Despite Germany’s outstanding brewing traditions, the country’s capital is not widely thought of as a great place for beer. The city’s native beer style, the sour Berliner Weisse, is now almost extinct. And considering we’re talking about a city of 3.4 million people who seem to pride themselves on eating well, drinking well and going out a heck of a lot, finding good local beers can be surprisingly difficult.
That’s certainly the case for the Eschenbräu brewpub, which offers three regular beers with ten seasonal specials scheduled for 2009. It’s not impossible to reach, but it’s far enough off the tourist map that most casual visitors to Berlin aren’t going to bump into it.
Located in the gritty neighborhood of Wedding, north and west of Mitte, Eschenbräu has a sign on the street telling guests that its entrance is around the corner. It’s actually around several corners, through a courtyard and down some stairs, hiding behind what appears to be a student dormitory.
The atmosphere is part student Kneipe, part classic Berlin beer bar, with dark wood tables, dark banquettes against the walls and brewing paraphernalia — empty malt sacks from Weyermann and so forth — making up the décor. The mood last Thursday was quiet, festive and neighborly, the kind of night when the music they’re playing is rock ‘n’ roll but at low volume, a night when the waitress immediately calls you “Du.”
I managed to try both the Pils and Weizen, skipping the reddish Dunkles only because of time constraints. The Pils had a pronounced hop bitterness, but very little hop aroma, and a thin, yellowish body in line with many German Pils beers; the loose white head disappeared within a few seconds. Biased by Czech pale lagers, which are usually both more malty and more aromatic, I thought it was okay by comparison. However, when compared to a bottle of Berliner Pilsner, Eschenbräu’s version was nectar.
I got a lot more out of the Weizen, a refreshing clove-scented wheat in the Bavarian style, which seemed to have a better bitter-sweet balance.
My visit missed by a day Eschenbräu’s first seasonal special of the year, a Dunkler Bock released on 13.2; other scheduled specials are Rauchbier (13.3), Hopfenblume (3.4), Maibock (1.5), Bayrisch Hell (5.6), Roter Wedding (10.7, a “red” lager taking the traditionally leftist neighborhood’s nickname), Schwarze Molle (7.8), Märzen (25.9), Doppelhopf (30.10), and something called “Alter Schwede” (27.11).
It’s interesting to note that while Eschenbräu makes beers in the style of other cities — Munich, Bamberg and so on — it doesn’t seem to produce a beer in the traditional style of its own hometown. Sure, there will be Bamberger Rauchbier. But apparently there won’t be any Berliner Weisse here.
“Interesting” is one way of putting it. “Depressing” is another.
Triftstraße 67 (near U-Bahn Leopoldplatz)
13 353 Berlin-Wedding
Tel. +49 30 462 68 37
Open daily from 5 p.m.