Carlsberg Research Laboratory



The Carlsberg Research Laboratory is an internationally acclaimed research institution. Over the years, the laboratory has delivered ground-breaking research results and revolutionised modern beer brewing. Today, the laboratory is part of Carlsberg A/S, and the Carlsberg Foundation has been supporting its research since 1876.

Ever since the Carlsberg Research Laboratory was established, its purpose has been to develop beer of the highest possible quality and thereby provide a model for brewing in Denmark and the rest of the world.

“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 at a high and honourable level.”
J.C. Jacobsen – the “Golden Words”.

The Carlsberg Research Laboratory’s purpose thus clearly evokes the Golden Words expressed in J.C. Jacobsen’s will and inscribed above the entrance gate to the old brewery, not far from the laboratory.

Four main areas

Today, the Carlsberg Research Laboratory is actively working to develop new possibilities within brewing and biotechnology. The research is focused on four main areas:

  • Raw materials
    Research focused on raw materials for brewing, primarily aimed at improving barley and hops

  • Yeast and fermentation
    Research focused on microorganisms for brewing, primarily aimed at improving yeast strains

  • New ingredients
    Research focused on new ingredients and natural substances, and their use in cereal-based and other beverages

  • Brewing research, technology and quality
    Research focused on improving brewing processes, including enzyme usage, product quality, improved measuring and monitoring methods, and sustainable solutions

It was J.C. Jacobsen’s wish that the laboratory’s knowledge should be made freely available to the outside world. In that spirit, the laboratory’s research results today are published and thus made accessible to the public.

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

From the Carlsberg Research Laboratory.

Hops from the laboratory’s adjacent greenhouses.

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

In brief

Even as a young brewer, J.C. Jacobsen, founder of Carlsberg and the Carlsberg Foundation, was keen to acquire the latest knowledge. He was inspired by the lectures of physicist and chemist H.C. Ørsted and quickly came to understand how scientific discoveries had increased productivity and quality within a large number of industries. J.C. Jacobsen believed that the same could be true for brewing. Later, he visited brewing colleagues all over Europe, sharing experiences and bringing back new knowledge and inspiration to Carlsberg.

J.C. Jacobsen was convinced that understanding the chemistry of beer and the physiology of the organisms involved was essential if the quality of beer was to be improved. In 1875, he therefore established the Carlsberg Research Laboratory, attached to the Carlsberg Brewery.

With a number of ground-breaking research results, the Carlsberg Research Laboratory quickly became a key factor in the success of the brewery and a model for modern beer production as well as other knowledge-intensive industries and science in general.

Director and fermentation physiologist Emil Chr. Hansen and his employees at the Carlsberg Research Laboratory in 1898.

Affiliated to the Carlsberg Foundation

In organisational terms, the Carlsberg Research Laboratory is part of Carlsberg A/S. The laboratory is closely affiliated to the Carlsberg Foundation and referred to as department A in the foundation’s charter. The Carlsberg Foundation has thus been supporting the Carlsberg Research Laboratory’s work since 1876.

The Carlsberg Research Laboratory receives a fixed 8 percent of the Carlsberg Foundation’s total grants in each financial year.

The Carlsberg Research Laboratory is managed by a Director of Research employed by Carlsberg A/S. A board of trustees, appointed by the Carlsberg Foundation’s board of directors and the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, is responsible for overseeing the grants awarded by the Carlsberg Foundation in line with its charter, and for publishing the laboratory’s research results and making them accessible to the public.

The laboratory’s management

Day-to-day management: Birgitte Skadhauge Director of Research Board of Trustees: Søren-Peter Olesen (Chair) Professor, Dr.Med., University of Copenhagen Deputy Chair, Carlsberg Foundation Jens Hjorth Professor, MSc, PhD, Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen Member of the Board, Carlsberg Foundation Susanne Mandrup Professor, PhD, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Southern Denmark Member of the Board of Directors, Carlsberg Foundation Jacob Aarup-Andersen CEO, Carlsberg Group Søren Brinck Executive Vice President, Group Commercial and Strategy, Carlsberg Group Henrik Poulsen (observer) Chair, Carlsberg Group

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 revolutionised 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. The method 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 also made huge contributions to 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. His studies of water’s capacity to bind to protein with egg albumin led to the enzyme subtilisin. This especially heat-stable proteolytic enzyme is used today, among other things, as an active component in most of Novozymes' (now Novoensis's) products for detergents.

Click chemistry - Morten Meldal

Morten Meldal led the synthesis group in the Department of Chemistry at the Carlsberg Research Laboratory from 1988 to 2011. During his work to find new pharmaceutical substances, he and PhD student Christian Tornøe discovered a surprising reaction between two molecules. It emerged that the reaction produces a molecule with a ring-shaped structure, a so-called triazole, that can be used as a chemical building block. The discovery paved the way for so-called click chemistry, a method for simply and efficiently clicking molecules together. Click chemistry enables the use of molecular building blocks to build larger molecules with specific characteristics. Today, the method has found application within a large number of areas, including pharmaceutical chemistry and materials chemistry. Morten Meldal was awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, jointly with two fellow researchers, for the development of click chemistry.

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 research results relate, among other things, to the development of climate-resistant barley and so-called null-LOX barley, which gives beer increased freshness, longer shelf life and an improved, more stable head.

Sequencing the barley genome – Christoph Dockter

Barley is the fourth most abundant cereal crop and a key raw material for the production of beer and other beverages. Over the last ten years, an international research consortium, including the Carlsberg Research Laboratory, has sequenced the large and complex barley genome. This high-quality digital reference genome is a milestone in cereal breeding – the foundation for developing novel malting barley for sustainable brewing and the basis for a fast-forward production of new climate-resistant crops.

Together Towards Zero – Arvid Garde

The Carlsberg Research Laboratory has a long track record of social engagement, which is why the sustainability agenda has also become an integral part of the laboratory’s DNA, most recently through dedicated research within water and energy savings. Since 2018, the laboratory has been home to a group of six highly specialised researchers tasked with providing technical solutions to enable Carlsberg to achieve its long-term goal to halve total water consumption and make all breweries CO2-neutral by 2030. The research effort was initiated with a primary focus on the purification and reuse of water and chemicals from the brewery’s extensive cleaning processes as well as optimisation of energy solutions by modelling 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 possible implementation.