Carlsberg A/S

I'm several miles from Copenhagen's city center and about to enter the premises of beer brewer Carlsberg but for some reason it doesn't look like the right entrance. Having visited the company before you'd think I'd know the way. Then again, that was four years ago and the lousy reception received was something I'd just as soon forget (go to for details of the first visit).

It's a big spread out complex (94 acres) located on a slight hill and buffeted by residential areas on three sides and train tracks on the other. Matter of fact, the location on a hill has something to do with the naming of the company. Back in 1847 founder J.C. Jacobsen established the brewery on this site and named it Carlsberg (Carl's hill) after his five-year old son Carl and this hill (berg is the Danish word for hill). I've evidently slipped in a back way so I stop and ask a gardener for directions. He points to a tall building nearby. Hmm I don't recall seeing any tall office buildings here last time.

Riding up to the 22-story building I make note of the weird-looking 20-foot tall fountain sculpture outside the entrance. Done in bronze, it looks like several tall telephone poles placed together with three-foot tall oversized bowling balls scattered amidst a pile of glob at the base. Upon entering the building visitors are confronted by a large display of beer stacked up on the lobby floor. At first glance it looks like cases of bottled beer but upon closer inspection I discover they're PLASTIC bottles. Egads, what the heck is going on here? One of the two security guard/receptions says it's something new. Then I remember I'm in Denmark. So? Well, in order to protect the environment, all beer has to come in refillable containers, and up until now-that meant glass (in Denmark you won't find beer or soda pop sold in aluminum cans). Carlsberg has become the first brewery in the world to introduce a plastic bottle designed to be refilled many times. It's going to be a tough sell to someone like me who relishes drinking beer out of the bottle.

The good-looking lobby area with wood floors is part of a long two-story atrium featuring real live ivy climbing up tresses. Visitors can plop down and relax on any of the eight bright yellow chairs. The security guard/receptionists are on top of things since they immediately know whom to contact when I identify myself. Then again, I notice they possess a copy of a news article containing my picture sent in the introductory material mailed a month earlier to CEO Flemming Lindelov.

Henrik Molstrom, Corporate Communications Manager, pours me a Coke as we go through the questions in his office. Why Coke? The Coca-Cola Company and Carlsberg have a partnership (Coca-Cola Company Nordic Beverages A/S) in which Carlsberg produces, sells and distributes Coca-Cola Company products throughout the Nordic region. Besides being a brewer of beer, Carlsberg also own Royal Copenhagen (makers of high-end porcelain, silver and glassworks) and the famous Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen.

It turn out my earlier comment of not seeing any tall office buildings during my last visit is half-right. Though this new head office was inaugurated in 1997, the building is a former malting house (five stories) and grain silo (22 stories). Matter of fact, the reason the two large buildings contain a combined total of only 132,000 square foot of floorage is due to part of the silo building still being used as a silo. About 200 employees work in the head office, over 2,000 employees on this 94-acre site and over 20,000 company-wide employees.

There's plenty of free parking for cars, covered parking for those who bike to work, two cafeterias, smoking is allowed in offices and the company recreation center includes four outdoor tennis courts. It's six miles to the airport, two miles to the nearest freeway and the 22-story building has a 13th floor. Employee perks? How about four cases of beer twice a year.

After Molstrom finishes answering questions I'm handed off to someone from the Carlsberg museum for a quick tour of the grounds. It's quite the place. The old Carlsberg plant, which ceased production in 1906, was re-established as a historical monument in 1982 and appears intact as a 19th century industrial complex. It now houses the new Carlsberg Visitors Center. Sculptures large and small seem to be everywhere. Why? Founder J.C. Jacobsen was very much interested in art and architecture. Easily the most eye-catching and photographed work is the Elephant Gate: two life-sized concrete elephants hold up an archway across a road.

It's an amazing place. In the midst of this big site which houses a modern bustling bottling plant & brewery, research laboratories, corporate offices as well as the visitors center complex, stands a large tree-filled park complete with beautiful hanging gardens. Why the park? It goes with the adjacent villa. Built in 1919, the impressive villa was the former residence of founder J.C. Jacobsen.

On the walk over to the Carlsberg Museum a detour is taken into a seemingly unused building. Why? I ask for a peek at what the Guinness Book of Records says is the world's largest collection of beer bottles. Wow, over 12,000 bottles lined up on glass shelves after glass shelves in room after room. It's definitely not the way they'd dare display it in my earthquake prone home state of California.

On the way to the company museum we pass a building housing overnight guests and employees here for training. Over the years I've visited quite a few corporate headquarters with facilities for accommodating "special guests". Not once have I ever been invited to spend a night. Disappointed? Yes. Especially since these "special guests" are usually top executives whose companies can well afford to put them up in top hotels. The company museum tour includes visiting the stables and admiring the 20 Jutland shires used as workhorses (similar to the Clydesdales used by Budweiser).

Several weeks earlier I was watching CNN and caught a segment/profile on Flemming Lindelov, the soccer playing CEO of Carlsberg. In the segment he comes across as a likeable, regular kind of guy. Hey guess what? That's also my assessment after meeting him in the flesh. Lindelov's corner office on the 20th floor affords him a spectacular view of the surrounding region. I make note of his antique stand-up desk, laptop computer and that fact his office is void of any plants.