Beer may be a universal product, but travelling overseas and seeing a foreign country through the eyes of its beer drinkers makes you realise how different things can be. That those eyes are bloodshot and sleep-deprived is par for the course – boy, do Germans like a beer. Of course, even before I went to Berlin I knew that, but spending several days there (on my first real trip to Germany) certainly reinforced that particular stereotype.
I’ll be writing in detail about those differences – between the German drinker and the British (or rather, the modern British) drinker in another post – along with my introduction to the wonders of Berliner Weisse. But our first Berlin post highlights Brauhaus Spandau – as good a personal introduction to the spirit of German brewing as one could hope for. I loved Spandau – travelling there as a ‘beer treat’ became a highlight of the trip for my girlfriend and I, as we ended up spending eight hours there.
To find it, take the S9 from Berlin city centre (or the U7 to Altstadt Spandau, which is closer). Walk up past the red town hall and the modern church of St Nikolai, and hopefully the tall redbrick chimney of the brewery should guide you in, over the dual carriageway. For the first-timer like myself, the Brauhaus ticks every box – large outdoor beer garden, busy but well-organised bar, huge plates of sausage. The brewing equipment seems to be woven into the building, with two giant coppers behind the bar. A wrong-turn to the toilet led to a foaming bath of beer in the conditioning room, frothing away gently.
The staff each operate a small area of the garden, or the inside – I’m not even sure you can be served at the bar, it seems to be table service only. They are friendly and very efficient, each of our beer orders arrived extremely quickly, and thankfully a minimum of fuss was made when my credit card was rejected (an issue that also gave me the chance to go behind the bar, albeit only to stab another four digits into a different machine). On a random chilly Thursday the inside of the Brauhaus filled up pretty quickly.
Don’t expect Flanders-esque wooden-backed menus – they only make two beers at any given time. No agonising choices to be made here. Have one, then the other. Their regular is Spandauer Havelbräu Hell – an unfiltered lager. Each month, a special is also produced – which for April is Spandauer Schwartzbier. A bottled wheat beer is also offered, as is home-made schnapps (which can also be added to either of the beers to generate a fairly lethal Spandaubomb).
Admittedly I was on holiday, and generally bright of mood, but I found both of the beers to be outstanding. The lager (pictured above) had a beautiful grassy lemon flavour, with the unfined yeast only playing a small role in the flavour – unlike many unfined beers over here – coming across as a faint marzipan sweetness. The Schwartzbier was even better – deep, sweet chocolate with an ashy bitterness on the finish. Both were superbly smooth, drinkable – and pretty dangerous at over 5% (as we discovered later).
There may well be nicer beer gardens in Berlin – and probably better brewers in and around the city, too. Sadly we never made it to Eschenbrau or Sudstern (we did go to Prater, which will be another post this week). Spandau may be a trip out of the centre, but it’s absolutely and utterly worth it.
Neuendorfer Strasse 1
Spandau, Berlin 13585
(030) 353 907