Sunday, 5 August 2018

Craft Beer Guide to Berlin

It's taken me a while to get round to writing this post; it's something I probably should have written two years ago, and then a year ago but having come back from Berlin a month or two ago I think it's finally time to share my craft beer experiences!

I love traditional German lager and drinking in the proper locals pubs when I'm away but I also really enjoy seeking out the modern craft beer scene and Berlin certainly has a cracking one, so I'm going to tell you about some of my favourite craft beer spots in Berlin that you should visit.

Brewpubs:

Berlin has quite a few little brew pubs which are small and range from the traditional to the modern, all of which are pretty cool.

Vagabund Brewery - Vagabund is very modern and owned by American's I believe. It's a tiny, bright bar with a bit of street seating outside and maybe around 6 taps. You're probably not going to hear many conversations in German here! I had their American Pale Ale which was bright and hoppy as you'd expect.

Hops & Barley - This is a cool little place with the tiny brew kit proudly sitting in the main bar area; again, it's small with maybe around 4 taps. When I went, I had their IPA which really didn't impress me sadly.

BRLO - I've been a big fan of Brlo for quite a while after visiting their Brwfest last year (which sadly we missed by a week this time) and it was nice to come back and visit their massive, open sun trap of a beer garden. Brlo seems to encapsulate all styles of beer from traditional German pilsners and hefeweizens, all the way to hop forward pale ales and IPAs. I'm a big fan of their German IPA but I can't say I've ever had a bad beer from them!

Stone Brewing World - Yup, you'd expect this to be on the list! We visited last year and it is ridiculous... I don't think I've ever been in a bar that has so many taps (75!). It's just a big, beautiful building located in an old gas works and it's well worth visiting if you have the time, despite being around an hour from the centre of Berlin. Their core range beers which you've likely seen in Tesco are all good, but try some of their more experimental beers.

Heidenpeters - Located in the awesome Markthalle IX on the edge of trendy Kreuzberg, Heidenpeters is a must visit for modern and experimental styles of beer. Come here on Thursday evening for Street Food Thursdays where you can find any kind of food you could possibly want, and a deliciously creamy and hoppy Milkshake IPA.

Brauhaus Lemke - My advice is to visit the smaller Lemke under the railway arch and not the massive bar because the service is dreadful there. They brew a decent range of beers, the best of which is their Berliner Weisse.

Eschenbrau - This is my favourite brewpub that I've been to in Berlin. Weirdly, it appears to be attached to a kindergarden, so I can only assume that the brewer gets the kids to dig out the mash tun. They only have four beers on tap but we were so in love with the place that we decided to have all four.

The Bars:

Honestly, there are so many craft beer bars to choose from in Berlin ranging from international brands to new kids popping up selling all the craft beer that Germany and the rest of the world has to offer.

Brewdog - I guess I should probably mention the large international Scottish brewery. It's not much different to their bars here as they have a large amount of their own beers as well as other beers from around the world. The good news is that if you're an EFP shareholder, you can still redeem your discount here!

Mikkeller - Very bloody expensive but definitely worth popping in for some Scandi craft. It's a very modern and clean looking bar. Always a decent range of beers ranging from IPAs to sours and imperial stouts.

Protokoll - This was new to us but recommended by a few people. The focus here isn't so much on German craft beer as much as beer from the rest of the world. Naturally, I decided to go for the lagers that were available, Nordic Kiwi Brewers Lingon Lager was particularly crisp, dry and fruity.

LabOr - We fell in love with this bar after stumbling upon it accidentally! Apparently it's Hungarian owned so they mostly sell beers from their homeland, most notably from Mad Scientist Brewery. We ordered a tasting flight of 5x150ml beers to share which only cost around €9 which was really good value. All of the beers were pretty good but the standouts were West Coast Samurai IPA and Colonial English Bitter.

Hopfenreich - I think this was possibly the first craft beer bar to open in Berlin and definitely one of the best; it doesn't look like a modern craft beer bar as it's an old school street corner dive with the banks of taps converted from old industrial machinery and a taxidermied hedgehog. The line up here is predominantly German, and you'll always find beers from the Spent Collective; I usually order a Red Oat Ale which is full bodied, juicy and biscuity.

Monterey Bar - The last couple of times I've been to Berlin we didn't make it here so I made a point of doing so on our last trip. Again, it's a bit of a dive but I love it if only for the fact that you'll find heavy metal music blasting out of the speakers. The only negative for many people, however, will be that it is a smoking bar.

The Muted Horn - And finally, what is for my money the best craft beer bar in Berlin. Reasonable prices and a massive selection of beers from across Germany and the rest of the world. You'll usually find one line dedicated to a Franconian lager, a few Canadian beers, some Cloudwater and an ever changing range of German craft beer. It's always a difficult decision as to what to choose but you can't go wrong with anything on the board really! They'll occasionally have a street food truck outside but the great thing is that you're free to bring your own food in or order takeout!

There we have it; my almost complete line up of craft beer bars in Berlin. I'm sure there are loads more that I've not managed to go to so let me know where else I should head on my next trip!

Monday, 16 April 2018

Lidl Currywurst - A Review

Ah, Currywurst! A Berlin institution and indeed, if you've been to Berlin and didn't eat Currywurst whilst you were there, I'm not sure we can be friends.

My first Currywurst was on my first ever trip to Berlin in August 2016 where I stumbled upon a stall at the Street Theatre Festival on Alexanderplatz; I grabbed a cheap €3 plate as well as a beer and sat in the warm sun, and fell in love. Later on that trip I visited the Currywurst museum (yes, such a thing exists) and although a novelty, I feel it was possibly the wurst (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?) eleven euros I've ever spent.

The premise of Currywurst, for those who don't know, is simple: It's effectively sliced boiled and fried sausage coated in a sweet curry ketchup and topped with curry powder; you'll usually find it served with chips and mayonnaise on nearly every street corner in Berlin.

I'd seen the famous CurryKing brand of microwavable Currywurst in supermarkets in Germany but never did I expect my eyes to cast upon microwavable Currywurst in a lowly Lidl in Norwich, and of course that's what led me to this review.

The Product:

A 220g plastic package of sliced bockwurst in curry ketchup with a sachet of curry power, and a wooden serving fork to give you that authentic Berlin street food experience. In fact I decided that instead of eating this at my kitchen table, I'd go stand outside the local corner shop with a bottle of Beck's in hand, but they told me to go away.

The Price:

It's a very reasonable £1.19 for one, or £2 for 2. Actually cheaper than CurryKing in Germany.

The Review:

They've used Bockwurst, which is possibly the worst German sausage they could have used. Bockwurst is a notoriously chewy sausage with a thick skin which makes it incredibly chewy and not ideal; it also has a very strong flavour by itself.

Currywurst sausage is typically more of a hot-dog/butchers sausage hybrid, and for the authentic East German way to eat it you ask for it without the skin.

The sauce itself is sticky, syrupy and sugary sweet; I'm not even really picking up any tomato flavour, but I get a bit of paprika. Looking at the packaging, it actually contains a whopping 26g of sugar.

The curry powder, although relatively mild, sprinkled on top really is the saviour of what is not a very good dish at all.



Conclusion:

What I thought could be a total game-changer for convenient and reasonably priced microwavable snack food is in fact a sticky, sweet mess with the wrong sausage. Of course, I didn't expect it to be on the same level as Curry Mitte on Torstrasse in Berlin, but I was indeed hoping for more.

Don't rush out. Just have a hotdog instead.

Nate

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Nuremberg Altstadtfest - Feeling the Culture

When we learnt that our last trip to Nuremberg would coincide with the Nuremberg Alstadtfest - or Old Town Festival - we got the impression that it was just a beer festival but as we discovered, it was so much more than that.

The Altstadtfest which happens over 12 days every September is effectively a festival which celebrates the beautiful city of Nuremberg. It spreads across the whole of the old town and as we discovered, it was incredible.

The main square is bustling full of stands selling traditional German food such as Drei Im Weggla (3 small Nuremberg Bratwurst in a bun, and for the love of god don't you fucking dare put ketchup on it) as well as various traders selling clothes and handmade items, and there's a giant stage where live music of all kinds takes place over the course of each day and evening until around midnight.

If you stand on the bridge on the south bank of the river Pegnitz, if you're lucky you might catch the water jousting which is a highly entertaining activity to watch.

And then you'll find the beer.

What I had imagined was something akin to Oktoberfest in Munich with tents and long tables but what we walked into was even more incredible. Around 30 breweries and establishments construct wooden restaurants and pubs with full kitchens, long tables, beer taps and honestly, it's like being in a proper restaurant; not like being in temporary construction that's only up for 12 days of the year.

We found the first small chunk of restaurants on Hans Sachs Platz, the smallest area, which has 10 places to sit and have a beer. We stopped at Pyraser first as we like their beers and it was unlikely we'd get a chance to visit Hutt'n where their beers are served this time. I had their Kellerbier which was a nice, slightly bitter, herbal and grassy hazy lager whilst Sammie went for the dark and roasty Schwarzbier.

After this we decided to wander to the main part of the Altstadtfest at Insel Schutt where we were overwhelmed by the choice of a further 20 bars and restaurants! We stopped for a quick hot dog and St Georgen Brau lager at the first stand we went to, the frothy and soft lager being served as I like it, in a stone mug.

We then stopped at Herrnbrau which was quiet during the day as it was tucked away at the back, behind everything else for yet another delicious lager.

Our next stop was the Bierwerk restaurant where I had some kind of amber lager which I wasn't a massive fan of as I'm not into amber beers. This was even quieter than Herrnbrau which I figured could be because they're a slightly more daring brewery among more well known and traditional Franconian brewery.

We were then wandering and about to go to Schanzenbrau as we loved their pub in Gostenhof the night before, but we saw Gutmann and had to go because Gutmann Hefeweizen is possibly my favourite hefeweizen of all time.

It was here we had quite a lot of beer because we struck up a conversation with a bunch of German chaps on the next table. They really know how to charm the British with one of the guys' opening lines being "Ah, so you're British. You are all fucking stupid for voting for Brexit" to which we could only respond with "Well we didn't, but your point stands. Fair play". The conversation, unsurprisingly, was rather political from then on. Lovely chaps who ended up buying us what they described as a "Brexit sympathy beer", which is fine as I'll always accept a free beer from a stranger! We bought them one back anyway in order to strengthen UK-German relations, and also because we wanted another beer!

Of course, this wasn't our only trip to the Altstadtfest whilst we were in Nuremberg because whilst pubs and restaurants fill up really quickly in the evenings, you've always got a spot on a bench next to a stranger!

I've never really seen anything quite like it; sure, in Norwich when we have an event like the Norfolk and Norwich festival on, they usually put a bar in a tent in Chapelfield Gardens but you're fucked if it rains, and you're lucky to get served a lukewarm hot dog let alone a full main meal of schweinbraten whilst chugging decent pints and chatting to random people who are also doing the same.

We absolutely loved the entire experience! Sure, it's not the cheapest way to drink in Nuremberg because beers are coming in close to €5 where the city average is probably around €3,50 but it was an awesome and sociable experience which I'd love to go back to and spend an entire day or two visiting each of the bars that we'd missed before grabbing a couple of bottles to watch the music in the hauptmarkt with!

Don't go to Oktoberfest, go to Nuremberg Altstadtfest instead.

Nate

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Craft Beer In Nuremberg - Step Away From Tradition

The first time we ever went to Nuremberg we were pretty unaware as to whether what we refer to as "craft beer" existed over there. Of course, we did research beforehand but I guess since it was our first trip there, we really just went to the obvious traditional restaurants, pubs and brewpubs that we'd read mostly about.

It wasn't until the second time I went, with Alec, that the craft beer scene was discovered; and then the next time last September with Sammie I discovered even more of this, outside of traditional lagers.

I absolutely love Nuremberg and I'd highly recommend visiting, so I just figured I'd share with you some places where you can step away from the tradition of Germany and find some delicious craft beer...

Mr Kennedy - When I first visited Mr Kennedy, it was a tiny dark and dingy little bar on what seemed like quite a sketchy and dark street just behind the city walls, and then they moved location to a bigger dark and dingy bar in the old town, just a couple of blocks over from the castle. Mr Kennedy is associated with New Beer Generation brewery so you'll always find a good bunch of theirs on the bar as well as a guest or two, and fridges full of bottles from all around the world (stands to make sense that they've got a decent American selection since Luke, who you'll usually find on the bar is American). The last time I was there I had a NBG Hop Pop IPA which was juicy and full of bubblegum, and was quite well balanced. [Location: 22 Brunnengäßchen Nuremberg]

Bierwerk - Quite a large and sterile craft beer bar which has a whopping 13 beers on draught which is probably the biggest selection of draught beers in Nuremberg. 3 of those beers are their own core range, as well as some of their seasonals, and the rest is sourced pretty much from all over Germany, as well as bottles from across the world. It was ragingly busy when we went, but thankfully it was a very warm September evening so we grabbed a half litre of their Marzen (Oktoberfest beer) from the bar and sat outside. I much preferred their Marzen to many I've had before because it had a decent hop bite and thankfully wasn't as sweet as the style usually dictates. The most random thing about this bar was that we found a Blue Monkey Brewery (Nottingham) beer mat! I'd like to go back for a cheese board sometime when it's not so busy. [Location:  Unschlittpl. 9, 90403 Nürnberg]

Boeheim Bar - This is the first of the Boeheim Brewery's two locations which are both in the centre of Nuremberg. This is a tiny, and very shiny bar with a familiar back of the bar tap wall which has 5 taps, as well as a few bottles. As well as drinking in, they also have 1L bottles that they'll fill for you to take home. When I visited, the only food available were hot dogs that were warmed up in one of those novelty home hot dog makers. I recall having their IPA and Hell here, which were both respectable; the IPA being more malty and English style, but still with a decent chunk of citrus. [Location: Klaragasse 11, Nuremberg]

Boeheim Bierhalle - A slightly larger bar/restaurant and literally only a couple of streets over from their original bar. This has outside seating, 6 taps and serves BBQ food (which I will be coming back for). I had yet another Marzen here, and it was good. It had a slight candy sugar sweetness but it seems they're trying to modernise it with a little more fruitness. [Location: Brunnengasse 11, Nuremberg]

Kater Murr - Again, this is very much in the city centre, just off of Konigstrasse, so it's easy to get
to. I believe the name translates to "Tomcat" which is funny since we met a lovely doggo here. This place is quite big, bright and I'd go so far as to describe it as "very Shoreditch" as people sit sipping coffee with their mac books. This bar has Teku glasses. I had a fairly unremarkable Green MONKey Hersbrucker imperial pilsner but Sammie chose correctly and went for Orcabrau Kirschenwäldchen cherry gose which was deliciously sour, salty and bursting with fruit. [Location: Johannesgasse 14, Nuremberg]

Café Bar Wanderer & Bieramt - This is probably my favourite craft beer bar in Nuremberg. It's only a VERY tiny place with a few taps, only a few tables and some seats at the bar but in the summer, it spills out into the streets with wobbly tables on the cobbles. The square that it's in is a proper sun trap and the ideal place to soak up the sun with a beer. Last time I was there was a very hot September day so we sat outside drinking juicy and hazy pints of Braustelle Helios, a Kolsch but not as you know it. I could be so bold and say that it was hitting the juice levels of citra heavy Kernel beers; it was just so good. [Location: Beim Tiergärtnertor 6]

I love Germany, in particularly I love Franconia. Nuremberg is such a nice, traditional city with plenty of old buildings and in a way it reminds me of Norwich with the sheer amount of churches and cobbled streets.

Underneath the tradition and in the background, modern beer is starting to poke through if my extensive research is anything to go by. There are some great bars and breweries doing more fun and untraditional beers which is great to see and again, seeing the craft beer scene in Nuremberg develop reminds me of how I've seen the scene in Norwich grow and I'm excited to see what happens next!

if you just want more traditional beer in the city, check out my blog from a couple of years ago: http://www.boozebeatsbites.co.uk/2016/06/places-we-drank-in-nuremberg.html

Nate