I picked up these “bad-boys” a week ago at the George Inn in Southwark, after attending the Annual General Meeting of the British Guild of Beer Writers. Prior to the AGM, the Guild had held a seminar about "branding," which aimed to show how beer has led the way in bringing a fresh and innovative approach to drinks packaging.
I wasn’t able to attend the event, but amongst the questions posed by the seminar were: How, why and where do brewers find the inspiration for their packaging? And how can breweries turn a re-brand to their advantage? Does this matter, and how important is sustainability when it comes to packaging?
A representative from Carlsberg was at the seminar, but to maintain a balanced presentation, so was the sales & marketing manager from Harvey’s. You may remember the latter successfully re-branding their portfolio a few years ago, but for the purpose of this post, it’s Carlsberg that I want to concentrate on. For a start I have the Danish brewer to thank for the six-pack of cans, you can see in the photo.
Unless you’ve been asleep these past few months you would know that Carlsberg have recently re-launched their standard “cooking lager" here in the UK, replacing it with a re-vamped brew called Carlsberg Danish Pilsner. The decision came on the back of declining sales for all main stream lagers, including Carlsberg, rather than the “change of heart” claimed by the brewery.
This relates to the current ads that Carlsberg are running, which pour cold water on its famous strap-line that it brews “probably the best beer in the world.” Now the brewery have admitted that its standard lager was not up to scratch, and even gone as far as suggesting the former head brewer has met a sticky end.
All marketing b*sh*t of course, but what Carlsberg have done is, in their words, “Re-brew the beer from head to hop, to deliver a smoother, fuller mouth-feel and a perfect balance of bitterness and sweetness.” They have also tried to retain the light, refreshing qualities of its predecessor.
Carlsberg then go on to talk about “Distinctive citrus and floral hop aromas that deliver greater depth of flavour, and a hoppy moreish aftertaste, that will stay with you until the final sip.” Despite such glowing words, it is worth remembering that the beer remains at 3.8% ABV (too weak for a Pilsner, in my opinion), and is brewed at the company's UK plant in Northamptonshire, rather than in Copenhagen.
Carlsberg had obviously turned up at the seminar with the intention of winning over hearts and minds, as they brought with them a massive stack of tinnies. These were available to take home, for Guild members attending either or both events. It therefore seemed rude not to take advantage of their hospitality, and to grab a six-pack for me to try at home.
My excuse was the cans were for my son, who is a well-known lager
lout drinker, but I was actually quite keen to sample the beer for myself,
particularly given all the hype surrounding it. One claim put forward by
Carlsberg that I do whole-heartedly agree with is that of “Minimising the beers’ environmental
This is because the cans utilise Carlsberg's snap-pack glue joins, which do away with the more-or less universal plastic ties, used to hold the cans together. Cans in the multi-pack are held together by small dollops of specially developed glue, which can be snapped apart.. Carlsberg claims this innovative system will reduce plastic use by 1,200 tonnes across their global brands every year.
So what is the beer actually like? Well, I have to say it tasted considerably better than I expected although, as stated previously, it is not really strong enough to call itself a true Pilsner. There was certainly some hop aroma present when poured, and there was some delicate malt notes in the background.
I can’t help thinking though that Carlsberg haven’t gone far enough with the re-vamp, by upping the strength to 4.4% - to match the classic Pilsner Urquell – the original pilsner, and the world’s first golden lager.
Despite these misgivings, I still managed to knock back several cans over the course of the weekend, so Carlsberg must be doing something right. It’s low strength allowed me to whet my whistle, without experiencing too much of an after effect from the alcohol.
For a more in-depth, and also a more balanced view of Carlsberg Danish Pilsner, have a read of this article by beer historian and published author, Martyn Cornell, on his Zythophile website.