Beer Me, Berlin!

You know it’s been a long day at the beer festival when guys in lederhosen start doing the moonwalk.

— The essence of the moment, Saturday night at the Berlin beerfest.

More than 2,000 beers from over 300 breweries hailing from 86 countries — all spread out over two kilometers in the middle of the city. No, this is not Oktoberfest.

So many beers yet so little time. That’s the Berlin Beer Festival.

2011 Berlin Beer Festival
Ah, the Berlin Beer Festival. Good times.

While we don’t really consider ourselves beer experts, living in the Czech Republic for five years did a bit to realign our taste buds. Living thick in a beer-brewing culture tuned us onto the importance of the essence, ingredients, and dimensions of a good beer — hops, yeast, malt, foam and head, appearance, aroma and finish.

When we heard the 15th annual Berlin Bierfestival was on, we sensed a good opportunity to dip into some draft goodness — from the crafty trappist brewers of Belgium to the cuckoo beers of German monasteries.

Berlin Beer Festival 2011
Berlin beer festival: more than 2,000 beers spread out over two kilometers.

Berlin Beerfest: A Few Favorites

After some sampling, our inclinations were confirmed. Belgian, German and Czech beers really are among the best, if not the best in the world. Sure it’s the science — the right ingredients like hops and water are important. But it’s the art, the hands of craft brewers and their tradition are what make a good beer into something truly great.

Grimbergen Optimo Bruno: Belgium. A dark, double fermented beer, Optimo Bruno quite possibly takes the golden bear award for the weekend. Weighing in at a hefty 10% alcohol content, but with a subtlety and oh-so-slight sweetness that its Grimbergen Double and Triple cousins (also tasty) couldn’t quite pull off.

Blond, Double, or Triple, Grimbergen were all worthy of a quaff. Grimbergen (and Belgium in general) clearly does something special with its brews.

Leffe Dark: Belgium. Many know the name. Perhaps you’ve had a bottle of blond. If you haven’t had a taste of the Leffe Dark, seek it out. Rich, roast-y, a bit of ale, and the tiniest bit of fruit. This is one to sit with. And so we did, for an hour-long conversation among friends.

Radigks Roggenbier: Brandenburg, Germany. Our final taste of the weekend and what a way to depart. A rye beer, creamy and rich. When the pour was finished, bubbles welled up from the bottom of the glass. An effervescent pour with beautiful foam, but quick to disappear. Soft, almost like silk. And not sweet, only the slightest bit rye. Some claim they get bananas out of a glass of the stuff, but we somehow missed that highlight.

Fuller’s Vintage Ale: United Kingdom. Of the ales we tasted, this was the one we enjoyed most. Not an exceptionally strong ale. Light, but a hint of nut. Slightly chilled, it struck us as surprisingly perfect on a warm day.

Bratwurst and beer at #berlin beer festival.
Of course, one also needs lots of bratwurst to go with all this beer.

Bernard: Czech Republic. One of our favorite neighborhood beers from our days in Prague. When served from a clean tap (not always the case), it’s full, heady, unpasteurized and just bitter enough. For a crisp, clean pilsner it’s among the best.

Katharina von Bora Kuckucksbier: Saxony, Germany. Here’s a beer with story. Named after Martin Luther’s wife, the brewery is literally run by a bunch of nuns. But they crank out some interesting barrels, including this medium brew that finishes like a dunkel with a faint touch of honey.

Zunft Kölsch: Cologne, Germany. Our first time tasting a Kölsch, the traditional beer of the German city of Köln (Cologne). Mildly grassy, grainy, hoppy. Fresh and crisp, only a hint of bitter. Traditionally served in tall, very skinny glasses (think something to hold a gin and tonic.)

Prost!

So next time we’re faced with 2,000 beers, where should we begin?

Where would you begin? What are your favorite beers of the world?

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Comments

  1. Sutapa Chattopadhyay says

    Did you guys have all that beer in one sitting? One day? Or was it over the course of many days? How did you return home, is my question then…
    :)

  2. says

    @Sutapa: We’re two people, so that helps – we shared the beers mentioned above (and more). Also, this was over two days and many hours. We actually rode bikes there and back…and were fine!

    @Jordan: Lots of great beers in the world to help quench your thirst!

  3. says

    @Ryan: I’m sure there are some Czech and Belgium (and other) people who would argue with your assertion that German beer is the best in the world :) But, Germany does know how to brew some great beers.

  4. says

    Oh Berlin, Berlin! can’t wait to visit you! btw is it only to taste beers or you can also find jägermeister or any other german unique alcohol drinks?

  5. says

    @Carlos: Although the primary purpose of the Berlin beer festival is beer, it is possible to find stalls serving other types of alcohol. But you’d have to be careful about mixing :)

  6. SvW says

    I was there too, and I share your opinion. So many beers, yet so little time.

    Those are the beers i drank;

    Weihenstephan Pils
    Barbarossa Hell
    Barbarossa Apfel Bier
    Herrnbrau
    Jogi
    Hofmark
    Gessner
    Ur-Krostitzer
    Mammut Hell
    Easy Rider
    Platan
    Verige Dunkel
    Katharina von Bora Kuckucksbier
    Kreuzberger Klosterbier
    Birra Moretti
    Stralsunder Dunkel
    Lekker Pilsener
    Jever
    Cubanero Fuerte
    Schinner Braunbier
    Schinner Honigbier
    Roter Oktober
    Haake Beck Pils
    Fritzens Kartoffelbier
    Olbernhauer Biere
    Schlappe Seppel
    Wernersgruner
    Kasteelbier Blond
    DjuDju Mango Beer

  7. says

    @SvW: That is a phenomenal list. What were your favorites (maybe top 3?) from that list? Is the Kreuzberger Klosterbier an unfiltered beer? If so, I think we might have had it (not at the festival, but in Kreuzberg). A good beer. Apple (apfel) beer — that sounds unique.

  8. says

    Love that they had foreign beers. The Germans can be pretty snobby about that. There was an EU case about it.

    Leffe is one of my favorites. Good to see it have a showing.

  9. says

    @Andrew: A legal case about foreign beer in Germany? I can believe it.

    Leffe is good stuff, but the Grimbergen blond, double and triples were even better. Check them out if you get a chance.

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