Archive for January, 2011

I won’t bother you with all the walking around on Sunday morning, but after trying, without success, to get into the dome of the Bundestag building, we were in need of some refreshment again. Extremely convenient then that there is a sister establishment of the Sony Center Lindenbrau next door to the Brandenburger Tor, the Hopfingerbräu im Palais.

We dis not eat anything, but the beer was just as refreshing. I assume this is packed in the summer as well, you could hardly ask for a better location.

Same menu, same beer list as in the Sony Center. They have an outlet in the new main railway station, too. But I’d rather see more of these than, say, Hard Rock Cafes.

But by now it was time to go beyond the fleshpots of the touristy inner city. Another advantage of going out of season – there was a free taxi just when we needed one.

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Berlin VI – Marcus Bräu

By now my comrades had a suspicion there was a master plan behind it all, but they happily came along to yet another brewpub. There are only time constraints for me not having visited the Marcus Bräu before, it is just a stone’s throw from the Brauhaus Mitte.

A friendly young waitress took orders. The beers were rather pedestrian, unfiltered dark, unfiltered light. A sign advertising three shots of Bierbrand for the price of two or something similar caught our eye, and we swiftly ordered a round. This was downright nasty stuff, raw and unaged – this should have been distilled a few extra times.

A glass of sweet beer liquor was far better. But it was time to call it a night.

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A long hot shower and a fresh shirt does wonders for me, and at eight we were at the front door, ready to venture out again. We set out for the Nikolaivirtel again, the restored old quarter right in the middle of town.

I had plans to visit Zum Nußbaum, one of the old inns restored in the final years of the DDR.

Well, we should not have bothered. I didn’t think  a reservation was necessary during the first weekend of January, but I was mistaken. A very Stasi Prussian lady informed us that they were full, and she had absolutely no intention of squeezing us in, finding us seats at the bar or recommending anywhere else.

OK. We were 100 yards away from a micro brewery anyway, so there was no reason to cry.

The Georgenbrau will probably never win any awards for its beers. It occupies an amazing spot on the bank of the river Spree, and on Sunny days there is a large crowd in front. No need to really try to improve?

Not too many customers tonight, though, but there is both beer and food to be had, so we give it a try.

A combo platter of smoked pigs knuckle, cabbage, beer and a Bierbrand schnapps is a reasonable 10 Euro. This was certainly not Haute cuisine, but it did the trick. Speedy service, too. The beer? A Dunkel and a Helles, both rather mundane.

Georgenbrau brewing vessel

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After leaving the Brauhaus Mitte, we observed that darkness had fallen, and we could either go on visiting various pubs – or go back to our hotel to freshen up. A few of us had gotten up at four, so a slight fatigue was setting in. Well, our route took us through the lovely Nikolaivirtel, and I steered us into the Alt-Berliner Weißbierstuben, a lovingly restored old pub, to discuss the issue. Over a beer, obviously.

Most tables were laid for dinner, but we were offered seats in the bar. Lots of Old World charm here, dark polished wood and rooms which looked ver 19th century, though this was probably reconstructed from the rubble some time in the 1980s. Mature staff of both sexes, Jon got compliments for his excellent command of German and was almost adopted by a barmaid of the more motherly type. The beer? They probably had a list of Berliner Weisse variations, but I never saw any. Instead there was Schwartzbier from Berlin’s remaining macro brewery, their Märkischer Landmann. A superb beer, slightly sweet, lots of malt, tasting of nuts and cereals.

It gave us the courage to take the 15 minute walk back to the hotel.

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With solid and liquid refreshment under our belts, we set out again from Potzdamer Platz, taking in the sights along the way. The Holocoust Memorial dominates the stretch up to Brandenburger Tor, from there you walk  along past and present glories that show a city reborn.

We strolled down Unter dem Linden in pleasant winter weather. Even this street had plenty of space now, being as off-season as it gets around here. There are few signs of ordinary habitation on this street, it’s a long row of embassies, luxury hotels, souvenir shops and car showrooms most of the way down to Alexanderplatz.

That did not matter much. We had a lot of catching up to do, and we did not have much of an agenda. There were calls for more refreshments as we approached the television tower, but I steered them past a few bars, telling them we ought to visit another brewpub instead.

Brauhaus Mitte is one of those weird setups you find around the globe – pubs imitating an old country inn while shoehorned into a shopping centre. This was OK, as long as you kept your back to the shops behind us.

The beers? We had a glass each, I opted for a Zwickl, the others a Dunkel or a Helles. The beer was not up to much, Jon felt that his Dunkel was certainly not up to German standards.

We did not linger long, and by now we were discussing if we should head back to the hotel for a rest or not.

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Our next stop was Potzdamer Platz, where I cheerfully informed the rest of the group that there was a micro brewery. They were certainly not adverse to a visit, and we found a table in pleasant surroundings on the second floor of the Lindenbrau.

This place has a really prime spot, in the middle of the Sony Center, a part of a futuristic complex of steel and glass buildings in what used to be no man’s land. When I visited Berlin in 1994, the bostcards I sent home were of the forest of cranes building this area.

Despite the surroundings, there is a cozy feeling to the brewpub/restaurants. We felt it was time for serious Teutonic eating, so the other three went for scnitzel variations, while I order roasted duck with red cabbage and knödl.

Four beers on offer, apart from the locally brewed Weize, there were a Helles, a Zwickl and a Dunkel from the parent company – the Bavarian brewery Traunstein.

The Altbarisch Dunkel was the best, full of lovely roasted malt, some sweetness and just a hint of sourness to balance.

The service was swift and attentive, and our German seemed to improve, pint by pint. The food was good, two, large portions of meat enabling us to face the rest of the day. We even had a coffee to keep us going a bit longer.

(Thanks again to Frode, who took all the photos of the trip)

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Reunion in Berlin

My old friend Jon sent me an e-mail in early December, suggesting a day trip to London the first Saturday in January. We could do some shopping, then a long lunch before returning home in the evening.

I replied with an alternative plan, pointing out that tickets to Berlin were dirt cheap – we could easily fit in plane tickets, hotel and transfer for the same amount as the tickets to London alone.

We agreed on this, and we also invited our old mate Frode as well as Erlend, who had studied with the other two, and they both agreed to join in. Frode recommended a hotel near Checkpoint Charlie. Frode flew in from Moscow, Erlend from Zurich, while Jon and I took the 06:10 flight from Oslo, so we all met up for breakfast.

We started with a visit to Checkpoint Charlie, including the rather dated museum next door.  The mild weather was perfect for walking, and our next goal was Potzdamer Platz. We were close to the remaining part of the wall in Wilhelmstrasse when a sign caught our eye, promising Zunft Kölsch. It was past midday, so we agreed it was time for a refreshment.

The Kneipe was pretty basic, they did not seem to care much about smoking restrictions, and the New Year’s decorations were a bit on the rustic side.

We were pleased to find that the beer was served in glasses twice the size of the Kölsch glasses in their home town – 0,4 liters is more proper for adults. Still, most of us needed two. Frode, being the photographer, needed a steady hand, so he stopped at one. The beer? Smooth, fruity, refreshing. Just what we needed. Not that there was a long trek to the next stop…

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