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Craft breweries: The brewpubs bringing funky beer to Berlin

A new wave of craft breweries are bringing new flavours and challenging Germany's infamous beer purity law.

Photo: Berliner Berg Brauerei

There’s nothing wrong with a cool, crisp €1.30 (or now, €1.50) Berliner Pilsner on a hot day, but sometimes you want a little more than the same ol’ Weiss-Helles-Pils-Dunkel-and-repeat Späti selection. Enter the microbrewery.

If (like me) you’re from North America, there’s a good chance you’ll find Berlin’s selection of young, upstart brewers almost adorably tiny in contrast to the sprawling scenes of many cities across the pond. You could pin the blame for this on Germany’s (in)famous beer purity law, or Reinheitsgebot, which restricts the ingredients to beer to the essentials (barley, hops, malt, water) – but that law isn’t the monolith that some think it is. It’s become weaker over time, and there’s plenty of room for brewers to get weird with ingredients – they just might not be allowed to use the term ‘beer’ in certain cases.

More likely, it’s just that beers with wacky ingredients like berries or pumpkin that play well in the US and Canada don’t appeal to the Germans’, uh, “traditional” tastes. But times they are a-changin’, and a slowly-growing cohort of brewpubs is fermenting up all sorts of funky brews in and outside of the Reinheitsgebot. While Brewdog, the McDonald’s of craft breweries, is to be strictly avoided, these places are reliable contestants for a truly hoppy hour.

Berliner Berg Brauerei

Photo: Marcel Wogram for Berliner Berg Brauerei

Tucked into an industrial corner of Alt-Treptow directly in the shadow of the S-Bahn tracks, the backyard-style set-up at Berliner Berg is a real charmer on a hot summer evening. It also brings a neighbourly sensibility with low-key events like outdoor film screenings and quiz nights.

The brews here lean classic with lager and Berliner Weisse, but the pale ale is the real star: citrusy and hoppy but not bitter, it’s a well-rounded winner. You won’t find these beers anywhere else in the country, either: the brewery strictly sells within a 50 kilometre radius of Berlin.

  • Berliner Berg Brauerei, Treptower Str. 39, Alt-Treptow, Wed-Thu 17-22, Fri 15-23, Sat 14-23, Sun 14-22

Vagabund Brauerei Kesselhaus

Photo: Dave Yates for Vagabund Brauerei Kesselhaus

Now 12 years old (although they were home-brewing for a couple of years before officially opening), these Wedding-based brewers may be the IPA kings of this Bundesland. They make at least five of them – the most intriguing being the Three’s A Party, a boozy IPA-meets-Belgian Tripel with a whack of fruit on the palate.

Vagabund is also a great bet for those who want out-of-the-box beers that are a rarity in this country. Case in point: their sea salt-coriander-lime leaf gose, Chasing Sunsets – basically summer in a can. You can sample them at Vagabund’s spacious Kesselhaus, a former lightbulb factory now with a bar and beer garden (the exact beers on tap vary). There’s also a taproom on Antwerpener Straße, but with very limited outdoor seating.

  • Vagabund Brauerei Kesselhaus, Oudenarder Str. 16-20, Wedding, Mon-Thu 17-24, Fri 17-2, Sat 14-2, Sun 14-22

BRLO Brwhouse

Photo: BRLO

This may be a controversial choice: with its beers on major supermarket shelves, BRLO is hardly ‘micro’. Plus, the combination of industrial-chic shipping container design with relatively high prices at this Gleisdreieck restaurant-beer garden may stoke consternation from the “Berlin has CHANGED!” crowd. But the plain and simple truth is, BRLO does a bang-up job: the pale ale is perfectly crisp with just the right hint of sweetness, and the Baltic Porter is a superbly hearty darker option.

Despite typically bustling with people, the frankly ginormous beer garden makes BRLO a safe bet for finding seating during the highly competitive outdoor drinking months. The food is yet another plus, with a stylish menu that merges bar food with creative vegan and vegetarian cooking. After all, few things in life can compete with enjoying a cool brew and a celeriac pastrami in the afternoon sun.

  • BRLO Brwhouse, Schöneberger Str. 16, Kreuzberg, Mon-Thu 16-24, Fri 14-24, Sat 12-24, Sun 12-23


Photo: Eschenbräu

Open since 2001, Eschenbräu is much older than your average Berlin craft brewery, but still has plenty of tricks to show off (not least that they’re also a distillery). Their classics, such as a nutty pils or a bright hefeweizen, are particularly cheap on tap considering the quality.

As firm adherents to the purity law, Eschenbräu also shows that Germany’s Reinheitsgebot need not stifle creativity: there’s a large set of rotating specialties brewed here, such as the über-malty, double-hopped Weddingnator for those who like a beer with its flavour dialled up to 11. Enjoy them in a leafy courtyard with some classic beer garden snacks like Flammkuchen for a perfectly authentic German summer outing.

  • Eschenbräu, Trifftstr. 67, Wedding, Sun-Tue 15-24, Wed-Sat 15-1