You might recall my mentioning in a previous article the story of Isaac Jacobsen transporting a sample of pure yeast from Louis Pasteur’s laboratory in Paris to the brewery in Copenhagen. Legend has it that Jacobsen kept the precious sample alive by keeping it under his top hat!
This isn’t the only legend attributed to Carlsberg, it is said that the King of Denmark enjoyed Carlsberg with his meals; the classic Carlsberg glass still bears a golden crown in recognition of this. When the King visited England in 1924, he arranged for a case of Carlsberg to be delivered to the Indian restaurant ‘Veeraswamy’ in London’s West End in anticipation of his visit, thus cementing the close marriage between Lager and Curry that thrives to this day.
Elephant Beer is named for the four life sized stone elephants that grace one of the entrances to the Carlsberg brewery in Copenhagen. The elephants were carved in 1901 and each bears the initials of one of Carl Jacobsen’s children – Helge, Paula, Theodora, and Vagn. The elephants also bear the swastika, which Carlsberg registered as a trademark in 1901 – this was the golden age of trademarks, Bass had registered the red triangle, Benz the three pointed star (and incidentally the four pointed star which they never used). Carlsberg never really used the swastika, and it was dropped after some Germans started using it for non-beer related activities.
Elephant Beer was initially brewed as a ‘Special Export’ for the African market in 1955 and then sold in Europe in 1959. At 7.2% it’s one of the stronger mainstream lagers, but it still pales by comparison to Carlsberg’s Special Brew, supposedly brewed for Winston Churchill in 1950 to a full 9%. Some countries brew Elephant Beer under licence, but the stuff we get here in the UK hails from Copenhagen.
It pours well, producing a firm white head and a potent, hoppy nose.
The flavour is definitely malty, with those slight estery (nail varnish) hints that there’s some serious alcohol hiding away. Fortunately there’s no chance to dwell on that, because there’s a rush of hops that completely wipes anything unpleasant from your memory.
This is a well crafted and well balanced beer, in my opinion is the best of the Carlsberg brews, carefully walking the tightrope between flavour and potency.
But at 7% ABV it should still be treated with respect!
Have you tried Elephant Beer? What did you think?