Emil came from a very poor and eccentric family. In his youth he tried almost everything to make a living, from theatre performances and house painting, to a career in art and studying to be a teacher. He also wrote stories. At one point he was so poor and desperate that he considered traveling south to join Garibaldi’s army in Italy.
Luckily for him and for all beer lovers of the world, he was then accepted for a job as a tutor. He could finally support his studies and even won a gold medal at Copenhagen University for his study of Danish fungi. It’s a short step from fungi to yeast, so he soon started to work at Carlsberg as a researcher on “organisms in beer.”
In 1883 he announced his system of pure yeast cultures. Hansen understood that “bad beer” was not only a result of bacterial infection, as Pasteur had assumed, but contamination by wild yeast. He then worked to isolate a single cell of good yeast and propagated it into a pure culture. The new “Carlsberg bottom yeast n.1” was used for the first time, and with great success, on a production scale in November 1883.
In 1902 Hansen celebrated 25 years of work at Carlsberg and was presented with a gold medal by Carl Jacobsen. The award was recognition for being one of the most influential pioneers in the fermentation industry.