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Posts Tagged ‘Berlin’

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We had decided that Oranienburg was a promising destination for a day out from Berlin. A shining renovated palace, hopefully a picturesque town, too. And I had a lunchtime spot penciled in.

It’s about an hour’s train ride from central Berlin by the rather slow S-bahn, with nothing spectacular to watch along the way. Some of this is rather drab DDR suburbia, probably better to be seen in midsummer.

The town of Orianienburg is not much to write home about, either. Seems like half of the shops and cafes on the main street at named Am Schloss, showing where the focus is.

The palace goes back to the 17the century, and our guide took us through the centuries, starting with prince electors who were pretentious enough to make themselves kings of Prussia. Beautiful tapestries and paintings have survived burning, looting and warfare, while there is not much original of the building itself.

Photographs are not rnormally allowed, but when we were shown the beautiful 30 liter beer glass (with a small tap on the side for cheaters), I asked in my best German if they could make an exception. Permission granted.

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I bought a booklet in the souvernir shop on the way out – Beer and winemaking in Brandenburg. The man behind the counter gave me a piece of advice:

-Frankly, the wines of the state of Brandenburg are not up to much. But there is some really good beer here, I would recommend the Schwarzbier.

Time for lunch at the Alte Fleischerei, as the name implies, the old butcher’s shop. Very good food, I had a slow boiled shoulder of mutton – Lammhaxe. With this a glass of Oranier, a local beer from a brewery as yet undocumented on Ratebeer. But  frankly, the beer was not up too much. So I wouldn’t make an excursion just for that!.

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berlin-beer-books

I have visited Berlin repeatedly over the last decade, and there has been interesting beers to seek out, particularly among the brewpubs scattered around the city. At the same time, the industrial brews generally available are not all that interesting, and there are juste echoes of the old brewing heritage of the city. The Berliner Weisse that the waiter poured over syrup in your glass now comes pre-blended in bottles. But while the old is not very present, the new is moving in, and things are happening fast.

Sometimes I travel primarily for beer (and beer writing), sometimes it’s business or family holidays. This time it was the latter, meaning limited time to seek out new bars and new breweries. But I still have a few nuggets to share with you, and even a suggestion for a day out.

berlin-beer-truck

While Berlin has not yet seen the staggering number of breweries you can find in London, the number has been growing fast. Ratebeer lists a bewildering number of contract breweries, but there are still a few dozen bricks and mortar operations scattered around the city. Some of them have their won brewery taps, others are to be found in specialist beer bars and shops – or just in restaurants  and shops where they have managed to get in. The most concrete example of small scale – well, they call it craft in German as well, they are surprisingly eager to adapt English words – beer finding new markets is in the restaurant and bar of one of the Berlin landmarks – the TV Tower at Alexanderplatz. Three beers from contract brewery BrewfactuM are not only listed, but they are given a whole page of descriptions in the menu, a bit inaccurately identified as a Berlin brewery, but you can’t get it all right the first time. Pity I was there having breakfast…

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One place close to Alexanderplatz to have a beer is Kaschk.  I’m pretty sure there is Norwegian ownership here, they have a strong selection of Scandinavian beer, and the name is a phonetic spelling of the nickname of the staple drink of Norwegians – coffee, sugar and home distilled alcohol. Never mind, they are open at lunchtime, and there are always some local beers on tap, too. Very studenty at midday, taking advantage of free wifi and decently priced coffee.

Ten minutes away is a charming second hand bookshop, dedicated to cookery books and related items. Bibliotheca Culinaria, but it is far more gemütlich than its pretentious name. It’s an Aladdin’s cave of food books,  including publications from the DDR. Some shelves of beer and brewery books, too, well worth browsing into.

And a piece of advice if you want to open a pub: Instead of buying the interior from someone who makes replicas of English or Oirish pubs, go here and buy their selection of original beer mugs. There were at least fifty different ones on display, including a number of fine ones with pewter lids on sale for ten Euro a piece. I am sure this is a good place if you are looking for more rare beer books, too. Thanks a lot to Micromaid for the tip!

That’s all for to today. But stay tuned. There is a side street beer shop with friendly natives, Stone Berlin – and a 30 liter beer glass coming up.

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No stones unturned

StoneThese two cans sort of followed me home the other night, or, as they used to say when there was a sale of contraband in Oxford Street: “Fell off a truck, mate!”

The beers are fresh off the canning line in Berlin, where Stone have set up their European operation.

The IPA has intense hoppiness – grass and pine. A fresh, in-your-face IPA. If that’s what your’re looking for, look no further!

The Arrogant Bastand Ale is one notch up. Deep red, full malty body. PAcked With fresh hop aroma and a punch of bitterness.

Both cans show that they are part of both the Norwegian and the Swedish recycling scheme with a deposit. Should mean that they will be widely available soon.

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If you set up a scale of nostalgia for the DDR, I would not be far from the origo. But approximating zero is not equal to zero. The Nikolaiviertel in Berlin Mitte is something the regime should be credited for. This quarter was, as most of the city, reduced to rubble in 1945, and it took quite some time before they got around to restoring it.  The restoration did not just set up some big slabs of concrete, this was an attempt to recreate the oldest part of the medieval city for Berlin’s 750th anniversary in 1987.

What we find today is a charming collection of restored and replicated houses with lots of outside seating at the riverside cafes in sunny weather. During the winter, you find cozy old-fashioned restaurants and Kneipen, most of them more on the rustic than on the high dining side.

On a cold and dark evening in January, Zur Gerichtslaube offers a range of local and regional dishes. This restaurant is located in was used to be an old courthouse. I have a feeling that the present building is pretty new. Their web site informs us that all in all the Gerichtslaube was reconstructed three times and relocated twice, but it is rather vague about dates after 1482 or so.  But the illusion works well, you have the feeling of entering a place with roots going back to the middle ages here.

The food leans heavily towards the Sauerkrauft school of cuisine, but there are vegetarian options, too. With just a few days in town, I wanted to try something beyond sausages, and the Grosse Abendplatte, the large evening board seemed to be the thing. Meatballs, smoked venison, cured deer sausage, cheese, pickles … there was even a herb Schnapps included. Very pleasant, but the cheese selection was not particularly inspired.

The beer list is not particularly long, but there are two beers brewed especially for them. The Schöffenbier is an unfiltered pilsener or Helles, light bodied with some flowery hops, soft and pleasant to drink. There is also A Schwartzbier, which has the same problem that most of these dark lagers have in the region, it is all about caramel,

Polite and friendly service, mixed crowd. I have a feeling this is packed with tourists in the summer, so it is probably best to book a table. 

I certainly recommend a visit. You can have a snack and a beer if you’re not up to a big meal. Expensive? More so than the place off Alexanderplatz where you get a huge pig’s knuckle and a beer for 10 Euros. But then you get quite another experience.

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Despite several visits over the last few years, there are large areas of Berlin I cannot claim to know. And those include areas just off the main tourist avenues.
A guide book and a good map comes in useful, and in this case Peter Sutcliffe’s Around Berlin in 80 Beers book showed me where to go when I had some time to spare before meeting up with my group at the Zoological Garden.

The Zillemarkt is just five minutes walk from the Kurfürstendam, but check on the map first, as the street numbering system might lead you astray. This is a fairly large tavern with outside seating on the pavement and a beer garden at the back, both of which are convenient for an afternoon refreshment. Loads of rustic German food, from the Miljöhplatte – which they claim is a good substitute for a week on full board – to smaller hot and cold snacks. I did not try the food.

They have, however, a few special house brews, which was the reason for me stopping by.

The Zillebräu Original is an unfiltered Kellerbier. Light, yet full flavored. A liberal use of hops as well as grain. A hint of yeast and a pleasant harsh hoppiness. Sweet cereals in the finish playing with the herbal hops.

The Zillebräu Schwarzbier has a coca cola color and a firm beige head. Lots of sweet caramel, as the Schwarzbiere tend to have around here. Bread, liquorice, there is good stuff here, but ut ends up with too much of a sugar overdose.

These beers are brewed especially for the restaurant, though the waitress was vague when I asked where. Peter Sutcliffe has not been successful in getting any details, either. But the Zillebräu Original is well worth a detour if you get an overload of window shopping on the flashy streets a few blocks away. In good company, I’m sure this would be a fine place to make an evening of it as well. There is even Weihenstephaner Hefeweisse on tap if that’s what you fancy.

Their web site has all the details, including the weekly menu.

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Cafe am Neuen See

Across the entrance to the Berlin Zoo, to the right of the railway station, there is a bike rental place. It gives a splendid opportunity to explore the Tiergarten park, which covers a large area, much of it crisscrossed with paths. It is also easy to cross into the central areas of the Mitte, the reborn central area. There is plenty of space for both bikes and walkers along the river Spree, and this gives great views of the new monumental buildings – the Central Station, the Prime Minister’s Office and the annexes to the Bundestag.

On your way back, there are two fine options. A large Biergarten, the Cafe am Neuen See, where you can even hire a boat to go exploring the lake. Or, almost back to the Zoo, the smaller Schleusenkrug, named after the locks of a canal connected to the Spree.

A Berliner Weisse would be appropriate. Low in alcohol, too, if you want to continue on your bike.

Schleusenkrug

Schleusenkrug

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Bring a few extra for the monkeys

Even if the polar beer Knut is gone, his relatives seem to have fun playing in the pool. The Berlin Zoo is a pleasant place to spend a spring morning, you can’t help being charmed by some of its inhabitants.

No motorized vehicles inside, except for the beer delivery truck, of course.

When we were there on the Thursday during Easter week, they were setting up a beer garden. It was not ready when we left, but it is certainly a place to set up your base camp while the kids are running between the tigers and the elephants.

Setting up a beer garden

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