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Glass of '47

The first time I took a close look at Carlsberg and its sister company Tuborg, they were in Denmark producing between then two dozen beers. This figure has dipped over years, but not much.

Their products have included a small range of sweetened, low-strength, table beers. A greater number have been variations in strength and style on the theme of a Pilsener lager (this is the only type of Carlsberg widely seen outside of its home country. Carlsberg owns, or has significant shareholdings in, 60 breweries worldwide. Its beers are also produced under contract in about 30 breweries).

The beers that have impressed me most have been seasonal specials, Vienna-style and Munich lagers and a bottom-fermenting Porter or Stout. More recently, there has been the acclaimed Semper Ardens range, including wheat and cherry beers, an Abbey Ale and a Chocolate Stout (all reviewed on the Beer Hunter site).

A favourite of mine has long been the Vienna-style lager. This style of beer was introduced in the Austrian capital in 1841, and would still have been new and exciting, especially at the opposite end of Europe, when Carlsberg was established in 1847. This version should be called Carlsberg 1847, but has been abbreviated. C47 sounds like a pharmaceutical product, an automotive oil, or a cleanser.

C47 was introduced to mark the brewery's 125 anniversary, in 1972, and it has since been offered every year as a Christmas beer. A tradition has developed that most Danish breweries (and some in the other Nordic countries) produce beers in this style for Christmas. There have also been variations of the same them at Easter.

When C47 was launched, it was one of the few Vienna-style lagers being made anywhere in the world, so I have taken an interest in this beer since its early days. Apart from their relative rarity, Vienna-style lagers seem to me an especially delicious style; a wonderful expression of the aromas and flavors of malt. The styles of malt used can impart a sweetish spiciness that is very food-friendly.

C47 is brewed from a gravity of 16.0 Plato (1064), producing an alcohol content of 7.0 per cent by volume (5.6 by weight). Color is 30 EBC; bitterness 35 BU. The basis of the grist is Pilsener malt. This is grown and malted in Denmark, in the southern part of the island of Sjaelland. A caramel malt from Germany is also used. There are two hop additions. The bittering hops include several varieties, as both extract and pellets. The brewery declines to disclose the variety of aroma hop, except to say that (unsurprisingly) it is European. A Carlsberg yeast, derived from Hansen's original, is used.

When I tried to obtain samples of Carlsberg specialities in 1997 to photograph for my book Ultimate Beer, the company refused to send any, saying that they did not wish to promote these styles but only their Pilsener. There was no place for such a beer in a book on speciality styles. We had several frustrating conversations, after which it became apparent that Carlsberg would have to be left out of the book.

There were subsequently changes of management and of attitude. The last time I was in Copenhagen, I was invited to meet the management and taste some of the more interesting products. During this meeting, I raised the question of including C47 in the Real Beer Tour, and was delighted when Carlsberg agreed. Three or fours years earlier, the brewery would not allow it out of Denmark even for photography. Now its beer has been shipped to members of the Real Beer Tour.

Tasting Note: Fresh, malty aroma, with cereal grain and new-mown hay; pillowy head; amber color; smooth, firm, nutty sweetness; butterscotch and sauternes palate; balancing dryness in finish, with slight orange and licorice root.

Food pairings: Dumplings, spicy foods, heavy pasta dishes; terrines; coarse sausages; liver; duck.


Published: JAN 23, 2002
In: Beer Hunter Online

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