Merry people bounding down the streets sporting blue Santa hats, bars are full of happy customers and the streets are lined with… foam? This was the scene that we were met with soon after leaving Nørrebro Bryghus in the trendy suburb of Nørrebro; and it appeared the closer to the city centre we walked the wilder the festivities became. We’d heard rumours earlier that day that today was ‘J-Dag’ in Copenhagen, but what did that really mean?
What is J-Dag?
To celebrate the coming of Christmas, on the first Friday in November horse-drawn carts leave the Tuborg Brewery laden down with the limited edition Christmas Beer to deliver to the local pubs. At 8:59pm the Christmas beer is launched and locals will dress up, complete with Tuborg-blue coloured Santa hats; free samples of the years brew is handed out and replica snow (aka: foam) lines the streets, particularly in the Rådhuspladsen (Town Halls plaza) in the city centre.
Why is it called ‘J-Dag’? ‘Juleøl’ is the Danish word for Christmas beer (‘Jul’ means Christmas) and the word ‘dag’ is Danish for ‘day’ – what does that mean? J-Dag means ‘Christmas Brew Day!’
What makes Christmas beers so special?
In 1980 a special Christmas themed commercial was created for the regular Tuborg pilsner beer, but due to it’s popularity with the public Tuborg decided to test a special ‘Christmas Beer’ in 1981. The beer was a hit and despite only being sold for 6-weeks every year it remains the fourth most sold beer in Denmark.
The beer not only marks the beginning of the holiday season, but averaging a huge 5.7% alcohol level it gives every drinker a reason to party! If you aren’t looking for such a big alcoholic kick, never fear there is the ‘Julepilsner’ which may take your fancy which is 4.6% alcohol.
Is Tuborg the only brewery which makes the Julebryg (Christmas Brew)?
Whilst Tuborg is the original brewers of the Julebryg, today most breweries create their own version. Whilst in Copenhagen I sampled three different Christmas brews all with different but delightfully warm flavours.
The Tuborg beer is the most popular and is the longest running Julebryg in Denmark. Coming from famous brewing company Carlsberg, the beer was created in 1981 after their Christmas advertisement became hugely popular amongst the public. With a blue label coating the outside of the bottle it is hard to mistake this beer which contains traces of caramel, liquorice, and black current. Delicious!
Tuborg beer can be found everywhere in Denmark. From the local bars to the 7/11 supermarkets there will be cases going out with signs on them reading ‘not to be open until 21:59 4/11/11′
This brewery has been run almost single handedly by Mikkel Borg Bjergsø since 2007. Located in Vesterbro, just off the main street, the bar offers 20 brews on-tap at a time with over half of them being Mikkeller brews. Each year the brewery puts out Santa’s Little Helper – their Julebryg for the year. In 2010, the beer was a very sweet dark-brew containing traces of orange, coriander, cloves and aniseed; somewhat reminiscent of a Christmas plum pudding.
This is a very trendy bar for any time of the year and if you are up for it ask to see their strongest alcohol – it’s inside a squirrel!
Micro-breweries have taken off across the world and it is no different in Copenhagen. One of the award winning breweries in the city is Nørrebro Bryghu located where else but in Nørrebro.
The 2010 Nørrebro Julebryg was heavy on the Christmas spices; think ginger, clove and cinnamon, with a barely detectable taste of caramel. The taste was also quite fruity, a perfect combination with the spices reminding me of a traditional Christmas fruitcake.
Don’t just go for their Christmas beer though, they do a great selection of beers all year round and brew several of them on site. Whilst watching your drinks being made you can indulge in either a pub style meal or some fine dining in their restaurants. Beer tasting tours are also available.
So enjoy J-Dag, the blue Santa hats, the foam which coats everything (just don’t get tackled into it like me!) and taste as many of the different brews as you can, they’re all different but all taste like Christmas in your mouth from the warmth to the spices, because the Danish bars will be open late celebrating the start of the countdown to Christmas!
Does your country celebrate J-Dag or have a christmas brew?
For more information have a look at…
- the official Tuborg J-Dag Website (it’s in Danish but their is a cute cartoon worth watching!)
- in Copenhagen and want to try some fresh Danish brews? Why not visit Mikkeller!
- Have a love for gourmet pub food, or perhaps you want to learn more about how beer is created – Nørrebro Bryghus is the right place for you.
If you choose to drink any alcohol, including one of the many Christmas brews found in Denmark, please remember to drink responsibly.
Foam Picture: Justin Morris because I was too busy playing in the foam snow!
Tuborg pic: Carlsburg Website and 733
Mikkeller pic: Dylan Lowe, Hallisar and Brostad
Nørrebro Bryghu pic: taken by Nicole Smith