We last visited Berlin on our first trip to Germany in 2001. Earlier on that journey, we visited Munich and completely fell in love with the Bavarian capital. During our stay in Berlin, all we could think was that it wasn’t Munich. The warm and cozy feel we got in Munich was not present in the sprawling construction zone that was Berlin. Now, we return to Berlin nine years later to give it another chance.
In 2010, Berlin still feels like a huge construction zone. While not like 2001, cranes still dominate parts of the skyline. But this is not the Berlin of 2001. We were introduced to the new Berlin on the walk to our first brewery stop of the day, Lindenbräu in the Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz. The Wall ran right through Potsdamer Platz and back in 2001, the Sony Center was the only building in a sea of construction sites. Walking from our hotel to the Sony Center, we were amazed by how little we recognized the area. A new city has sprouted up around the Sony Center.
We arrived at Lindenbräu right at opening time and grabbed one of the numerous outside tables. The brewpub is some sort of collaboration with Hofbräuhaus Traunstein with the Bavarian brewery supervising the brewing of the one house beer, Hofbräu-Weiße. Each of us quickly had one in hand. It was the perfect beer for an already warm day.
I vaguely remember drinking Berliner Weiße back in 2001. And I vaguely remember not caring for it. Berliner Weiße is a wheat beer that has syrup added when served. Traditionally there are two flavors of syrup, Himbeer (raspberry) or Waldmeister (woodruff). With its low alcohol content, Berliner Weiße is touted as the perfect summer beer.
We knew we wanted to try Berliner Weiße again. Seeing the Berliner Kindl version on Lindenbräu’s menu, I ordered one of each, a red and a green. My order elicited two responses from our waitress: “Only tourists order that…” and “Do you know what it is?”
Assuring our waitress that we understood what we were getting ourselves into, we soon had two glasses of neon colored liquid in front of us. Both syrups give the Berliner Weiße a sickly sweet flavor with the green being the milder of the two. The red was just like drinking soda pop. In either case, we couldn’t tell the base component was beer. With my memories from 2001 validated, it was time to move on.
If Berlin has a brewing center, it would be the area around Alexander Platz. In close proximity of the train station are three breweries with a fourth a short walk away.
Walking down from the Brandenburg Gate along Unter den Linden, the first of these brewpubs we reached was Brahaus Mitte. Located in a unassuming shopping mall, Brahaus Mitte is situated on the second level overlooking the action out on Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse. Avoiding the inside seating inundated with tour groups, we grabbed a seat on the flower-covered balcony.
Brauhaus Mitte had three of the standard German brews: Pils, Hefeweizen and Dunkel. I started with the Pils while Merideth, turning over a new leaf, chose the Hefe. Merideth has learned to appreciate German-style wheat beers more and more. Brauhaus Mitte’s Weizen was neither too clove-y nor banana-y, just the way she likes it. As the day warmed up to be a bit hot and humid, the Weizen was perfect.
Our next stop, Brauhaus Lemke, should have been a short walk around the corner from Brauhaus Mitte. Unfortunately, we relied on the Google map that I had printed out for directions. The dot on the sheet was on the opposite side of the Alexander Platz train station from its actual location. After wandering around for about a half an hour, I finally said to Merideth. “it should be here according to my Google map.” Then a flash of brilliance: look at the street numbers. We found Brahaus Lemke shortly thereafter.
Brauhaus Lemke is located in an archway underneath the elevated railway tracks. The arched ceiling gives the brewpub a cool cave, cellar-like feel. Passing through the building, we situated ourselves in the peaceful beer garden out back. There were a couple of cozy chairs, but we chose one of the tables in the garden-like setting. The only noise that disturbed the tranquility was the occasional train passing overhead.
A rarity in Germany, Brauhaus Lemke had a taster set of their four beers. Along with the standard Pils and Weizen, the taster set was rounded out by a Zwickelbier and “Original”, a malty, deep amber-colored brew. After our taster set, we both ordered a half liter of the Zwickelbier, an unfiltered lager.
The last brewery in the Alexander Platz neighborhood, Marcus Bräu, was a short, two-minute walk from Lemke. Billed as Berlin’s smallest brewery, Marcus Bräu, was located in a small corner pub on a busy shopping street. Having just opened for the day, Merideth and I were their first customers.
Marcus Bräu had two beers, a Pils and a Dark. Both were very nice with the Pils being the preferred choice for the weather.
We ended the first day’s brewery tour at GeorgBräu, a brewpub that we visited back in 2001. The brewpub’s pleasant riverside setting was one of the strong memories we had of our first trip to Berlin. Located along the Spree River, GeorgBräu, was a ten minute walk from Alexander Platz.
With our brewery goals for the day reached, we finally had some time to relax and enjoy the Berlin evening.