This is about Berlin.
Well, not about Berlin, nor their transport system, or Berlin’s history, or even a guide around their drinking establishments.
This is just a few bits & pieces and really crap photos of my holiday I just had there (January 2014).
In thinking about writing this I realised that the last time I think I went on holiday via plane was to Oktoberfest (Munich) in about 2009, so it had been a fair while since had been anywhere where they had spoken a genuinely different language, this includes all the time I spent in London and Scotland.
I’m also writing this with a bit of a bout of “budget flu” and after a big bowl of pasta – oh pasta how under-rated you are when you diet for four days consisted of rich meats and potatoes all of which were either boiled or fried – its good to get a bit of different texture once in a while.
I had previously been to Berlin once before in May of 2005 – then I was met with a heavy police presence (not me personally, the city) and large groups of protesters and neo-nazis (both groups well behaved where ever I encountered them) because it was the 60th anniversary commemorations for World War II. But then I was only for 22 hours (Why? Fucked if I know).
This time around there was precious few people. A 3 hour queue (not including for tickets) for the television tower was the most concentrated amount of people.
Of course there was also a throng of people around the bits of the Berlin Wall still standing, Check-Point Charlie and the Brandenburg gate, reminiscing about the time Michael Jackson held “his baby” over the balcony of the Hotel Adlon. But these still seemed rather subdued.
Plus every where you looked there were spent firework casings and broken bottles from New Years Eve. It appeared the whole city was on one very long holiday.
Well, except their transport network, where one journey was delayed by 4 minutes (yes, I was disgusted), but all the others ran ahead of schedule, so I was actually up on time as it were. Northern Rail and Manchester Metrolink probably owe me about 2 whole days of my life back.
They also love their graffiti over there.
So, that is 400 words and no mention about actual beer yet.
BrauHaus Lemke was the first stop off. As the name suggests they brew their own beers (established 1999), on site or not I never thought to ask. They had 4 beers to offer – their Pils, Original (Dark) and Wheat all for 4.30Euros, or their special at 4.65Euros. Above is the tasting platter, where you can get 100ml of each for 4.10Euros.
It is quite ironic that I’ve not had a good working phone for this holiday, so couldn’t get on twitter. Instead I come back to the most recent chatter being about cloudy and yeasty beers being the new ‘fad’ and also the new thing to rebel against.
Another nice irony is I got another “it is a dark beer (schwarzbeir), Sir!” warning.
All the beers were fine, as was the food consumed – obviously there turned out to be cheaper places to go, but as a tourist place (or T(err)ourist as some stickers would have it) I suppose you could say it eases you in gently.
The other thing I suppose Germany is well known for (beer wise) is the Reinheitsgebot – German Beer Purity Law and this played an educational role in the next place.
The above menu was full of beers (separate food menu, always a good sign) but when the only beer they have on tap is Heineken you do worry for a second.
But they had at least 100 bottles to chose from, all clearly stating if they adhered to the beer purity law and if not, what else had been added (sugar, smoke flavour, etc.).
Check out the raised writing on the glass, like old-school advertising on football shirts, or those paint-by-numbers you could bake in the oven and they’d rise to be 3-D.
You’d want to keep the glass but in Germany, they add on a recycling fee (not in the pubs), which of course you do get back – but if you don’t live in Germany, just make sure you point this out when you buy a few street-cans or train-cans from a shop as you’ll save about 25cents.
This “Porter” drink came mit Zucker – and that is all I could taste – bloody awful.
This beer was OK, better when I had it on draft (obviously) but palatable enough.
The bar did contain two hand dryers, which was not the norm, as all other places seem to prefer paper towels:
At the top you have the Airwolf, and apart from getting one of the best TV themes ever in my head, it did not dry the hands very well.
On the bottom we have the StarMix AirStar. This was a tiny hand dryer, got hot very quickly, but had a very odd turned up nozzle and small aperture, so it was not that efficient at its job.
Also visited was BrauHaus Mitte.
Exact same menu and prices as Lemke (the special beer may have been different by name), but can’t seem to find if they are related companies.
What was odd is I went in a place called “The Pub” (which is NOT by any stretch an “English Pub” knock-off). A youngish crowd who enjoy burgers and taps at their own table and a TV with a league table from other “The Pub” branches over Europe to keep score as to who is drinking the most.
What tickled me more is that a group of about 5-6 girls and boys were passing around a pint of Guinness, much in the same manner you’d seen English dandy ponces doing the same in a BrewDog establishment. So they’ll be happy when those cock-juggling thunder cunts open their latest branch in Berlin.
Oh yes, AC/DC beer…
Oddly this was in a pint can, cost me 99cents from a supermarket and was quite nice for a canned beer (under license to Live Nation) that was also brewed in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot.
Also available from said supermarket were these lovely products:
Those Germans love their alcopops, but they at least can still “market them for children” as our hysterical nanny staters would have you believe.
Oh, for those of you reading this who for you alcohol isn’t your drug of choice, then may I recommend Görlitzer Park. You will not be short of any offers.
If you want my opinion, do not go in the HofBrauHaus. It is a place that is trying to recreate the tents at the Oktoberfest, but it just lacks soul and if I may so, massive amounts of committed drunken people. Instead this was the most full place I went into and consequently it took an age to order and then get served.
Much better was the Paulaner Haus. Further out from the centre, it lacked anybody (I was assured that it is usually busy, so this must reflect the lack of people in Berlin in general), so it turned out to be just one giant regular bar, with some bloody steep steps to the toilet.
Paulaner Dunkel is a nice drink. This place also had the nicest staff. Don’t know if it was the time of year, my broken-English/pseudo-German or any number of other things, but a lot of the staff in many of the places I went in were just grumpy wastrels.
Not breaking with the norm were the people at the Berliner Marcus Brau, who to be fair were actually very busy (the place is tiny) and served the best beer of the trip.
As you can see from the beer on the left – they love their cloudy beers – even so much as to make my schwarzbeir in the middle appear translucent.
I don’t know what the smoking laws are in Germany. But it seemed that when the sign for Schultheiss was observed, the bar staff’s first job was to put an ashtray on your table to seemingly encourage you to smoke. All other places appeared to be smoke-free, but this may have been a food thing(?).
The above beer (Pils) isn’t half bad either, its just a shame that my non-smoking lungs have forgotten how to deal with smoky pubs.
Below is the only sweet thing I had, not bad, but not the “Feast” type lolly I was expecting, but I really craved some different texture and the chocolate.
All in all you can marvel at just how bad German stereotypes actually are.
The only efficient thing there was the transport system. I also trekked over to Frankfurt (Oder) and from there was able to cross over to Poland. Which was even more desolate than some parts of Berlin, but the beer was half the price (as I assume were the cigarettes) and, as was made abundantly clear on the walks back and forth over the bridge – the Polish side is clean and tidy and the German side is coated with graffiti.
You can smoke in some pubs.
You always get table service, so no queues at the bar (though then you worry about tips if you are that way inclined, or not as the case may be).
There are probably hundreds of places in Berlin alone to drink and see, but I somehow expect the beer is all the same.
Good but all the same type of good.
Berlin – where the helles did everyone go to?