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
|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.
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.
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
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.
stop at one Berlin brewpub. The Lindenbrau is under the Sony Center dome at
Potsdamerplatz. It’s one of the
Traunstein family along with our “local”
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.
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.