Craft beer has finally arrived in Berlin. With the additional help of some craft beer experts, Andrew Wilkin looks at the Berlin scene for MIXOLOGY ONLINE. Here’s the best spots for the good stuff in the German capital.
Looking for craft beer bars in Berlin? The hoppy and hazy stuff has been perpetually ‘coming’ for years in Germany’s capital. Except guess what? It’s come! Somewhat surprisingly, Germany’s Hauptstadt was underserved by craft for years, lagging behind the US, UK and Scandinavian pioneers and dominated by the traditional styles. Blame the pesky Reinheitsgebot! The time is nigh however—Berlin now has a fledging craft beer scene to be proud of. Utilising some advice from some certified craft beer experts, we’ve rounded up five Berlin craft beer bars where it’s great to sip on the good stuff. And for those travel-inclined, it’s a trip around five of Berlin’s most-discussed neighbourhoods to boot!
Vagabund Brauerei and Tap Room – Wedding, we can!
Wedding: eternally afflicted with the term ‘up-next’. Except when it comes to craft beer. For that, this Berlin neighbourhood is right now. Take beer shop Hopfen & Malz and Eschenbräu brewery to name just two. And then there’s the Vagabund Brauerei and Tap Room, which MIXOLOGY’S Rory Lawton applauds as a “nanobrewery and craft beer bar in one”.
After a successful crowd-funding campaign, the Vagabund was launched by three American home-brewers in July 2013. In true craft-beer-is-a-community style, the Tap Room is a place where both Vagabund beers—comprising their six regular beers and many one-off styles—co-exist with others on the four taps. Here’s some highlights: the top-fermented Leipziger Gose, said by co-owner Matt to be nigh-on unavailable elsewhere, and other German beers like BrauKunstKeller and Hopfenstopfer.
And what about the meaning behind Vagabund, the German translation for the word Vagabond, referring to a tramp? Bar the vagabond’s bundle hanging on the door, it’s in reference to the aforementioned crowdfunding campaign, comparing the sharing of resources there (financial) to those shared with the historic Vagabond (food and board). Intimate, smoke-free and littered with panels of beer quotes, Vagabund gives Wedding that cozy place it requires in a hazy harangue of Dürum-Döner, Eck-Kneipe and betting shops. And it’s another notch for their ever-growing craft beer scene to boot!
Monterey Bar – rock n’ roll swagger
Time for a district-swap. Crossing over into the once-radical hotspot of Prenzlauer Berg and your reaction from jaded Berliners is: ‘it’s over’. Monterey Bar undoubtedly brings some of that swaggering up-yours of the 90’s vintage back…with infinitely-better tasting beer than those heady days to boot! Launched by Alternative Tour Berlin founders Adrian and Vanessa Sampson in September 2013, it’s a bar that caters to their two passions: beer and rock music. Garage rock, psychedelic music and heavy metal from the 60’s and 70’s rest alongside an eclectic, high volume list of beers, from local ones like Rollberg and Flying Turtle, to internationals like Mikkeller.
Visitors won’t hasten to notice the imagery—imagery of Black Sabbath in one corner, scorpions in another and “Betty Page being spanked” in yet another— something Adrian calls “delicate touches” in a purple-painted bar made for comfort. It’s a place of comfy sofas and conviviality. And Pacman fans rejoice—there’s a retro-games arcade machine too! As they say, “it’s a rock bar that serves craft beer”, but expect more focus on craft in the future, with a big expansion planned. “It’s imminent”, Adrian tells MIXOLOGY.
Monterey Bar, Danziger Straße 61, 10435 Berlin
Kaschk – the good kind of two-faced
Just like Monterey, Mitte’s Kaschk has a split face. And it’s one craft beer expert, and editor of nomyblog.de, Jan-Peter Wulf acclaims, praising “its innovative concept of craft coffee and craft beer”. Indeed, Kaschk, launched in September 2014 in the venue previously holding fashion-hotspot Le Chat Gris, is the domain of the barista by day, and the barman by night. Similar to a venue in Oslo run by the Norwegian co-owner, Kaschk refers to the caffeine-rich Norwegian drink made of coffee and moonshine, with a copper coin dropped in! Disclaimer: those brave enough, can buy their own Kaschk at the bar, made with Vodka instead of Moonshine.
There’s a constantly changing mix of Scandi- (Nøgne Ø, Mikkeller), local- (Flying Turtle, Heidenpeters) and other beers at the brightly lit, timber and wood-heavy space. Tap takeovers are common—at the time of writing, the bar had hosted a British special with Beavertown and Brewdog, with a Scandi tap takeover by Mikkeller and To Øl upcoming. And those not sated by the top-notch beer, and casual vibe, can take a peek downstairs. There’s a shuffleboard. Po-faced the craft beer movement is not.
Hopfenreich – 66.66% Hungarian, 100% craft
In the centre of Kreuzberg’s Wrangelkiez, Hopfenreich has been a bona-fide craft beer destination since launching in May 2014— a word of mouth hit that Johannes Heidenpeters, the brewer behind Heidenpeters beer, recommends for the “good, international vibe, where you can meet lots of other beer freaks!” It also offers “a good chance to try different beers—local, national and international.”
That’s clear, when you look at the traditional blackboard of beers behind the bar, with a rotating mix including Stouts, Double IPA’s and Summer beers amongst many other styles on the 14 taps. What the less savvy will not notice however is a distinct Hungarian influence, undeniably influenced by the background of two of the three co-owners. The small plates coming out of the kitchen are the biggest indicator of this, described as redefined eastern european bar food and pickled classics. Even better—if you aren’t sure what to drink, they match each dish with a specific style of beer!
It’s distinctly craft in many other ways too—tables are made using scaffolding, there’s antique hedgehog-topped taps and even the distinctive Black Forest-esque, animal-adorned wallpaper is a leftover from a previous Eck-Kneipe tenant. Roughly translated as ‘rich in hops’, Hopfenreich is also perfect for those looking to learn—try the small, 0,2 L sample sizes for a quick education in what’s what.
Hops and Barley – the original
The final pick is Friedrichshain’s Hops and Barley, who arguably spearheaded the charge. Setting up shop back in 2008, at Berlin’s popular Boxhagener Platz, it’s acclaimed by Rory Lawton as having the “best atmosphere” of all the beer-drinking locations in the Hauptstadt. They brew the traditional beers—Pilsner, Dunkel and Weisse—and then there’s also the specialty beers week-by-week. The beers aren’t filtered and the natural taste this brings is city-wide acclaimed. Oh, and whisper it—for those not-so-beer-inclined, there’s home-brewed cider too.
The bar offers up a mixed crowd, tourists, locals and quite often football fans all congregating here. Here’s a quick tip, if you’re after a calm and laid-back atmosphere—avoid H&B on game-day! Technically speaking, it’s a brewpub, rather than a craft beer bar. But when the beers are this good, and local to boot—who cares! Keeping things simple, and rich with camaraderie, Hops and Barley is justifiably a hit on the new Berlin beer bandwagon.
Bildquelle: Photo via Shutterstock