He had no formal academic or scientific training (although he had attended some lectures by Hans Christian Ørsted). In the 1840s he had come to realise that production of beer, which had until then been done in numerous small breweries, now had to be based on scientific methods and to be industrialised.
Starting in 1844, he established his brewery Carlsberg (named after his son, Carl Jacobsen), in Valby on the outskirts of Copenhagen, on a site where it has remained since. Being extremely scrupulous as for the securing of high quality beer, in 1875 he founded the Carlsberg Laboratory.
He took much interest in public affairs and supported the National Liberal Party – being gradually more of a conservative – both as an Member of Parliament for some periods between 1854 and 1871 and as a strong supporter of the case of defence. Besides he was a well-known patron of art. After the fire of Frederiksborg Palace in 1859 he paid its rebuilding.
1876 he also founded “Carlsberg-fondet” - the Carlsberg Foundation that became his heir because of family problems of the next years. A bitter conflict with his son Carl led to the latter's foundation of the Ny Carlsberg (New Carlsberg) Brewery 1882. A reconciliation was however obtained 1886. This conflict was the theme of a debated Danish TV drama series aired in 1997.