Have I mentioned that Berlin is a big bugger? I think I have, but to emphasise, it is big, wide and very spread out. They don't seem to have been worried about space there when throwing up the odd building, street or avenue. The centre itself is big enough - not surprising really as it is two centres knocked into one - but pretty walkable. When it comes to moving out a little though, maps can be a bit misleading. What looks like an easy walk turns into a long trek down never ending streets. That's tip number one for you.
We decided that we'd go to Friedrichshain, to a brewpub that is gaining a reputation for moving off the mainstream a bit. In theory Friedrichshain is one area up from our hotel in Mitte and the pub, Hops and Barley, looked an easy walk from the Ostbanhof. Outside, on impulse, I flagged down a cab. It was a lovely evening and I was thirsty. Boy am I glad I did. I wouldn't have fancied the walk at all, dragging my thirst behind me. Thus we found ourselves deposited right outside the pub on Wühlischstrasse by our very friendly taxi driver. Now this is an area I like. Big tenement buildings, both new and renovated, lots of jumping studenty bars and restaurants and loads going on. It was one of the most damaged parts of Berlin during WW2, depressed during the DDR days, but now has recovered its vitality and is a pulsing part of Berlin social life.
We sat outside and ordered our beers. A dunkel for me and a pils for E. Served in non cheaty half litre glasses. The dunkel was dark - always a good sign - and its dark, chewy malt and light hopping were an excellent thirst quencher. E's pils was a cut above the usual brewpub stuff, though still a bit dull. I asked what the special was. "A Cascade Pale Ale." Alas though it was competently enough made, it showed little trace of cascades, except in the aroma. A disappointment, though probably better overall than I'd anticipated. I've a long record of visiting German brewpubs and almost every one is an outright disappointment.
I'll come to our next beery port of call in a moment, but leaving the pub and heading towards Karl Marx Allee, on the same street, on a corner we noticed a pizza place. Large open windows, graffitti decoration, candled tables and waitresses and waiters bawling at each other in Italian - what's not to like? We hadn't eaten, so in we went and were squeezed into a table in the middle of the throng. The pizzas were thin, crispy and superb. The place was rightly going like a fair. Second top tip. And now, hot on its heels, the third. If you are going to look for the new Tilsiter Brauereias first revealed by Knut Albert, the easiest way is to walk along KMA to the Kosmos Kino(direction Frankfurter Tor), go behind it and follow the path onto Richard Sorge Strasse. Walk five minutes and it is on your right. This is much better than the roundabout way we went. I'll now hand you over to Knut for the history and to tell you about the beer. I can't, as it wasn't on! We settled for the full bodied, bitter and moreish Wernesgruner Pils instead and a chat with the barman about the cinema, which was showing West is West when we called. The pub, converted out of the former cinema foyer, is stunning and charmingly old fashioned. One little anecdote. We were given a tour of the projection room. No real electronics here, but old fashioned reel to reel from two giant metal projectors. Our host told us he bought them for a song. They used to show films in the old Stasi HQ! Films of what, he didn't know. The other titbit is they are maintained by the guy that does the brewing, which is off the premises in Mitte. He was between brews and is apparently a kind of mad professor type. Needless to say, he built the brewery himself and produces 1000l at a time. Two beers are produced; an unfiltered pils and helles and the odd special. When and if he gets round to it.
We returned along KMA to Frankfurter Tor U Bahn station. The beer festival was packing up, with vans and drays being loaded, while the odd reluctant drunk was still spinning out his last beer. A good and different night out.
Sorry about the chopped off photo. It was dark in there and without the flash, which bounces back off the photo, I couldn't see a thing.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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