Beer is an essential part of any Berlin visitor’s itinerary. Hilda Hoy summed up her favorite spots for a tall, cold glass of unique local brews.
Everyone knows Germany is the land of beer. But visitors to Berlin may be disappointed to learn that the rollicking Oktoberfest-style beer halls they’ve seen in movies are down south in Bavaria. Still, there's plenty of beer culture to experience here in the capital. From old-timey Brauerei making traditional pilsner-style German beers to trendy microbreweries whipping up creative craft brews, beer lovers will find themselves spoiled for choice.
Right in the center of the action in Mitte is busy Brauhaus Lemke (Dircksenstr. 143, www.brauhaus-lemke.com), tucked into the red-bricked arches under the S-Bahn tracks at Hackescher Markt. The brewery serves a small selection of home-brewed Austrian- and Bohemian-style pilsners, plus a hearty menu that leans heavily South German, from sausages to schnitzel. Not too far away is Pfefferbräu (Schönhauser Allee 176, www.pfefferbraeu.de), which was first built in 1893 but fell into disrepair in the 20th century. The charming hilltop building recently got the restoration needed to restore it to its former glory and now serves a small but solid menu of German specialties alongside the two house brews. To accompany your pint of hoppy, bottomfermented pils or malty, extra-dark beer, try the wild boar meatballs, home-baked bread smeared with rich pork-crackling spread, or
Spätzle noodles with three kinds of melted cheese.
Off the beaten tourist track in the northern Wedding district, Eschenbräu (Triftstr. 67, www.eschenbraeu.de) is a nofrills, down-to-earth pub that predominately
draws a younger crowd, though passionate beer fans of any age will find the trek up here worth their while. Unlike many other breweries in Berlin, Eschenbräu dares to get experimental with its rotating selection of seasonal brews. From smoked beers to pale ales to double-strength bock lagers clocking in at 8-percent alcohol, the beers on tap on any given visit to the “beer cellar” are always a surprise and always impressive. The brewery even distills its own fruit schnapps and presses all-natural apple juice.
For equally down-to-earth vibes plus a homey touch, head to Friedrichshain’s
Hops & Barley (Wühlischstr. 22–23, www. hopsandbarley.eu), which inhabits a storefront space that was formerly home to a butcher shop. Antique tiles still decorate the walls but today, brewing, not butchering, is the house specialty. On tap are always a light pilsner, a malty dark brew, and a fruity wheat beer, plus one rotating special surprise. Or try a Schlangenbiss ("snakebite"), a blend of beer and Hops & Barley’s house-made, barrel-fermented apple cider.
For those that take their beer very seriously, a trip to Brauhaus Südstern (p. 49) should be in the cards. Master brewer Thorsten Schoppe gives tours of the brewing facilities and even offers brewing courses. If you’re happy to specialize in drinking and leave the brewing to the experts, try Südstern's light, dark, and wheat beers, each of them fresh and unfiltered, plus rotating specialty kegs like organic spelt beer or British-style bitter ales. A sizable German menu, from Currywurst to Flammkuchen, helps all the alcohol go down easy.
Founded in 2011 by three American friends who had grown tired of the limited selection of local beers, Vagabund
Brauerei (Antwerpener Str. 3, www. vagabundbrauerei.com) takes the microbrewery one step smaller: As Berlin’s self-proclaimed first nano brewery, Vagabund deliberately keeps batches small to allow for full creativity. The pint-sized taproom is a favorite destination for fans of craft beer, and no wonder: The welcoming bar serves not only proprietary pale ales and creative concoctions like Szechuan Saison, infused with coriander seeds and Szechuan peppercorns, but also hard-to-find beers imported from around the world.
Then there’s Heidenpeters (Eisenbahnstr. 42–43, www.heidenpeters.de). Though it’s one of the newest microbrewers in Berlin and only open a few days a week, Heidenpeters has already attracted a staunchly loyal following with its addictive range of unique, fresh ales. Located in Kreuzberg’s 19th-century Markthalle Neun (p. 28), Heidenpeters brews its beer on site and serves it to happy customers on the days the market hall is open (Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday). The best time to come is Thursday between 5–10pm, when the hall hosts its weekly Street Food Thursday event. Take your pick from amongst the numerous food stands and then pull up a chair at one of Heidenpeters’ picnic tables, pairing your meal with a pint of their Thirsty Lady Pale Ale.
The hoppy pilsners and dark, malty beers on tap at Brauhaus
Südstern (main image) and Pfefferbräu (inset).