A short Weekend – Berlin and its Beer Festival
For the last twelve years I have been attending Berlin Beer Festival and hope to do so for some considerable time to come in my advancing years. But, as one gets older, ones capacity alcohol wise definitely gets less so I actually booked a day less this year. Mind you, I did manage to visit the beer festival on each of its three opening days.
It is known by most experienced visitors as the beer mile, covering an area between three U-Bahn Stations on the U7 line. The other reason for the name is that like most major cities in Europe it has a growing number of brew pubs and craft bars which, as a beer drinker, I wish to visit.
Arriving Thursday on an early morning flight from Luton I checked in my baggage at my hotel, funny enough just three stops from the beer mile, and this was just about 9.30am. Right, what to do next? Breakfast came to mind that was fairly easy as there was a cafe in the S-Bahn / U-Bahn station right opposite, this gave me time to make a rough plan for the rest of the day.
I found my way to Alexandraplatz via the S-Bahn just over an hour later. Unlike my first visit over ten years ago the Brauhaus Mitte no longer opens before midday and even then it’s a shadow of its former self.
Walking around I found myself in Marcus Brau the second brew pub I ever visited Berlin. Not the best by far, but at least the Dunkle is drinkable.
Around a hundred metres away is an off licence bar serving three beers via tap plus some three hundred bottled beers, just before the western entrance to Alexandraplatz Bahhof, a small beer sampled here from the BRLO Brewery in the Kreuzberg district of the city which was to be visited that evening so more later.
Then I went back on myself to visit the two Lemkes brew houses (Mitte and Hackermarkt). They were both re-visits as such but still worth a look and found to be perfectly acceptable to drink in. If I was honest I found the beer quality was not as good as previous visits though. I believe this is caused by its expansion which has resulted in the quality and taste definitely suffering in my opinion. The former Mitte brew house actually just brews the two traditional beers from the brewery, the Pilsner and the Dunkle, on a much smaller brew plant.
It was time to go back to the hotel to book in properly and freshen up, and also have a short afternoon nap to enable one to keep going the rest of the day! So, some two hours later, I resurfaced into the world.
As in a lot of European major cities it can be noted that most of the better bars and brew houses open late afternoon and Berlin has fallen in behind, unlike my early visits when most opened from around 10.30am.
My first call of the evening was to meet up with an old friend at the Hops and Barley brew pub. Two of the monthly specials were sampled here and in top order, both had been brewed for the Berlin Craft Beer Week two weeks’ earlier. A good chin wag but conscious of time it was on to my next evening targets.
The first of these was in Kreuzberg, now where have I heard that name before? A craft bar with over twenty four taps always featuring at least six beers from Berlin breweries.
Hopenreich is always a delight to visit, it opens from 4pm every day and you’re greeted by friendly and knowledgeable staff with a great choice of national and international beers. As time was limited I sampled just two beers here from local breweries which did not have taps. Again, I have found in the years visiting all are served in top nick. This bar is served by a local S-Bahn station some three hundred metres away but be aware you have to cross a busy road.
Up one U-Bahn stop, my next port of call was the Biererei Bar on Oranienstrasse which was a new bar to me and one which had been open only a month or so. It’s very modern in design and I took an instant dislike to it. Whilst the choice was good, the beers sampled I found to be far too cold for my taste. It’s highly rated by Rate Beer so a future visit will be made to see who is right. Oh, and I will state now the beer choice was good but not spectacular.
last visit of the evening was on the other edge of Kreuzberg and this was the BNRO Brew house just off Schöneberger Strasse right next to a U-Bahn / S-Bahn station.
For some reason I missed this on my last visit but it’s definitely got the wow factor. Made out of thirty six Shipping containers it holds a 20 hectolitre brew house, a bar and seating for over two hundred plus offices. The beer garden must seat around five hundred customers and has an outside bar plus a couple of booths selling ice cream etc.
On the day it was selling over ten beers brewed in situation including two IPAs, Pilsen, Stouts and Sours; now you know why I said this was my last call of the evening!
The gardens actually open at midday from April to October but the bar and restaurant open from 5pm. To say the least I was impressed. Oh, and the place was absolutely rammed customer wise.
Berlin Part Two
At breakfast I reflected on the day before and made my plans for the rest of this day, I wanted to know if my enthusiasm for the BNRO was in fact right or had I let the amount of alcohol consumed cloud my judgement?
So, it was back to BNRO in time for the beer garden’s midday opening and it was just a short distance via two U-Bahn lines. It’s surprising what seeing a place in the daylight brings. No, not a change of mind, it still was a gem of a place serving good quality beer at a good venue but in the daylight you saw its surrounding recreational area for the people living nearby. Also a large number of flats surrounding the recreation area and the area back to the city centre a radio station opposite the station; all missed in the evening twilight.
This time, without the crowds of the night before, I was able to see the whole of the complex in context. The brew house, the restaurant, bar, offices and large beer garden all worthy of visiting. Okay, not as much of a wow as the previous evening but still impressed.
A couple of one-third litre beers sampled before the main visit of the day which was, of course, the beer festival. A short(ish) U-Bahn ride and three tram stops later I was at the Frankfurter Tor side of the festival queuing to get my 200ml festival glass, and the small plan of the areas where the brewery bars can be found; very helpful early on but not so after consuming a few beers!
Where to start was fairly easy as there were bars from Spain, Lithuania, Estonia, Italy and Finland nearby. I started with two beers from a brew pub in Helsinki, their Summer Beer at 5.2% and an IPA at 5.5%, both €2.80 for 200ml measure. I would hate to think of the price if purchased in Finland but the beer was good in quality and taste.
I then sampled just the one beer from the Lithuanian stand and beer here was pretty standard if honest. It was then just a matter over the next two hours of walking westward to the middle of the festival site sampling beers from breweries known and not known, including a couple from countries where beers have not been sampled before.
Now, I have found during my twelve years of attending that this is a good time to take a bit of a break so I returned to my hotel for a freshen up and a quiet break. At my advancing age I can no longer drink all day and night.
Just before 6pm I returned to the festival via the U-Bahn. I again took a westward direction towards Alexandraplatz, along this section of the festival are the Bavarian bars plus some from the Czech Republic and Poland. A few beers sampled whilst walking along including a few from brand new breweries; new to me at least
Here I met up with a couple of friends form London and had a chat with the secretary of one of the Bavarian consumer organisations. Now approaching 8pm, my thoughts turned to food and I had somewhere in mind just a mile away so using the S-Bahn I arrived at Ostkreuz and walked some four hundred metres to the Strassenbrau brew pub on Neue Bahnhofstraße. Here they have some twenty taps, eight of their own beer brewed on site, and a very good meal was purchased plus a couple of beers sampled; from their own plant of course.
It was now well past 8pm so walking back to the S-Bahn I took the opportunity to make a quick visit to Zukunft Ostkreuz, sited almost next door to the S-Bahn Station. It’s a quirky place, a brew-pub in a cinema complex, with Just two beers available but both brewed on site in a very traditional style; okay, okay – dull. Time to call it a day so I returned to my hotel ready for another full day in the morning.
As usual during breakfast the plan was made for the day. My immediate target for mid-morning was the Stones Taproom in Oderberger Strasse, Prenzlauer Berg, which had been open around three months at the time of my visit. It opens early for the breakfast trade and casual drinkers and is popular with American expats.
Just seventeen taps available here and to be honest it is tiny in comparison to may bars in the area. I tried two small beers, 250ml approx, one brewed in Berlin at Stones Brewery (their version of a Berliner Weiss) and one from a brewery from California not heard of before.
It was then back to the beer festival, this time walking west to east sampling new beers and meeting old friends including some met on many occasions during my time visiting the festival.
I did come across a new cuckoo brewer based in Berlin who is promising to open a brew pub before next year’s festival in the city. Bräugier is to be based in Prenzlauer Berg and is the third I have heard of which are to open during 2019. The beers on offer were good but brewed at present in the suburb of Spandau.
My usual break was made and in fact I did not return that day, my wanders took me to a number of craft bars in the Mitte district before returning to my hotel and a Chinese restaurant.
My final day in Berlin but at least my flight was not until early evening. I had two targets yet to visit brew pub wise so after booking out of my hotel, leaving my luggage until my flight time, I made
my way to the beer festival and visited the last remaining bars I required. Sunday is a good day to pick up brewery produce, tee shirts etc, as the prices drop by half and some real bargains can be purchased.
I visited the Georgbraeu brew pub for an early lunch alongside the River Spree, just traditional styled beers served here and I had the Dunkle which I consider the best they brew there.
It was on to an old favourite of mine, Sudstern in Kreuzberg, and to the new location of the Schalander brew pub, both of which proved to be disappoints beer quality wise. In fact the former building is not a patch on its original premises.
Time to return to my hotel, pick up my luggage and get to the Hops & Barley for a last pint of their seasonal brew before travelling to the airport and arriving back in the UK at10.40pm. Hmm ok, another beer festival two days later!!