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Along with the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, and Belgium, Germany is the land of beer. So it might come as a surprise to learn that Germany has not caught up with the ‘craft beer’ craze yet. Microbreweries have appeared here and there, each experimenting with their own magical mixture of hops and brew, but many clients still drop in asking for a ‘pilsner.’ A few, however, choose to step off that beaten ‘bar’ path in Berlin and visit its flourishing microbreweries for some exciting brews.
Founded in 2011 by a trio of American expats, Vagabund is just a couple of blocks away from the Eschenbräu in Wedding, which makes for a perfect craft beer experience when exploring the neighborhood. Eric, one of the brew masters of Vagabund, is around for some handy tips. ‘We are developing a new recipe almost every Friday,’ and he points up to the chalkboard menu, ‘That ‘bad girl’ for example was crafted almost a month ago.’ He is talking about one of their current specials, ‘Party Geil Porter,’ which is fermented using a very old British style of brewing. If, however, you find the smoky flavor of the dark porter a tad too much, you can always go with the safe choice of pale ales. According to Eric, the Scottish bartender of Vagabund, the Double IPA never fails to deliver. Unlike Eschenbräu, which only serves their own brewed beers, Vagabund also sells a good variety of bottled craft beer from all over the place.
When exploring Berlin’s party central and independent art scene area, close to Friedrichshain in Warschauer Strasse, craft beer lovers need to pay a visit to this microbrewery. Recommended and respected by other microbreweries in Berlin, Hops and Barley has been in business for eight years, and Philipp, the brew-master, has whipped up as many as fifteen special types of beers. This includes the malty Bernstein, which only graces the menu four times a year, and one has to be quite lucky to drink a pint from those especially brewed twenty liters before they run out. In addition to their pilsner, dunkel (dark), and weizen (wheat) brews, the humble joint also serves a cloudy variety of cider which is crisp, semi-dry, and gluten-free. The food menu in Hops and Barley elevates the craft beer experience. Their ‘Treberbrot’ snack plate, which is put together using their freshly baked bread from the spent grain from the brewing process, is a must try.
Endearingly called the BKK, this Kreuzberg microbrewery has been in business for eight years. The brew master Thorsten Schoppe seeks inspiration either from foreign recipes, whipping up craft beers like the Flying Turtle with American origins, or experiments with the endless mixture of hops and flavors to come up with interesting brews like their cucumber-mint Weizen. While there are normally up to three different ales on the draft menu, patrons can always be sure to get the tried-and-true blond and dark. If feeling more adventurous, you can always go for the ‘special,’ which changes quite frequently. For example, Zola, the bartender, recalls the Baby Gorilla, a 9% chocolatey coconut stout that was enough to knock the beer drinker out after a couple of pints. BKK also provides a good number of seasonal beers like the springtime favorite, Maibock, as well as cherry and honey beers.
One of the latest additions to Berlin’s microbrewery scene, Straßenbräu has only been in business since January 2016. Timo, the manager, is certainly adventurous when it comes to cooking up special brews for their menu. Along with his brew master, and using an array of carefully selected and painstakingly imported ingredients, they cook up beers like the Räuchermeister, which uses smoked sugar and Greek thyme-honey. With its high alcohol content and dominating thyme flavor, this Bock beer is certainly not for the faint of heart. Timo is aware of the need to raise awareness for the still-lacking craft beer scene in Berlin and Germany, as he believes 60 per cent of his patrons are still familiar with little other than a sweeter Helles or a drier pilsner. His mission is to bring in the beer lover and make him pick something strange and exciting.