2.9AROMA 5/10 APPEARANCE 3/5 TASTE 5/10 PALATE 3/5 OVERALL 13/20
Few beers have such nostalgic value to me as Carlsberg. I was first introduced to this beer when I was on active duty in the U.S. Navy and my ship pulled into Copenhagen, Denmark for a liberty port visit. I remember drinking Carlsberg at every bar and restaurant I went, mostly because it was not only the city’s hometown beer, but of all Denmark’s as well. Having visited many other European cities I noticed it was popular and available everywhere I went. I remember thinking it was okay at the time but it didn’t leave much of a long-term impression on me.
Now that I’ve matured as an appreciator of beer I’m able to sit down and analyze Carlsberg for what it really is: the Budweiser of Europe. I don’t mean that as a compliment nor as a criticism, but mostly just a cultural comparison. It’s a drinkable beer with a decent taste but there isn’t anything remarkable about it.
POUR, COLOR AND AROMA
The beer pours smoothly to a clear straw color and forms a well-proportioned, bright white, foamy head which never completely dissipates and leaves significant lacing on the glass. Upon first pouring this beer has a very active amount of carbonation, but as it sits it calms down to the point of being almost completely tepid. This would be normal for a craftier brew like a brown ale or stout, but since Carlsberg is a pilsner it’s quite strange.
The aroma is fairly standard for a beer of the type, but the difference is this beer has a distinctly sweeter scent. It’s just slightly floral and fruity, not just standard malts as most beers of the type.
I haven’t tasted Carlsberg in nearly two years but all those memories came rushing back as I drank my first bottle. I remember thinking this beer tasted pretty generic at the time and drinking it now I find that to still be true.
Anyone who’s ever had Budweiser, Miller, or Coors will be familiar with the basic taste of Carlsberg. The difference being this beer is slightly sweeter and doesn’t have the green apple aftertaste of the big American lagers. This is a pilsner after all, so it has a much crisper, cleaner taste than a standard lager.
In fact, the problem with Carlsberg is that it’s so clean it’s bland. There isn’t much of a distinctive flavor noticeable here. It’s a generic beer taste that’s almost watery.
I remember drinking a round of Carlsberg with my shipmates and noticing everyone comment to the effect that the beer was easy to drink. This is probably what makes it such a top seller since people will opt for a beer that’s easy to drink over a beer that’s well-flavored.
Carlsberg’s thin taste is complimented by a smooth finish. Had it been even remotely coarse I think this would have been a mediocre beer, but the fact it drinks as if it were water puts it in good standing with most drinkers.
I don’t know of too many pilsners that are anything other than light in weight. Such beers are intentionally light in body and Carlsberg is no exception. I wasn’t able to confirm the amount of calories per serving, but I would guess it’s fewer than 150. Additionally, at 5% ABV it’s a bit more potent than Americans are used to for this style of beer. But then again this is the type of beer that can and should be accompanied by food so most drinkers probably wouldn’t feel overwhelmed.
I was under the misconception that Carlsberg is considered a fantastic brew on a global scale, but after doing a little research on the internet I realized it’s generally considered average no matter who you ask. I guess it’s that crown on the label that threw me.