Many European cities can boast of food markets filled with stalls of proud producers. I have not seen them all, but I tend to seek them out, in Florence and Gothenburg, in London and Barcelona.
Berlin can boast of a number of them, although some have obviously been destroyed by war, neglect or urban developement. The Eisenbahnhalle in Kreuzberg has long traditions, but it only in the recent few years that this has been revived, focusing on local produce and everything green. And one of the local producers is a brewer, Johannes Heidenpeter.
I asked if there was any way of trying their beers during mys visit, without being too optimistic. I got a message back from Johannes, saying that he would be brewing on Monday and would be happy to have a chat over a beer when he was finished. Would six o’ clock be convenient?
The market hall was easy to find, and Johannes invited me down to the basement, where he was finishing his brewing for the day.
Johannes started the brewery in September 2012. He has no formal brewing background, but has been a home brewer for quite some time. He brews 300 liter batches, which may be stretched to 450 liters by using the equipment to the maximum. Most of the beers are sold on tap from his tiny bar in a corner of the market hall, though some are hand bottled for people to take home. Business is expanding, meaning he gradually spends more time brewing and less on what he calls his pay job.
The beers fit in well with the general concept of the market – local food where the producers have direct contact with the consumers.
There is, obviously a challenge in offering inventive beers in a market where the day-to-day choice is between a Dunkel and a Helles. Johannes aims to have, as a standard, a pale ale that is not too extreme, but it is still a departure from the German norm. He is constantly adjusting the recipe, the version I got to taste had Cascade as the dominating hop. It had a fine spectrum of flowers and herbs and a splendid drinkability – just the type of session beer you should find in a place like this. I also tried a poster, soft and smooth, yet with lots more character than the bland big names.
The aim is to brew full-time, and there are plans for various events – a small beer festival is also in the making.
Heidenpeters is a brewery that stands out among the micro breweries of Berlin, daring to think outside the box. It will be interesting to follow in the years to come, I will certainly be back the next time I’m in town.
Get in touch if you plan to visit. There are a few hand bottled beers available, but they tend to sell out, so ask Johannes to set aside some for you.
If I have gotten some of this totally wrong, I apologize. Most of the conversation took place in German, and I must state my admiration for the brewer who opened his doors and carried on patiently while his guest struggled to get his message across with total disregard for grammar and polite use of the language.