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J-Day: Denmark’s Beer-Filled Start to the Holiday Season

It’s beginning to smell a lot like licorice.

The first Friday of November, also known as “J-Day,” is rarely a quiet one on the streets of Copenhagen, Denmark. At the strike of 8:59 pm, residents await the annual delivery of Tuborg’s Julebryg Christmas ale, a seasonal licorice-infused strong dark pilsner. Often accompanied by the festive Julebryg jingle, the entire city transforms into an (often drunken) party that kicks off the holiday season.

Like an adult version of Santa Claus, many residents await the colorful and jubilant sleighs (or in this case, trucks) full of brand reps who merrily visit bars and streets all over the country to distribute free samples of the seasonal beer. Although the beer is only available for 10 weeks each year, this popular drinks attracts hundreds of young Danes waiting to get their hands on the limited drink.

Carlsberg Truck Wikimedia

The History

Tuborg’s Julebryg was first introduced in 1981, but it wasn’t until a 1984 commercial featuring Santa chasing a Tuborg truck in his sleigh that sparked the beer’s popularity. Now the longest-running commercial in Danish history, the campaign quickly became an essential part of the Danish holiday season.

It wasn’t until 1990 that J-Day became a holiday tradition to mark the beer’s release. However, the day wasn’t always on the first Friday of November. From 1990-1998, the beer was released at 11:59 pm on the second Wednesday of November, but one too many hungover teens (the legal for purchasing alcohol is 16 in Denmark) and employees caused the day to be moved.

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Twenty-eight years later, J-Day is celebrated in three Danish cities and numerous countries including Germany, Iceland, Sweden, Romania, Japan, Serbia, and Switzerland, sharing a touch of Danish snow and jubilee with beer drinkers all around the world.

INSIDER TIP“Jul” meaning Christmas and “bryg,” brew, Julebryg directly translates to “Christmas Brew.”

Tuborg Julebryg Wikimedia
Tuborg Julebryg WikimediaWikimedia/Royal Export

The Beer

A slightly higher alcohol percentage than a traditional lager, Julebryg is a strong dark pilsner Christmas ale that combines classic Danish flavors to create a dark, sweet, and spicy ale that sets it apart from similar seasonal beers.

With almost the same taste as when it was released in 1981, the pilsner is brewed with lager, münchener, and caramel malts; the ale is spiced with licorice for a uniquely Danish touch that celebrates their love for licorice and beer.

On the bottle itself inscribes the phrase “Glædig jul og godt Tub’år,” a pun-filled twist on the classic greeting “Merry Christmas and a Happy…Tuborg.” Accompanying the phrase is the original artwork from the popular commercial which originated from a 1979 postcard, the cartoon drawing remains the main distinguisher of the annual beer.

INSIDER TIPWant a taste of more classic Danish ales? Be sure to tour the official Carlsberg brewery for a taste of all of what Tuborg and Carlsberg have to offer.

Flickr JDay Denmark
Flickr JDay DenmarkFlickr/Karl Baron

The Celebration

In the minutes leading up to 8:59 pm the first Friday of November, bar patrons and bartenders all over the country await to tap their kegs of Julebryg and for the visit of the Tuborg elves to deliver their gifts of free Julebryg samples and swag. Often dressed up in blue Christmas elf costumes, the Tuborg, now owned by Carlsberg, employees arrive in branded trucks and horse-drawn carriages singing the Julebryg jingle to the tune of Jingle Bells, which erupts patrons everywhere in similar jubilee. The beer’s release, like the first snowfall of the year, marks the beginning of the holiday season.

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