by Tim Anderson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Apparently invigorated by the influx of foreign beers into Denmark over the last four years that has seen consumption of quality (generally foreign) beers skyrocket over the past years, Carlsberg has taken its first steps in response. Virtually at the same moment I hit the ’publish’ button for the last article I wrote regarding the Danish beer market (The Remarkable Danish Beer Market), Carlsberg announced the introduction of a new line of exclusive, upmarket beers, to be brewed under the name ‘Jacobsen’ (after J.C. Jacobsen, who founded Carlsberg in 1847) in a microbrewery located beside Carlsberg’s Copenhagen headquarters. The Jacobsen line of beers consists of Bramley Wit, Brown Ale, Dark Lager and Saaz Blonde.
This is an excellent sign, from my perspective. The trend towards quality, upmarket beers entering the Danish market is apparently more than a ‘blip’ on the radar screen. Unlike four years ago, when Carlsberg’s market domination of the beer market in Denmark was so comprehensive that the company's half-hearted attempt to revitalise its product range involved offering four new beers, quickly withdrawing three of them (keeping the 'best') and promptly ending all marketing and promotional efforts geared towards bringing this new offering into the mainstream beer market. But time does bring change.
So although this influx of foreign beers into Denmark may have had little financial impact on Carlsberg’s Danish operations – Carlsberg continues to dominate the market – the change is now visibly apparent when visiting bars and shops across Copenhagen, making Carlsberg’s domination seem not nearly as overwhelming as it once was. Choice has returned to the pubs and bars across the city.
Unfortunately, in terms of taste, the new Jacobsen beers, similar to it's 'Hvede' beer introduced a few years ago, do not offer a depth of taste comparable to that many of the foreign beers that are available. After enjoying a Jacobsen Dark Brown, and taking a few sips of the Jacobsen Saaz Blonde a friend was drinking, I was left with the clear impression that neither was bad at all – they were both decent beers with a fair amount of taste. And they were certainly infinitely more interesting than the typical Carlberg or Tuborg pilsner. However, I was nonetheless left with the overwhelming desire for something more. The Saaz Blonde simply did not possess the depth of flavour I have come to expect in a good wheat beer. The Hoegaarden I subsequently ordered did the trick in satisfying this urge. So Jacobsen is a nice addition to the Carlsberg beer family, no doubt, but Carlsberg hasn’t been able to cross over that invisible line that will allow it seriously challenge the more established foreign beers in the area of taste.
So the risk in all of this is that Carlsberg will reach into it’s old bag of market domination tricks, ones that have served it so well over the years, in order to try and convince significant numbers of Danish bars that may be considering adding one or two taps for more upmarket offerings, to opt for Jacobsen over those tasty foreign beers. I am the first to admit that whatever the outcome, all of this is better than no choice at all, which is how it was not that long ago.
There's more! Read on, Setting the record straight - The remarkable Danish beer market (Part 3).