Danish Christmas Beer

Danish Christmas beer: Everything you need to know about J-Dag and Christmas beer in Denmark

Few people in the world celebrate Christmas as well as the Danes do, and not many countries can claim to have more prowess when it comes to beer than Denmark. Put two of the country’s greatest specialties together, and what do you get? Danish Christmas beer, of course.

Danes flock to buy Christmas beer in the country as soon as it hits the shelves, and the seasonal cheer begins with a very boozy Friday in November. From that moment on, it’s all hands on deck with cozy lighting and sweet treats.

What exactly is Danish Christmas beer, though? To understand more, we have to start by looking at the J-Dag tradition in Denmark. This article will do precisely that before talking more about the Danes’ much-loved Julebryg.

What is J-Dag in Denmark?

Known as J-Day in English (and pronounced identically to the Danish version), J-Dag is widely perceived as the first day of Denmark’s Christmas celebrations. The event has occurred every year since 1985, except for 2020; the COVID-19 pandemic forced its cancellation that year.

On J-Dag, trucks carrying *a lot* of Tuborg Christmas beer trucks typically drive around Denmark’s main cities. Those in the crowd can get free drinks as they’re handed over.

But the celebrations don’t stop with the trucks. Bars in Copenhagen and beyond also stock up on Julebryg, with their sales commencing that day. Many Danes take full advantage, and you can expect a pretty wild night out if you find yourself in Denmark at the time.

Danish Christmas Beer

When is J-Dag?

J-Dag takes place every November, and the event is usually held throughout Denmark on the first Friday. The 2022 edition is scheduled for November 3rd, and the 2023 equivalent will take place on November 2nd.

The only exception to the November rule was in 2009 when J-Dag took place on October 30th instead.

Other years have seen the event occur later in November. For example, the 1990 version — the first commercial J-Dag — took place on November 14th. But since 1999, with the exception of 2009, J-Dag has been celebrated on the first Friday in November.

How do the Danes celebrate J-Dag?

As mentioned earlier, the J-Day celebrations in Denmark usually involve trucks carrying either Tuborg or Carlsberg Christmas beer. Tuborg is the more famous Julebryg maker, but we’ll talk more about that later.

These trucks drive through many of Denmark’s main towns and cities, and they usually involve people dressed in blue Santa outfits. These individuals have perhaps the most important job in the entire country…

… handing out beer to the crowd.

J-Dag in Denmark usually commences at precisely 20:59, and from then onwards, it’s time to begin celebrating Christmas. The beer handouts are free to attend, and you don’t need to pay for any beer you receive at that event.

Once the initial celebrations have died down, many Danes continue the night at bars and pubs. Some dress up in Santa hats and costumes, but you’re not going to look out of place if you decide to wear your ordinary clothes instead.

How the rest of the night goes is up to you. You can either decide to keep drinking until you’ve had enough or — if you’d prefer — you can always head home and get an early night. But let’s face it, it’ll probably be the former.

What is Julebryg?

Julebryg is the Christmas beer you will find throughout Denmark, and it tastes very different from an ordinary pilsner. The beer is typically dark brown, and it has more of a bitter taste than regular Tuborg or Carlsberg.

You can drink Julebryg in any setting you want, but it goes particularly well with your food if you ever have a Julefrokost. You’ll easily notice the drink by the blue stickers, which typically feature Christmas-themed illustrations.

Alcohol percentages for Christmas beer vary; Tuborg is 5.6%. While both drinks remain separately branded today, both are part of the same company; Carlsberg Group owns the pair of them.

Christmas beer is also popular in other Nordic countries. While Tuborg and Carlsberg are the main two Danish versions, you will also find several similar beverages created by microbreweries; this is a relatively new phenomenon.

Danish Christmas Beer

Where can I buy Christmas beer in Denmark?

If you’re planning a trip to Copenhagen in November, you will find it almost impossible to avoid at least seeing Christmas beer. Julebryg is widely available throughout the city, and the same is true if you go to another part of Denmark instead.

Most major supermarkets will stock at least one kind of Christmas beer. That could be Carlsberg or Tuborg, or — in some cases — you’ll find a spinoff that tastes very similar. You can purchase both cans and bottles; the only requirement is that you’re of the legal drinking age.

When you’re out on the town, you’ll find Christmas beer in almost every bodega. You might need to purchase bottles, but many will also have the drink on tap if that’s your preference. Ordinary pubs and bars will also stock Julebryg, especially on J-Dag.

You will also find Christmas beer in many kiosks, along with the majority of 7-Eleven stores.

If you visit Denmark after Christmas, don’t worry — you can still find Julebryg. Many Danish supermarkets will discount any remaining stock to get rid of it, meaning that you could find a great deal if you look carefully. Netto and Lidl are two useful starting points if this is what you’re going for.

Is J-Dag an important tradition in Denmark?

J-Dag is a relatively new tradition; the first non-commercial version was hosted in 1985. Since then, however, it has become one of the most important dates in many Danes’ calendars.

The beer handouts for J-Dag typically attract large crowds, and many bars and pubs are packed throughout the evening. For many people, it’s an excuse to go out with their friends and get drunk — while saving a bit of money.

One thing worth noting is that while J-Dag is an immensely popular day in Denmark, it is not a public holiday. So, if you don’t want to join in with the celebrations, you’ll still be able to enjoy tourist attractions and shopping like any other day.

Is Danish Christmas beer good?

Taste is subjective; some Danes love Christmas beer, but others couldn’t care less about it. But if you’re not a fan of ordinary pilsners, you might want to try Julebryg. Compared to the Tuborg and Carlsberg you’ll see throughout the year, Danish Christmas beer is much more flavorsome.

Christmas beer has a very distinct taste that you can only describe as “Christmassy”. It’s not quite stout, but at the same time, it bears very little resemblance to standard beers you’re probably used to trying.

Craft beer has become more popular in Copenhagen, and many of the city’s microbreweries have given Christmas beer their own twist. As such, you’ll find several options that will meet your tastes — with some lighter than others.

Danish Christmas Beer
Credit: Tomasz Sienicki

What is Danish Christmas ale?

Danish Christmas ale isn’t too different from Christmas beer. The main difference is how the drinks are fermented and the fact that ales have a larger alcohol percentage than ordinary beers.

What is in Danish Christmas ale, then? Well, it’s not too different from the regular Christmas beers you’ll see. Caramel and nuts feature, and you will also have multiple spices to give it the taste you experience.

Tuborg Christmas beer

Tuborg is the most famous of the Danish-style Christmas beers, and the company is largely responsible for bringing J-Dag to the world.

While it has a huge fanbase in Denmark, Tuborg’s Christmas beer is also popular in other parts of the world. In 2010, for example, Iceland’s alcohol monopoly reported that Tuborg was the most popular version of Julebryg in the country.

32,100 liters of the beverage were sold, which is pretty impressive for a country with fewer than 400,000 people. In Iceland, Tuborg had a 43% market share for Christmas beer.

Considering how popular the Tuborg Julebryg is, it’s difficult to think that it didn’t exist 50 years ago. The company first introduced the beer in 1981, and since then, it has grown in popularity with each passing year.

Carlsberg Christmas beer

Carlsberg is arguably more famous than Tuborg in Denmark, and it certainly has a larger presence outside of the country. However, its Christmas beer is a little more low-key — but don’t mistake that for thinking that people don’t enjoy it.

Carlsberg Christmas beer has been tested in other markets, including the launch of its product in the UK in 2010. In Denmark and other markets, you will find the Semper Ardens Christmas Ale — which is 8.3%.

When looking for Carlsberg Julebryg, you probably won’t find it as readily available in Denmark as Tuborg. Nonetheless, you shouldn’t have too many challenges getting one that you like.

Celebrating J-Day and Danish Christmas beer

J-Dag is the perfect way to begin the run-up to Christmas in Denmark.

Danish Christmas beer is a must-try if you find yourself in Denmark during the run-up to Christmas. Besides being an important part of the country’s traditions at this time of year, it simply tastes pretty good. Julebryg is flavorsome and an excellent go-to choice in multiple situations.

Danes eagerly anticipate J-Dag each year, and even if you don’t live here, it’s well worth joining the fun. Our advice? Go into any bar and ask for a Tuborg Christmas beer. You probably won’t be disappointed.

Denmark has a very strong drinking culture, and alcohol accompanies many social events throughout the year. Before you visit, getting accustomed to these is a good idea. We’ve written a dedicated guide to Danish drinking culture and the legal drinking age to help you out.

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