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A reflective personal visit through the city’s brewing past and present

Part 2 - Wednesday 8th October 2014

Berlin Breweries P2 1A strange start to the day as DB (German Railways) were on strike until 06.00 that morning, so we started out 30 minutes earlier than required to ensure our connection. Oddly, we caught a train that was precisely one hour late, departing at 08.00 instead of 07.00! We travelled to Wannsee station, found on the lake of the same name. This was once the last western district of West Berlin before crossing the frontier into the DDR (East Germany) and armed boats once patrolled the lake.

Berlin Breweries P2 2This time myself, along with the Brewery History Society party caught the 09.30 boat across the former border in the middle of the lake to a palace. Although we were visiting a brewery of the modern times, its location is truly historic.

The first palace at this location was known as the Marmorpalais. It was built by King Friedrich-Wilhelm II of the Prussian royal family, Hohenzollern in the park called Neuen Garten (New Garden).

In 1912 Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany built a new palace. It was finished in 1917 and was named Schloss Cecilienhof. Surprisingly it was built the English Tudor style. We had glimpses of it from the boat and it did look rather odd nestling amongst the trees at the side of the lake. The date of completion is significant as it was at the very end of the reign of the German Monarchy, making it almost redundant thereafter.

Berlin Breweries P2 3It was used for the Potsdam Conference in 1945 when Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin divided Austria and Germany along with their capitals. The borders of some central European countries were also redrawn; notably the enlargement of Poland.

The DDR government later used it for receptions and from 1960 part of it became a hotel. From 1990 it has been a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is now a museum and the rest remains as a hotel.

Berlin Breweries P2 4The location for this visit was the former dairy and water pumping station of the palace which was built between 1790 and 1792 as a dairy with milk provided by cows grazing in the park.

It was extended between 1843 to 1844 when an additional floor was added along with the tall chimney. This exhausted the smoke from a new pumping station which supplied clean water to the palace.

In 1928 it was partially converted into a restaurant and biergarten. It was very popular with Berliners arriving by the lake and river network. The palace was badly damaged by bombing on 25th July 1944. After 1945 the palace and the grounds were occupied by Soviet forces, causing further damage. This building on the lake shore was derelict until 2001, when reconstruction and redevelopment commenced.

Berlin Breweries P2 5On 27th June 2003 it opened as a brewery-restaurant, the Brauerei Meierei im Neuen Garten. Our party were guided around the brewery by the brewer Jürgen Solkovski.

Although not satisfying my quest to discover the origins of beers past drank, it was a fascinating visit and I intend to visit this most beautiful brewery again, preferably on the steamboat “Gustav”, which plies the lake.

Leaving the tranquil shore we caught a service bus into the city. Our destination was Lindenstrasse where we viewed the outside of a long departed brewery. We were accompanied at this point by Christian Kestel, the official historian of the famous malting company Weyermann’s of Bamberg.

In 1902 they established a brewery in Potsdam to produce a malt product named “Sinamar” which is patented. It was known as the Röstmalzbierbrauerei Heinz Weyermann.

Berlin Breweries P2 6“Sinamar” is non-alcoholic and used in some beers yet has a multitude of other uses, such an edible glue / gum. It’s amusing to note that it is utilised in the making of “Gummi-Bears” these days. During the Second World War the brewery was not badly damaged but is it was in the Soviet-occupied sector it was not possible to trade any longer and it closed in 1945. Some of the equipment was moved to Bamberg. These days “Sinamar” has its own 90 hl brewing plant within the walls of the maltings.

Although not a location on my wish list it was interesting to see a building that is now hardly recognisable as a former brewery in the sylvan location of Lindenstrasse. Please see photograph above left. Next, I got a bit closer in my quest to see the Berlin (and Potsdam) brewing sites of beers enjoyed in past years after we took another bus journey into the city centre arriving outside Potsdam Hauptbahnhof (main railway station).

Berlin Breweries P2 7Dodging trams, we made our way to the opposite side of the station square where we found an ex-brewery shrouded in scaffolding. This was the Brauerei am Brauhausberg which originated in 1884 and was expanded many times until 1934. The founders were the Hoffmann brothers and by 1890 it had acquired a pub on-site and a biergarten.

The name means “brewery on the brew house hill”, there being deep cellars under it where beer matured in big wooden casks through the winter before being served in the summer.

Berlin Breweries P2 8In 1896 it was taken over by the Vereinsbrauerei Rixdorf from the suburb of the same name in southern Berlin who renamed it Vereinsbrauerei Potsdam. When it was taken over by Brauerei Berliner Kindl in 1910 it was thereafter known as Berliner Kindl-Potsdam apart from the period of nationalisation, see below.

As already mentioned Potsdam found itself in the Soviet zone. The brewery became state owned and following the establishment of the DDR in 1948 it was known as VEB Brauerei-Potsdam. Its beers were sold in the station restaurant and I can remember two of them from there, Rex-Pils and Deutsche Pilsner Vollbier. After the DDR’s demise it became a Kindl brewery again, from 1990 until closure in 1995.

I imbibed some Rex-Pils during this era. It’s a beer that still exists, brewed now in Lichtenberg at the huge Berliner-Kindl-Schultheiss-Brauerei, which we visited the following day.

Berlin Breweries P2 9We then boarded another Potsdam city bus to go to a pub-brewery with an interesting history.

The Forsthaus (literally “Forest House”) was originally built as a private residence.

It became a pub in 1834 and naturally had a large biergarten. Behind the trees on the opposite side of the road to the Forsthaus is the Templiner See, another of the lakes that surround Potsdam.

Berlin Breweries P2 10The lake was the key to its early popularity as there were three piers here which brought steamships laden with thirsty (and hungry) passengers from the city on hot sunny days. The biergarten could hold 4,000 patrons. It hit the height of its popularity during the inter-war years. It remained open after the cessation of hostilities, under state control.

The post war years initially saw a return of patronage and the venerable pub was converted to self-service.

The beer sold here during that period was from the VEB Brauerei Potsdam, the remains of which we had just observed. After re-unification it was privatised, but the clientèle declined and it eventually closed in 1997. However, all was not lost as new management took control and it reopened on 6th December 2003.

Berlin Breweries P2 11The most notable change was the installation of a brewery and then a new era dawned. The brewing side of the business has expanded and the beers, both draught and bottled, are distributed throughout the local area.

They have three regular beers, Hell (light lager), Dunkel (dark lager) and Potsdamer Stange. The latter is very interesting It’s a local style that was once lost. It’s named after the distinctive tall thin glass that it is served in and is an amber lager.

Other seasonal beers are brewed including their take on Berliner Weisse, the sour wheat beer. This was a style of beer that almost slipped into oblivion and here they call it Potsdamer Weisse. All of their beers are unfiltered and certified organic.

Berlin Breweries P2 12As I walked with the group from the bus stop outside the pub I observed the thatched arch that led into the biergarten.

Once inside we could see we were in a big room with large wooden tables and chairs divided by a central aisle. To the left is the serving counter and beyond, the brewery.

The walls are decorated with deer heads and skulls, along with that of a large boar, no doubt once residents of the forest behind the pub. At one end a wall displays enamel signs of breweries past.

Berlin Breweries P2 13We had a good tour of the brewery. The equipment was interesting inasmuch that the mash tun and copper appear older than the 2003 brewery founding date.

At the rear of the pub the bottling plant, fermentation and maturation vessels all seemed modern.

Worthy of note is that the brewery’s full title is Braumanufaktur Forsthaus Templin.

This was another great brewery visit organised by Michaela Knoer, more of later, and the late Chris Marchbanks.

Our party travelled back into Potsdam where we dispersed our separate ways. I and a few other members visited one more brewery that evening, or more precisely a micro-brewery, Pfefferbräu. (Photographs below left and right.)

Berlin Breweries P2 14This is in the same Prenzlauer Berg district that we started this grand tour on the previous day.

At the time we visited Pfefferbräu shared its brewer, Torsten Schoppe with the Südstern brewery in Kreuzberg, which we visited later on in our tour. That was the following day, yet I am not sure if he still works there.

Pfefferbräu was accessed by climbing some outside steps from Schönhauser Allee, a main thoroughfare.

Berlin Breweries P2 15
It has an outside patio for al-fresco drinking and inside resembles a modern bar. This a part of the reconstructed area was once the old Pfefferberg brewery closed in the early 1920s.

The open area at the top of the steps was the old brewery’s biergarten. The old brewery was established here on a hill, not unsurprisingly called Pfefferberg.

Prenzlauer Berg is a hilly district and that’s why it attracted so many breweries. The ability to store beer underground in cool cellars was very important.

When it was founded in 1841 the brewery was the first in Berlin to brew bottom fermented beer, i.e. lager. Others followed and the area soon had thirteen large breweries in close proximity. It went through several changes of ownership in its earlier years but a period of stability began when it was purchased in 1861.

Berlin Breweries P2 16Modernisation and expansion followed after this. It was known as Schneider & Hillig Brauerei Pfefferberg. It became a public company in 1887 and thereafter it was Aktiengesellschaft Brauerei Pfefferberg. It was enlarged further after this but the last enlargement was finished by 1913. Because of residential construction surrounding the site it could get no bigger. (Photographs left and below right, dated around the turn of the century.)

Berlin Breweries P2 17Following the First World War it was purchased by the Brauerei Schultheiss who quickly closed it although the biergarten remained open.

Following reunification there was pressure to establish the site as a cultural centre. Work on this began in 2000. Subsequent to this art galleries and two restaurants have opened.

The Pfefferberg Theatre began productions in the autumn of 2013. This is located in the taproom of the original brewery and includes a restaurant with the new Brauerei Pfefferberg therein.

Berlin Breweries P2 18It looks like the brew-pub is actually on a newly built extension. On entering we found the bar counter about midway along the room.

Left is a seating area which extends to in front of the bar. To the right is the shining brewery equipment.

The foyer of the theatre is to the right of the bar counter and shares toilet facilities with the pub. The pub-restaurant is busy before and after performances (photograph left).

This was a good day with a fine mix of old and new. The boat journey on the Wannsee provided an excellent way to arrive at a brewery. It was also nice to leave the city and visit the province of Brandenburg with the beautiful city of Potsdam.

On the following day we visit the city’s largest brewery amongst other things. See part Three.

Bob Thompson
Part 2 of 4