Germany may have a worldwide reputation for excellent beers, but that is no thanks to the capital city, Berlin. The city’s major labels – the bland Berliner Kindl and Schultheiss – are both part of the Radeberger group, which does not mean great things for the drink’s diversity. And the rest of Berlin’s brewing identity is wrapped up in the Berliner Weisse, a wheat beer with a sour taste that is often sweetened with green-coloured woodruff syrup or red raspberry syrup.
beer gets spoiled, I could sell it as Berliner Weisse,” said Thorsten Schoppe, the brewer at Brauhaus Südstern, a brewery, beer
garden and restaurant in the
Kreuzberg district, and a leader in the emerging microbrew scene that hopes to change
the city’s poor reputation for beer. “There were always bad beers here, though.
It’s a city where people from other parts of Germany settle and drink beers
from their own [region].”
country pub-esque Brauhaus Südstern is Schoppe’s base, but he also sells beer
to bars across Berlin, including the rough and ready Bierkombinat Kreuzberg in
Kreuzberg, which he co-owns. He
started his career by making traditional light, dark and wheat beers, but has since
branched out into more experimental brewing. This includes a beer made with
mate – a South American tea-like drink – and an American-style IPA. The
selection of beers available at each bar – and sometimes even the names of the
individual brews – change regularly.
have a good shelf life – and that inspired me to build a bottling plant,” Schoppe said. “Strong
beers interest me generally, and the next one I make will be Belgian-style.”
experiments continue at Brewbaker in the Moabit
district. In the unlikely confines of Arminius Halle, a market hall in a largely
residential area, a basic-looking bar serves up the works of Michael Schwab. Again,
the old German stalwarts are being supplemented with new ideas from overseas. The
Brewbaker beers include a particularly sharp IPA that still has yeast and
protein sediment in the bottom, and a bock (a
German lager) made with
elderblossom. The fruity, flowery tones complement a strong body, and work well
with the hops. But it is a beer to drink for the complex flavours rather than
how easily it goes down – and this is typical of the shift in thinking among
Eschenbrenner started Eschenbräu in the
basement of a student dormitory while he was still at university. The operation
has now expanded into a restaurant and beer garden in the district of Wedding, where
he regularly rotates special brews, which include the banana-flavoured
Weizenbock and an exceptionally bitter Weddinator double bock. The Amber Rocket
stout is made with British hops, and the honey-sweet PankeGold has more intense
Schoppe at Brauhaus
Südstern, Eschenbrenner is not afraid to tackle one of German brewing’s sacred
cows. The Reinheitsgebot – or German Beer
Purity Law – is the oldest food regulation in the world, dating back to 1516.
It states that the only ingredients that can be used in the production of beer
are water, hops and barley. Most German brewers proudly stick to this as a sign
of quality and purity – but it limits what can be done with a beer in terms of
“I don’t feel I have to go by the law,” Eschenbrenner
said. “If I want to use other ingredients, I just don’t label it as beer.”
He does not
to become too big, either. “I don’t want to lose contact with the brewing
process,” he said. “I want to have dirty fingers from working with the product,
not handling the money.”
for what they do is a common trait among Berlin’s microbrewers.
“It was my biggest dream to run my own brewery,” said Wilko Bereit, who blasts punk and metal music
while he is brewing at Rollberger in the Neukölln district.
“Nobody tells you what or when to do something. I work when it is necessary and
I love my job, even though it’s 70 to 80% cleaning.”
may be unconventional -- but they work. The hip Kreuzberg tapas bar Raval is one of an increasing
number of joints to stock Rollberger beer, which is hoppy and highly
distinctive, with a pale ale taste but a pilsner-like look and feisty undercut.
If there is one glass that marries the best of German beer tradition and the
new ideas that Berlin’s microbrewers are bringing in, this is it.