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Carlsberg Research Laboratory

Carlsberg Research Laboratory was built in Valby near the Carlsberg Brewery.

Over the years, the Carlsberg Research Laboratory has delivered ground-breaking research results and revolutionised modern brewing. It was in the laboratory on Valby Hill that pure yeast was first cultured and the pH scale invented. More recently, researchers have developed the null-LOX barley sort, which gives beer greatly increased freshness and an improved, more stable head. The Carlsberg Foundation has had a considerable influence on the development of the Carlsberg Research Laboratory since its foundation in 1875.

Carlsberg Research Laboratory – good beer needs good science

Carlsberg founder J.C. Jacobsen was driven by the question: How do you brew the best beer of the highest quality? In 1875, he therefore set up the Carlsberg Research Laboratory, convinced that he needed to understand the chemistry of beer and the physiology of the organisms involved.

As a brewer, J.C. Jacobsen spent his whole life acquiring the latest knowledge. As a teenager, he attended lectures given by H.C. Ørsted in the Society for the Dissemination of Natural Science, as the family could not afford to send him to the University of Copenhagen. Here, he came to understand how scientific discoveries had increased productivity and quality within a range of industries. He reasoned that the same could be true for brewing. Later, he visited brewing colleagues all over Europe, sharing experience and insights and bringing new knowledge and inspiration back to Carlsberg.

Ever since the Laboratory was established, the purpose of its research has been crystal-clear, namely to develop beer of the highest possible quality and provide a model for brewing in Denmark and the rest of the world. This purpose is based on J.C. Jacobsen’s “Golden Words”, which are inscribed in marble above the entrance gate to Carlsberg’s headquarters. For the research unit’s employees, they represent a beacon and a conspicuous reminder of the company’s pledge of quality.

“In working the breweries it shall be a constant purpose, regardless of immediate profit, to develop the art of making beer to the highest possible degree of perfection in order that these breweries and their products may ever stand as ideal models and so, by their examples, assist in keeping the brewing of beer in this country on a high and honourable level.”

Among other things, the Carlsberg Research Laboratory conducts research into barley and hops to ensure optimal raw materials for brewing high-quality beer.

Today, the Carlsberg Research Laboratory works to develop new possibilities within brewing and biotechnology. The research is focused on four areas: raw materials; yeast and fermentation; ingredients and brewing technology

Revolutionary results

Over the years, the Carlsberg Research Laboratory has delivered ground-breaking research results and serves as a model for modern brewing, other knowledge-intense industry and science generally. 

Fermentation physiologist Emil Chr. Hansen (1842-1909), a Director of the Carlsberg Research Laboratory, developed a method for culturing pure yeast that revolutionised industrial beer production.

Some of the Laboratory’s most important scientific breakthroughs and leading researchers:

Culturing of pure yeast – Emil Chr. Hansen
Emil Chr. Hansen was Director of the Carlsberg Research Laboratory’s Department of Physiology from 1879 to 1909. He developed the first method for culturing pure yeast, which was of major importance for Carlsberg and revolutionized the international yeast industry.

The Kjeldahl method – Johan Kjeldahl
Johan Kjeldahl was Director of the Carlsberg Research Laboratory’s Department of Chemistry from 1876 to 1900. He developed a general method for quantifying nitrogen in organic compounds and raw materials, which became known as the Kjeldahl method.

The pH scale – S.P.L. Sørensen
S.P.L. Sørensen was Director of the Carlsberg Research Laboratory’s Department of Chemistry from 1901 to 1938. He introduced the concept of pH for specifying the level of acidity or alkalinity of a solution and demonstrated the significance of pH for biochemical reactions, including those involved in brewing.

Protein chemistry, dynamics and enzymes – K.U. Linderstrøm-Lang
K.U. Linderstrøm-Lang was Director of the Carlsberg Research Laboratory’s Department of Chemistry from 1938 to 1959. He produced ground-breaking knowledge on the chemistry of proteins, especially on proteolytic enzymes and the dynamic structures of proteins.

Genetic manipulation of yeast cells – Øjvind Winge
Øjvind Winge was Director of the Carlsberg Research Laboratory’s Department of Physiology from 1933 to 1956. His research led to the discovery of sexual reproduction by yeast cells. Winge was also passionate about the breeding of malting barley and hops.

Discovery of subtilisin – Martin Ottesen
Martin Ottesen was Director of the Carlsberg Research Laboratory’s Department of Chemistry from 1959 to 1987. One of his major achievements was the unexpected discovery of the conversion of egg albumin to plaque albumin. He established that this was due to microbial contamination caused by the bacterium Bacillus subtilis, which secretes the proteolytic enzyme subtilisin. He was a pioneer in the field of “limited proteolysis”.

New barley sorts – Birgitte Skadhauge
Birgitte Skadhauge is the current Director of Research at the Carlsberg Research Laboratory, where she has been conducting research since 1996. Her most significant research results relate to the development of climate-resistant barley and null-LOX barley, which gives beer greatly increased freshness, a longer shelf life and an improved, more stable head.

The Rebrew Project – Erik Lund
In 2014, Carlsberg’s team of yeast researchers succeeded in isolating the original Carlsberg brewing yeast from an old beer bottle found in the cellars below the brewery. Erik Lund is Head Brewer at Carlsberg Research Laboratory, and in 2016 he and his colleagues in Carlsberg’s barley breding group recreated the first lager beer brewed from the original yeast culture from 1883. The beer is now on the market as the brand “Carlsberg 1883”. In his everyday work, Erik Lund studies the optimization of the brewing process, especially with a view to reducing climate impact and increasing beer quality.

Sequencing the Barley Genome – Christoph Dockter
Sequencing the barley genome – International Barley Sequencing Consortium (IBSC). 
Barley is the fourth most abundant cereal crop and a key raw material for the production of beer and other beverages. An international research consortium, with participation of the Carlsberg Research Laboratory, sequenced the very large and complex barley genome, an endeavor that took over a decade. This high-quality reference genome assembly is a milestone for cereal breeding – the foundation for developing novel high-quality malting barley for sustainable brewing and the basis for the fast-forward production of new climate resilient crops.

Together Towards Zero – Arvid Garde
Carlsberg Research Laboratory has a long history of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which is why the sustainability agenda has also become an integral part of the laboratory’s DNA, most recently through research dedicated to water and energy saving. Since 2018, a group of six young, but highly specialized, researchers have been part of the Research Laboratory. Their task is to provide technical solutions to Carlsberg’s long-term goal of reducing total water consumption by 50% as well as making all the breweries CO2 neutral by 2030. 

The primary focus is purification and reuse of water and chemicals from the brewery’s extensive cleaning processes as well as optimization of energy solutions by modeling and simulation of the brewery’s mass and energy balances – creating a so-called digital twin, where new technologies can be evaluated in a virtual environment before they may be implemented.

Research Director at the Carlsberg Research Laboratory Birgitte Skadhauge visiting one of Carlsberg's experimental fields.

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