant.

The bar at the Nørrebro Brewpub

The second brewey I visited was Warpigs. Warpigs is a collaboration between the Danish brewer Mikkeller and 3 Floyds Brewing Company from Munster, IN. Its beers, brewed on site, are billed as “American-Danish style brews”  I am not quite sure what that means, or what constitutes an American-Danish style brew, but I suppose when you are Three Floyds and Mikkeller you can use that type of language. Anyway, at any given time there are generally twenty-two Warpigs’ brews on tap. As well as brewing beer, Warpigs has a kitchen. It specializes in “authentic Texas barbecue”. The brewery, which opened in 2015, is located in Copenhagen’s old meat packing district. In Danish the district is called Kødbyen, which translates as Meat City.  At one point, during the last century it was said to have had the highest density of butchers in Europe.  Gradually, however, one-by-one, butchers left. It was in danger of becoming an abandoned ghost town of sorts. Then, in 2005, the local council had the idea to redevelop the district à la Manhattan’s meat packing district.  The result has made Kødbyen one of the trendiest entertainment districts in Copenhagen. It is home to art galleries, boutiques, co-working spaces, cafes, bars, restaurants, and night clubs. There are still a handful of butchering operations in the neighborhood, so that  “in the morning, you see butchers in white coats with blood on their hands walking around the streets of the meatpacking district.” Adaptive reuse of old building by craft brewers is one of my research interests within the craft beer industry. So I was particularly looking forward to visiting Warpigs. When you walk into Warpigs, a former butchery,  you get a feel for the building’s previous use. To a large extent, that is because there are a lot of restrictions placed on the changes that occupants are permitted to make to the interior of any building. When I walked into Warpigs, I immediately noticed the white tile walls and the hooks in the ceiling from which carcasses used to hang.  Warpigs is located in what is known as the White Meat District (there are also Brown and Grey Meat Districts). The White Meat District comprises twelve acres of buildings dating from the 1930s. It has been described as “a pinnacle of functionalist architecture“. According to Wikipedia, “functionalism is the principle that architects should design a building based on the purpose of that building”. I am no student of architecture, but that definition certainly resonates with me when I think of Warpigs and other buildings I saw in Kødbyen.

Warpigs is located in Copenhagen’s historic meat packing district
Inside Warpigs. Few structural changes were allowed inside the old butchery

Warpigs, as noted, is a joint venture between Mikkeller and 3 Floyds.  Mikkeller is an iconic name within the world of craft beer. Mikkel Borg Bjergso, a former high school science teacher, founded Mikkeller in 2006. The company made its name as a gypsy brewer.  A gypsy brewer is a brewer that does not own a brewery, but rather creates recipes and contracts with existing breweries to brew them. Mikkeller is arguably the most famous gypsy brewer in the world. I say arguably because Bjergso’s twin brother, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso, is also an internationally famous gypsy brewer. Based in Brooklyn, New York, Jeppe’s company is called Evil Twin Brewing. Evil Twin was established in 2010. The name is a nod to the acrimonious relationship that exists between the two brothers. In March 2014 Jonah Wiener of the New York Times penned a fascinating piece on the evolution of this relationship. It makes compelling reading (you can read it here). Long story short – Mikkel started Mikkeller in 2006; a year prior to that Jeppe had opened a beer store in Copenhagen called Olbutikken. The relationship between Mikkeller and Olbutikken was symbiotic. Olbutikken showcased Mikkeller beers and Mikkeller beers drew customers to Olbutikken. In 2010 Mikkel opened a Mikkeller bar in close proximity to Olbutikken. Jeppe viewed the bar as competing with his store, and from that point forward the relationship started to go south.

Jacob Gram Alsing, Operational Manager at Mikkeller shared his perspectives on the brewer at their barrel-ageing facility
Peter, Pale and Mary – an American Pale Ale – one of the Mikkeller brews I sampled at Mikkeller Baghaven

I visited Mikkeller along with other delegates from the Beeronomics conference. The Mikkeller facility that we visited was Mikkeller Baghaven. This venue serves multiple functions. First, it is Mikeller’s barrel-aging facility.  Mikkeller sends beers that are brewed at various locations around the world to Baghaven to be barrel-aged. Second, it is a venue that can be rented for a variety of events such as weddings and parties. Third, it is a taproom where you can enjoy some great Mikkeller beers.  When we arrived at Mikkeler we were greeted by Jacob Gram Alsing, Operations Manager at Mikkeller. Jacob spent about thirty minutes with us, telling us about Mikkeller and answering questions. One of the most fascinating facts, that Alsing provided us with, is that Mikkel has a recipe book that contains somewhere in the region of a thousand different recipes for beer. I find that to be quite mind boggling. Mikkeller beer itself is brewed in four different countries – Belgium, Norway, Italy, and the United States. Technically, Mikkeller is no longer a pure Gypsy brewer. In addition to the brewpub that Mikkeller owns in Copenhagen with 3 Floyds, the brewer recently opened a brewery in San Diego, CA . The San Diego brewey is another joint venture – this time, with AleSmith Brewing Company. The San Diego Brewery allows Mikkeller, among other things, to get their more perishable brews such as IPAs to their customers in a condition of peak freshness.  And Mikkeller recently announced that they would be opening a brewery in a non-ticketed section of Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. Indeed, there appears to be a trend of gypsy brewers investing in brick and mortar breweries. There are a number of reasons for this, including a brewer being able to interact with his/her customers and this getting direct feedback on the beers they produce.

From a beer drinker’s perspective Copenhagen turned out to be a more interesting city than I had anticipated. But, I suspect, thanks to the growth of the craft beer movement, that every city is more interesting than it was say twenty or even ten years ago. And for that, as someone who travels quite a bit I suppose I owe craft brewers a huge debt of gratitude. Craft breweries add local color and flavor to a city, while their beers reflect the creativity and craftsmanship of a local brewer. So to craft brewers everywhere I say Skål.

 

Beeronomics 2017

One of the benefits of attending Beeronomics 2017 was I got to interact with people like Martin Stack.

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.

CBS Centenary IPA brewed by Carlsberg to recognize the one hundredth anniversary of Copenhagen Business School

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.

Professor Flemming Besenbacher, Chairman of The Carlsberg Foundation, welcomes us to The Carlsberg Academy

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.

The Carlsberg Academy provided a spectacular venue for the Beeronomics Conference
Conference delegates networking at The Carlsberg Academy
The beautiful gardens of The Carlsberg Academy
Imre Ferto of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences talks about microbreweries in Hungary

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.

Martin Stack of Rockhurst University and Tomas Maier, Czech University of Life Science discuss the brewing industry over dinner

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.

Some of our luncheon beer options at The Carlsberg Academy

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.