Looking for Craft Beer in Berlin?
Craft Beer excites us.
But not only us: many other people, too. Beer having character, handcrafted beer, honest beer. Beer from the underground, wicked beer.
This is the motto of Berlin’s Braufest, a craft beer festival that was held in the capital in May 2014, an event poised to become an annual tradition in this city obsessed with artisanal, locally produced brews – the hoppier the better. The organizers of Braufest have tapped into (no pun intended) a massive international trend: craft beer of all varieties, from bitter triple-hopped India Pale Ales to sultry smoked porters, fruity saisons to crisp, flavorful lagers. Berlin, long a pilsner town, is experiencing a craft beer explosion as brewers compete to see who can produce the tastiest, most complex offerings.
Historically, Berlin was a city of hundreds of competing independent breweries offerings their own take on favourites such as wheatbiere, bocks, pilsners and lagers. However, over the course of the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, large conglomerates (including Dr. Oetker) purchased many of these smaller breweries and homogenized the offerings to a few brands of (arguably) flavorless, watery pilsner. That is all starting to change, as the craft beer revolution that is sweeping the world takes hold in the German capital.
The Berlin Beer Academy is a consortium of local beer lovers, brewers and pub owners dedicated to being an “independent platform for beer competence.” The Academy organizes tastings, classes and seminars for both beer industry professionals and clientele, and sponsors a Craft Beer Pavilion at the Berlin Beer Mile. Similarly, international beer aficionado Rory Lawton at the Berlin Craft Beer website is dedicated to promoting the best beer that Germany has to offer. His phenomenal Berlin Craft Beer Map is a godsend to any thirsty traveler, and will make finding the best taps in the capital a breeze. These guys and gals take craft beer in Berlin seriously – and so should you!
A few tried and true suggestions for craft beer in Berlin:
Hops & Barley in Friedrichshain’s Wühlischstrasse is always a solid choice. While it may be located in a tourist hub, the pub attracts a diehard cadre of locals and beer pilgrims eager to down their beer and delectable snacks (try the brewer’s grain bread, made from byproducts of the brewing process) in a chill atmosphere, amidst copper kettles used for fermentation.
For an off-the-beaten-track selection, head to former industrial area Neukölln, home of a tiny brewery with a lot of style. Nestled amidst the ruin porn of abandoned factories and crumbling buildings is the Privatbrauerei Am Rollberg, an artisanal craft brewery that makes modern updates of German classics such as red, wheat and bock. While the beer is good, the location is even better, and the small biergarten outside will make you want to venture out to Neukölln every sunny day.
Looking for the cutting edge in delicious, unique beer in Berlin? You may look a little longer, as the Beer4Wedding crew has no fixed address – calling themselves “Gypsy Brewers.” Composed of three young brewers who met while studying the science of beer at University, they operate on a pop-up basis, taking over existing breweries for short stints. Their W.P.A. (Wedding Pale Ale) utilizes seven varieties of hops, and is highly sought after, so if you can track them down this beer is not to be missed.
Want to learn how to brew your own craft beer?
The tiny local Flessa-Brewery in a Prenzlauer Berg courtyard gives 6-hour classes on how to brew beer. You can also take a course with brewmaster Michael Schwab of BrewBaker, a Moabit brewery known for blending offbeat flavours (pumpkin spice or elderflower, anyone?) into his beers. The classes cost about 79 Euro per person (with a minimum of 4 attendees) and lasts for 6 hours – and they aren't solely demonstrations – you’ll be rolling up your sleeves and pitching in! Make sure to look out for BrewBaker offerings at local bottle shops and pubs.
Other ideas and beer shops
Speaking of bottle shops – perhaps you want to pick out a selection and enjoy them in a park, your room or at a party rather than in a pub? Then head to The Berlin Bier Shop, located near Tiergarten. These guys only sell “beers from outside the mainstream,” and offer a well-curated selection from all over the US, Europe and Germany.
Sure, you’re in Germany – but if you are craving an American-style IPA then you’ll be happy to know that the internationally renowned Stone Brewing Co. are opening the first US-owned Craft Brewery in Europe in Berlin. With a scheduled opening date of late 2015 or early 2016, we have a little while to wait – but it will be worth it!
With dozens of new craft beer pubs, biergartens and breweries opening each year in Berlin, there is always a new kid on the block - be sure to check the Berlin Craft Beer site to see if any new offerings tickle your fancy. When you visit Berlin, make sure you bring your thirst for life – and of course, for delicious beer!
+++Also, don't forget to check out our pay-what-you-like walking tours of Berlin!+++
Written by Jessica O’Neill