You've spent all day out and about. You’ve walked through the Brandenburg Gate and the length of the Berlin Wall (or what’s left of it), marveled at graffiti art, snapped some photos and checked out Checkpoint Charlie. Your feet are aching and it’s time for a drink and preferably one of the hoppy variety. But, where to start? Where hides the best beer in Berlin?
You are after-all in Germany, one of the beer capitals of the world and Berlin’s a big city. Not to worry, here to help push you in the right direction is a guide to some of the best bars in Berlin
Although Germany is recognized the world over for its beer, craft beer is a relatively new phenomenon to the country. This is in large part due to the stringent Rheinheitsgebot, or purity, laws. Issued by Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria, German beer purity laws have been in existence for over 500 years. They state that beer can only be made using four ingredients: water, hops, barley and yeast. Using ingredients outside of the four deemed acceptable could have, in the past, resulted in punishment and confiscation of affected barrels.
Sadly, the result is a beer culture that has been limited. However, over the last decade, a new generation of brewers have begun to emerge. New breweries and brewers are challenging the purity laws, injecting a stagnant beer culture with a whole heap of creativity. The result? A change in the way Germans perceive craft beer and a growing increase in craft beer bars in Berlin. Here are five of the finest the city has to offer.
Triftstrasse 67, Wedding
is the first (if not, one of the longest running) microbrewery
to set up shop in Berlin. Established in 2001, this basement brewpub paradise is a toughie to find. Don’t worry though, you can leave your map and compass at home. It’s a short walk from the Wedding S-Bahn station, in the district of the same name, tucked away in the courtyard of a block of flats.
Wedding, unlike Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain and Prenzlauer Berg (ugh, so over), hasn’t enjoyed the same touch of cool. And, as a result, the district flies a little under the radar. So, Eschenbräu enjoys an intimate crowd of devoted craft beer drinkers and neighborhood locals.
It boasts a beer garden with an oak tree you can sit under, perfect for whiling away those summer evenings. Their beautiful selection of beers, all of which are brewed in-house, consisted of three year-round beers and one new one cycling in every few weeks. Some even consider the place to be home to the best beer in Berlin. To top it all off, prices are reasonable and the staff are great.
Beer Fact: There are enough beer varieties in Germany that you could drink a different one every day for 15 years.
Antwerpener Str. 3, Wedding
On to another Wedding-based stalwart of the craft beer scene, Vagabund Brauerei
. Set up in 2011 by three Americans tired of the taste of German beer – has anybody heard of cascade hops? – David, Matt and Tom endeavored to throw their hats into the ring and join the Berlin craft beer revolution
. With an ethos built on staying small enough to maintain creative integrity while ensuring enough beer be brewed to satisfy the thirsty masses, Vagabund has solidified itself as a one of Berlin’s best craft beer bars. The Sunday I was there I enjoyed their Salt Lime Gose. The beer was so good that if it had been a slightly warmer day, I would have brought along a paddling pool and straw and settled in for the long run. Honestly, they could have used it to start a new religion. All praise Vagabund’s Salt Lime Gose.
Like so many of Berlin’s drinking establishments, it’s nestled into the ground floor of an apartment block. Inside is a contemporary take on the kind of watering hole Hemingway would have frequented. Wonderful wooden floors and communal bench tables direct you to a four tap bar. The menu is drawn up on a couple of chalkboards behind the taps or you can browse their (slightly pricier) menu, which boasts a comprehensive selection of fabulous craft beers from around the world. So, if you’re wondering what to do in Berlin, why not wonder over a pint of some of the best craft beer in Berlin.
Beer Fact: Germans consume roughly 110 liters of beer per person per year.
Salt N’ Bone
Schliemannstrasse 31, Prenzlauer Berg
Sold as a gastro craft beer bar
, this place has many of the hallmarks of a British pub. Yet still, it somehow manages to feel distinctly “Berlin.” Salt N’ Bone
is the perfect place for every season. In the spring and summer, their enormous glass windows open out onto a sleepy street just off Stargarder Strasse, transforming the whole front bar into a quasi-covered veranda that spills out into an intimate, outside seating area. And, when things begin to cool down in the winter months, the warmth of the mahogany wood interior, flickering candles and smiling staff are more than enough to keep you inside.
They’ve got a great selection of beers on tap (five to be precise), which they rotate and are made up of both local and international beers. When I was there they were serving Mikkeller, Heidenpeters (local to Berlin), and To Øl to name, but a few. I also spied a couple of customers enjoying Magic Rock’s Salty Kiss and Beavertown’s Bloody ‘Ell, evidence that they also provide a wide variety of cans and bottles too. The service is fantastic, casual, friendly and attentive complimenting the atmosphere perfectly. Salt N' Bone is, by far, one of the best bars in Berlin.
Beer Fact: Germany’s oldest brewery, The Weihenstephan Brewery, which began brewing beer in the 700s, is still brewing beer today.
Birra – Italian Craft Beer
Prenzlauer Allee 198, Prenzlauer Berg
Admittedly, Italy is not a country that springs to mind when you think beer. Cheese, wine and pasta, yes. But, beer? Not so much. Stranger still is an Italian craft beer
bar in Berlin. Hiding in plain sight on Prenzlauer Allee you’ll find Birra
which, apart from having a comprehensive tap list and bottle menu, has some of the friendliest bar staff ever.
In this cozy little bar, you will find 16 glorious copper taps and three hand pumps most of which pour Birrificio Lambrette beers, an award-winning Italian brewery that has over 20 years’ brewing experience. A lot of the beers, which range from IPAs to Pilsners to Stouts, are full-bodied, pack a powerful hoppy punch and are up there in the ol’ alcohol percentages. A beer lovers’ dream. Complimenting the extensive beer choice is a small snack and food menu of the Italian variety.
On quiet afternoons you can sit inside and enjoy an intimate, laid-back atmosphere at the bar. Or, if you’re in a group, you can set up camp at one of the larger tables. Failing that, you can sit outside and watch the world go by. As the evening pushes on though, this place often packs out. As things get buzzing, outside and inside become one and everything spills out onto the streets.
Beer Fact: In 1777, Frederick the Great of Prussia banned coffee. In an attempt to encourage national agricultural growth, he insisted that his countrymen drink beer instead.
Schöneberger Str. 16, Schoneberg
If you’re wondering how to pronounce it, don’t worry, so is everybody else. In fact, I’d be ready to wager that even the folk down at the brewery themselves are scratching their heads over it. Apparently, BRLO is the Slavic origin of Berlin’s name and means “swamp,” referring to the swamp upon which Berlin was built. You can rest assured that while the jury might be out on how to pronounce the name, the verdicts is most definitely in on the beer: Guilty of being great.
Located in Gleisdreieck Park (a former railway yard long abandoned after World War 2) underneath the U-Bahn station of the same name, you’ll find the ultra-cool, cargo containers that house BRLO BRWHOUSE
. An all in one factory of fun, BRLO BRWHOUSE is a brewery, bar and restaurant
. But, by far the feature that sets it apart is its enormous, beautiful beer garden
that comes complete with deck chairs and outside tap rooms for quick, easy refills. In the summer this space is abuzz with people and I spent many a day, as did loads of others, soaking up the evening sun and gulping down delicious Pale Ales, Helles and Berliner Weisses.
When evening turns to night and you’re hit with the sudden onset of “beer munchies” turn to the restaurant menu which boasts a great vegetarian section as well as fantastic meats (cooked in their own smoker) and sharing platters for all to enjoy.
Beer Fact: Oktoberfest is one of the biggest beer festivals in the world, visited by over 5 million people a year.
Hops and Barley
Wühlischstrasse 22/23, Friedrichshain
Hops and Barley
holds a special place in my heart. It was the first craft beer bar I visited when I got to Berlin. Craft beer aside, to me, it is one of the best bars in Berlin.
This is another small brewpub and can be found in the hip and happening spot of Friedrichshain’s Boxhagener Platz. Located in what used to be a butchers’ shop, Hops and Barley has been leading the way in craft brewing since 2008 and serves some of the best beer in Berlin. Open 7 days a week, Hops and Barley caters to a lively crowd of beer lovers and on weekends is alive with people. They have a quaffable citra pale ale, that on a hot day goes down easy and a delicious, smooth dunkel on tap as well as a number of other solid brews.
Opposite the bar are a couple of burger joints and next door there is a great spatzle restaurant called, Spatzle and Knodel. So, between pints, you can pop out and grab a bite to eat. The staff is a fabulously attentive bunch who provide table service and are quick to offer you a refill when they notice you’re down to the dregs of your drink.
Beer Fact: The origin of the famed German cheers-ing phrase “Prost!” is unknown. But, superstition dictates that anyone who does not maintain eye contact when clinking glasses faces seven years of bad sex.