Years Back – Berliner Bierfestival

August 7th – 9th is coming up quick. You’ll need to get your plane tickets right now. But it’s worth it to stroll for days along the world’s best beer festival – period.

Along one side of the wide, divided, Karl Marx Allee main street in eastern
Berlin over 150 breweries have set up stands. It’s over 2200 meters long and the
stands overlap on both sides of the sidewalk and down a couple of platzes (what’s
the plural of platz?) along the way. There are also a few distributors and a
couple of liquor stores – one claiming 131 beers for sale by the bottle.

The organizers claim 78 countries, 1700 beers, and 700,000 drinkers over the
three days of the festival. There might be an exaggeration there but it
certainly is huge. Noon-midnight on Friday, 10am-midnight on Saturday, and
10am-10pm on Sunday. Within an hour of the starting time the sidewalk is crowded
6 wide at a crawling pace.

Friday was an adult crowd and the beer flowed freely. Saturday there were
many Germans who came to Berlin for this event. Sunday seemed to be more of a
family day.

So – on with the beers. Sorry about the short tasting
notes on these 33 beers. Had to enjoy myself. I amused dozens of Germans
and made dozens of 5-minute friends. Good days.

  • Allgauer Dunkel (Kempton, Germany) – Quite cold. Very bitter. Strong
    and roasty.
  • Kloister Andechs Dunkel (Andechs, Germany) – Still made by monks.
    Lightish brown, Good, crisp lager but unsweet and unbitter. A Warsteiner
    with more color.
  • Berliner Burgerbrau Bock (Berlin, Germany) – “Newcastle” brown
    color. A bit thin. Good. Middle of style.
  • Bohmisch Brauhaus Eisbier (Grossrohrsdorf, Germany) – Like an
    eisbock but they start with their pilsner. Bright yellow. Strong.
    Alcohol comes through. No noticeable alcohol in smell. Some pils
    hoppiness. Not much malt. Not sweet at all.
  • Derer Schwarzbier (Hlucen, Czech) – Deep brown. Rye and bready with
    floury dryness. Tangy dark fruit background. A+.
  • Ehringdorfer Schwarze Rose (Ehringdorf, Germany) – Almost black.
    Nice grey head. A black lager. Nothing special.
  • Eibauer Schwarzbier (Kleizen?, Germany) – Pure black. A bit of
    licorice. Lots of hops to balance and then some.
  • Eggenberg Schwartz (Cesky Kromlov, Czech) – Wonderfully malty with
    big balancing hops. Solid beer, yet delicate. World class stuff.
  • Fischer Brau Rauchbier (Greuth, Germany) – Very dark cordovan. In
    between Spezial and Schlenkerla. Has plenty of smoke but is somehow not
    satisfying.
  • Fraoch (Scotland) – On the handpull. Light, grassy. Very cloudy.
  • Grimbergan Optimo Bruno (Belgium) – Strong brown beer. 10% but
    slides down. Delicious belch. Import this beer.
  • Jacosover Dunkel (Czech Republic) – Dark reddish brown. Thin lager
    body. Glass-lacing head. Delicate malt with some roast. Emphasize the
    “delicate”.
  • Karmeliten Brauerei Dunkel (Straubing, Germany) – Very balanced and
    neutral.
  • Katherinerbier Kukuch’s Bier (? Maybe Wittenburg) – Deep deep brown.
    Special. Spicy sweet. Fruity. Stong alcoholic. Almost root beer
    strength. Heck, almost Drambuie strength. Somebody, please, import this
    stuff.
  • Katherinerbier Met/Kalt – Pronounced “meet”. Mead. Still. Very light
    gold. Sticky sweet and thick. Pure honey mead. Decent stuff.
  • Katherinerbier Original – Almost black. Sweet malt. Thick. Not much
    else.
  • Browar Kormaraw Kirsche (Olsztyn, Poland) – Dark bright red. Subdued
    black cherry.
  • Lausitzer Porter Scharzes (?) – Deep black. Sweet and sharp. Edgy
    with CO2 notes, but not from carbonation – from dryness.
  • Brauerei Meissner Schwerter (Meissen) – Pure black. Not remarkable
    but a good, sharp porter with some roasty notes.
  • Mort Subite  KIirschbier (Belgium) – At Grimbergen tent. Big
    marischino with tart and sour against the sweetness. Bright neon pink.
  • Neuzeller Klosterbrau Kirschbier (Neuzelle, Germany) – Bedium dark
    red with a muddy pink head. Perfect tart, sweet, bitter, sour hit.
    Explodes on the tongue. A+.
  • Neuzeller Klosterbrau Schwarzer-Abt – Pure black. Lots of licorice
    hit. Candy sweetness without being sugary. Gotta go to Neuzelle – it’s
    on the Polish border.
  • Obolon Dunkel (Kiev, Ukraine) – Good dark refreshingly dry.
    Overcarbonated.
  • Primator Exklusiv (Nachod, Czech) – They were out of their
    doppelbock by the time I got to their tent. Shame on them. Still, at 7%
    there’s a noticable alcohol level in this otherwise mundane yellow pils.
    It was too warm.
  • Radick’s Brauhaus Roggenbier (Finsterwalde im Brandenburg) – Murky
    brown. Rye is definitely in far background.
  • St Louis Honig Starkbier (St. Louis, Belgium) – Very bright brown.
    Moderately sweet. A touch of honey in the taste but not enough to
    identify clover, orange, etc.
  • Stortebeker Swarzbier (Stalsund, Germany) – Balanced and pleasant.
    Porterish. A little thicker than a normal schwarz lager. They say this
    is the style on the North Sea.
  • Braumanufactur Forsthaus Templin Beer Brand (Potsdam, Germany) –
    Tasteless schnapps, pure and simple.
  • Braumanufactur Forsthaus Templin Beer Likor – 14%. Strong and
    alcoholic like a sweet aged barleywine. Cognac thick. Dark reddish
    brown. They couldn’t tell me how this was made, distilled, fortified,
    ice?
  • Vielanker Schwarz (Mecklenburg, Germany) – Very black. Big,
    black patent taste with lots of explosive bitter. Not smooth but not
    overpowering.
  • Werderaner Kirschbier (Werder, Germany) – Way overkill. Dark red.
    Too sweet, too cherry. But very popular – there’s over a dozen people
    drinking it as I take this note.
  • Dampfbierbrauerei Zwiesel Dampfbier (Zwiesel, Germany) – Bright
    amber/brown. Honey kicks right at you. Fermented in open wood kegs. Laid
    down for 6 months. Dampf refers to the steam look from the CO2
    released during fermentation. A southern Bavarian specialty. No honey is
    used in the brewing. Import this stuff.
  • Braueri Gastof Zwonitzer Roggen (Zwonitz, Germany) – Unfiltered hazy
    brown. Beautiful heavy rye with a wheat background.

There’s lots of food with German dishes, of course, prominent. Wursts of all
kinds. Bakeries going on site. Cheese. Pretzels, Cotton candy (Zuckerwatte), an
“American Ice Cream” stand with soft-serve sundaes, meat on a stick, candies,
fish and eel, Belgian waffles, one hamburger stand, french fries, baked
potatoes. And of course pickles.


There were also 15 music stages. Weird to hear a band introduce a Karol Keene
song and play, in English, with no accent at all, “Will You Love Me Tommorow”
just as Carol King would. As a girl with pink hair in a death’s head T-shirt taps her
army-booted foot. 100ft away is an oompah band.


There was even a guy brewing beer on the spot.

These beer-can model cars are incredibly complex. Selling for 5 to 10€.

Three guys in the back of this van waiting a while to go back to drinking.

If you might be thinking this is a good place to make an inroad into Europe
for your brewery, you are right. There’s lots of press around and it is, in
fact, a profit-making event for most breweries.

The
typical small brewery at this fest is serving 3 styles and more than 30
half-kegs on hand for the weekend. They have a small specially-built trailer or
a custom pitch-tent. There are a couple with a rental trailer that looks
purposely built for beer fests. They use the supplied water lines and 240v
electricity to power a 2-stage glass rinse, an electric cooler/jockey box, and
some interior lights. Most have a company umbrella or two to cover some of the
supplied tables.

Brochures, mats, etc go fast. Many also sell T-shirts, hats, 4-packs,
6-packs, openers, and other memorabilia. Beer is served in company-logo glasses
which are let out at a 2€ deposit.

Prices are normally 1.50€ for a .3 liter
glass or 2.50€ for .5 liter. Patrons who buy
the official .2 liter mug for 3.50€ get it
filled for 1€. Specialty beers such as
lambics or doppelbocks are more and the festival glass is not honored (or maybe
honored for 2€).

I envision an American promotion with a red, white, and blue tent selling
about 6 beers. After all, there were breweries from Ukraine to Spain, Viet Nam
to Ireland, but Sam Adams and Corona were the only North American brands present
(plus one Cuban beer). Plenty of bitter pilsners, but no IPAs. Not a Cascade hop
bouquet anywhere to be found.

Did
stop at one Berlin brewpub. The Lindenbrau is under the Sony Center dome at
Potsdamerplatz. It’s one of the
Hofbrauhaus
Traunstein
family along with our “local”
Flieger Brau
in Munich’s suburb Frauenkirchen. They sell in the .3 (kleines), .5 (halbe), 1.0
(mass), and 1.5 liter “kanne” (8.80€) but
have only have one of their beers available:

  • Hofbrau Weisse – Hefe with lots of carbonation which gives a long lasting
    foamy head. Somewhat bready with no sweet banana. Just solid weissey beerness.
    Fairly dark.

But they also sell Berliner Kindl’s Berliner Weisse in rot and grun and it
should have been a good opportunity to compare the two. Unfortunately the syrups
were overdone, making them diabetic sugary. The grun (green) woodruff syrup is
very hard to describe. The beer came out a dark florescent green. It’s not mint
or lime but very tart to balance the sweetness. No beer essence at all.

There are at least 3 more brewpubs in Berlin but fifteen is my limit on
schnitzengruben. Baby, I’m not from Havana.