Food

Microbreweries: The New Face Of Berlin Beer

Eschenbrau Beer

hide captionEschenbräu Roter Wedding is a red beer made in the working class neighborhood of Wedding.

Sabrina Small for NPR

Call me spoiled, but after four years in Berlin, I am a little bit tired of the kiosk beer selection.

Sure, the first time I had a Tannenzäpfle, I was charmed by the kitschy label and the pine-sap aroma, but does it really taste all that different from an Augustiner?

In my opinion, Germany has rested on its laurels long enough as a tourist destination for beer aficionados. The truth is, outside of southern Germany and the Franconia region, interesting beer is hard to come by.

Here in Berlin, for example, kiosks are awash with Becks-Lemon and other flavored disasters. Sternburg, a 59 cent Pilsner that makes Pabst Blue Ribbon seem like a rich micro-brew, is perhaps the most popular beer in Berlin, with loyal customers ranging from gutter-punks, to subway drunks, to your average poor student.

Recently though, I have discovered that Berlin is undergoing a small microbrewing revolution.

At a bar in Alt-Treptow called Provinz, I noticed a beer from a brewery called Rollberg on the menu. I ordered a half-pint with my hearty potato soup and was absolutely blown away by the quality. I could taste some of the floral aromas that I learned to attribute to Oregon I.P.A's, as well as a thick creamy head and just the right amount of yeastiness to keep every sip interesting.

At a local food event in Kreuzberg, I had my first pint of Eschenbräu Roter Wedding, a red beer made in the working class neighborhood of Wedding. With its slightly smoky aroma and toasted-marshmallow finish, this excellent red beer is about as good as it gets.

Eschenbräu produces a rotating selection of unfiltered seasonal beers, including a Rauchbier (or smoked beer), the closest thing to bacon you can drink! The Gastätte (pub) serves excellent food as well. And we all know that a pitcher of beer, drawn from a freshly tapped keg, tastes just a little bit better than a bottle.

Finally, just a few blocks from the Gorlitzer Banhof, lies the Bier Kombinat Kreuzberg, a hidden gem of a microbrewery, where locals mingle over plentifully poured pitchers of Bockbier, Helles, and Dunkles beer. BKK is like the pub you dream up with your friends when you are experimenting with brewing for the first time. In fact, BKK offers brewing workshops for those that are interested.

The recipes seem to vary from visit to visit, and some kegs are better than others, but the relaxed attitude of the staff and the high alcohol of the beers themselves always keeps me coming back for more.

As this decade draws to a close, Germany is in the process of rethinking its beer marketing and production to keep in step with neighboring countries like Sweden (with its incredible, albeit outrageously expensive micro-brew selection) and Belgium with its adherence to terroir-influenced regionalism. Berlin's microbreweries are developing in stark contrast to the Bavarian tradition of traditional recipes and conservative labeling.

Like the city itself, the new face of Berlin beer is young, experimental, and has nothing to lose.

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