24 August 2012

Up market, up country

From the somewhat bohemian Berlin brewpubs of Wednesday's post, we return to the middle of town to visit a couple of places that are rather more polished. Take Lindenbräu, for instance. This cubic glass and steel construction is built into the monumental Sony Centre on Potsdamer Platz, rising two storeys and topped by an indoor roof terrace, if that makes any sense. Tragically, we missed the window of opportunity to sit on the upper level when we visited, too busy soaking up the convivial atmosphere on the ground level and, obviously, the beer.

Lindenbräu Naturtrüb Helles looks a bit off, with its murky yellow colouring. The aroma is pure noble hops: that green nettley smell with a bit of extra yeasty sharpness. The texture is big and bready, making it feel wholesome. There's not really a lot going on in the flavour: it's another conversation beer. A hint of green apple tang keeps my attention and stops it from feeling heavy. There's a Lindenbräu Pils on offer as well. This is totally clear but other than some mild herbs is rather dull. Lindenbräu Dunkel next, a fairly by-the-numbers job: red-brown with lots of big caramel and brown sugar. Sticky, yes, but with a lightness of texture that means it's still very drinkable. Unusually, Lindenbräu Weissbier is kept as a seasonal. It's orange in colour, very fizzy, and with cloves bursting out of the aroma. Flavourwise it's quite sweet with candyfloss sugar forming the base, then laced with clove rock notes. Workmanlike is how I'd describe Lindenbräu's beers, but perfectly acceptable. The venue gets bonus points for having an outdoorsy feel minus any threat of rain.

Our last Berlin brewery, Lemke, nestles beneath the railway line at Hackescher Markt, with its beer garden occupying a quiet nook alongside where only the rattle of trains passing above disturbs the peace. Is there a pils? Of course there is. Lemke Pils is a pale lemon yellow colour with just a little bit of haze. The aroma is oddly citric for a pils and the first sip reveals a full-on piquant bitterness which subsides into some lovely lemon candy notes. Not at all what I was expecting and a pleasant surprise. Lemke Weizen, though a little dark in colour, is actually quite light and easy going. The aroma has a gingerbread character and the flavour harmoniously blends oranges, bananas and, of course, cloves. Definitely one of the better weissbiers I met on the trip.

There's more of that gingerbread in Lemke Zwickel, itself a clear dark gold beer. Once you get past the dusting of spices it's quite a plain and dry lager. Rather than a dunkel there's Lemke Original, a brown lager with creamy milk chocolate flavours, studded with orange candy. Quite nice, in a mild sort of way.

Here ends the Berlin breweries. Those familiar with the city may notice the glaring absence of BrewBaker from these posts. I certainly did. We never really set aside the time to visit it up in Moabit in the north-west of the city. It's not really clear whether the brewery is a walk-in arrangement with a tasting bar, so we didn't go, hoping to happen across some of their beers somewhere else. Sadly, we didn't. So no BrewBaker this time round.

We did, however, take a couple of days to head north and visit friends in the Baltic port city of Kiel. My mate's local -- every bit as classy as its website suggests -- lashes out DAB and Jever on draught. The latter is a very different experience without the lightstrike caused by green glass. Kiel also boasts a brewpub in its tiny old city square: the aptly named Kieler Brauerei. It's a cavernous beerhall in faux-keller style, ranging back from the entrance, with a shiny copper brewkit by the door and open fermenters on display in the cellar.

Just two beers are produced on site. The Kieler Helles Pils is a familiar cloudy yellow-orange. The main taste I got from it was a worrying sort of vinegary sharpness, but it's not overpowering and it's possible to get past it, to the plain spoken lager behind. Perhaps not a very technically proficient beer, but a drinkable one nonetheless. The second is, I think, attempting a pun with its name "Kieler Bier" (like "kellerbier", geddit?) and is a murky brown-amber colour. The flavour is a fascinating blend of soft fruit and caramel with hints of milk chocolate. Coupled with the smooth texture this makes it quite moreish and kept us in the place for a second round.

Enough microbreweries for now. Next week we'll return to the capital and hit the festival!


  1. Are you in Berlin the whole time, or are you going to be heading elsewhere? I'll be making a swing through Germany in a couple of months, though mainly Franconia and Bavaria. Just wondering if you'll be doing some of my advance work.

    1. Err... we're in magical non-real blog-time here. In the damp sticky real world I left Germany two and a half weeks ago. Next week's posts are on the Berlin beer festival, but I do have a fair bit of Bavarian stuff in there, including a Franconian rauchbier brewery I'd never heard of before.