Archive for November, 2011

Lager than Life (Berlin)

November 6, 2011

Germany is the third biggest consumer of beer in the world – falling behind only Ireland and the Czech Republic. With over 5000 varieties and more than 1300 breweries, it is a hugely important part of German culture. Almost half the breweries in Germany are in Bavaria, but Berlin still offers a wealth of opportunities to whet your appetite for beer.

The most famous Berlin-based beer is the Berliner Kindl. In the 19th Century there were 700 breweries in Germany brewing this particular Berlin favourite; by the early 20th Century this had been cut down to just two in Berlin and a handful around the rest of Germany. The Berliner Kindl is now the only beer to be produced in Berlin. It comes in a range of flavours and colours. The fluorescent green, red and purple Berliner Kindl Weisse (pre-mixed with grenadine or mixed at the bar) make for a novel drinking experience with very sweet fruit flavours verging on a beery alcopop. Within the Berliner Kindl group, there are also two basic Pilsner beers – the standard Berliner Pilsner and the Berliner Kindl Jubilӓums Pilsner. The Berliner Pilsner is very effervescent and tart, which works well with cordial mixes and beer based cocktails. The Jubilӓums Pilsner is a much sweeter and slightly stronger beer.

There is also a huge selection of various German and international beers you can try while visiting Berlin. The main six varieties are the Weiβbier or Weizenbier (wheat beer), Blonde, Schwartzbier (dark or black beer), Pilsner, Dunkle (strong) and Hell (light). There are also red beers on offer in many places that – in both colour and taste reside somewhere between the Schwartz and the Blonde. A great red beer is the Duck Stein which immediately hits you with the strong taste of hops. There are a huge range of other varieties, which if you can find them can be worth the trouble.

If you are into your wheat beers, the Weihenstephan Hefeweizen Hell is a good place to start. With hints of fresh tropical fruits and a light creaminess, this is great for a hot summer’s day. Similarly, the Alpirsbacher Klosterbrӓu Blonde is a light yet bitter beer with warm notes of citrus. The Bitterfelder Blonde is also a good choice, for a much smoother drink and doesn’t have the bitterness of the former.

A great Schwartzbier to try is the König Ludwig Dunkel which contains hints of oranges and is unusually fruity for such a dark beer. It is also worth heading to Hops & Barley which has a one-off Schwartzbier brewed on the premises that is fantastically creamy and has strong flavours of coffee and caramel. The Hümmel Brӓu smoked dark beer is also a very interesting choice – with an aftertaste almost resembling smoked cheese, and would be fantastic with a hearty meal. For a lighter meal try the Leschenbacher Bier which has very strong hints of lemon and offers a great sharpness to the palate.

In terms of your standard lager-beers, a good one is the Bavarian Augustinerbrӓu München, which has been made in Munich since 1328 making it one of the oldest German beers. This is available in most places, including the Beer Gardens at the Mauer Park Market every Sunday. Another is the Löwenbrӓu which is a very sweet and light standard lager.

There’s also the option to try one of the many fruit beers on offer. The Bitterfelder Kirsch is bursting with cherry flavours without being too sweet and overpowering. If you really want to taste the fruit, try a Dju Dju Beer which comes in a variety of exotic fruit flavours including mango. However, with these the taste of beer is almost completely lost to fruit juice. For something in between go for the Schöfferhofer in grapefruit, fig, pear and ginger or cactus flavours which retains its status as a beer but is also very juicy and light.

You can try many of these beers at Die Haus Der 100 Biere and an even greater variety at the Annual Berlin Beer Festival if you are planning an August trip. However, most bars and pubs will have a good selection in bottles if not on tap. Of course, the Germans take their beer very seriously, and it is advisable to make sure you drink responsibly during your stay.