A reflective personal visit through the city’s brewing past and present
Part 4 - Friday 10th October 2014
I met up with members of the Brewery History Society at the former maltings of the Schultheiss brewery. This is in West Berlin, although a large part of the company ended up in communist East Berlin following the end of the Second World War.
We were in the Schöneberg district and the maltings are located in what is evidently an industrial district. The maltings or malt factory (malzfabrik as it is known in German) was constructed between 1914 and 1917 during the First World War. It was built for the Schultheiss-Patzenhofer Brauerei.
It had four large kilns and the chimneys from these are a distinctive, almost iconic, visual feature of the building. The architect and builder was Franz Schlueter of Dortmund. (Photographs right and next four below.)
Brewing recovered slowly after the war and the maltings didn’t start operating until 1921 and it wasn’t until 1926 that full production began.
The plant was unaffected by bombing during the second world conflict. In fact it suffered more from the occupying Soviet forces who removed a lot of machinery under the name of reparation, before any such arrangements had been agreed.
It wasn’t until 1950 that Schultheiss were able to resume normal production and thereafter there was continuous program of improvement, modernisation and expansion. A new silo for storing malt was built during 1962 and 1963.
By the 1990s the brewery had been taken over by the Brau und Brunnen group. They closed the maltings in 1996. However its existence today is because it is a protected building as listed by the German Foundation for Monument Protection.
The whole site consists of warehouses, stables, the kilning area, machine room, boiler house and office accommodation. The main building is of six stories of red brick and the four main chimneys for exhausting the steam are made of concrete and are capped with “Kulmbach” cowls.
I visited the Bavarian town of Kulmbach in the early 1970s. There were four large breweries there then and it is simple to see where this name came from.
Rail tracks run alongside the building including a covered area for unloading barley to the silo. This was also for loading the malted barley in road and railway wagons to the various breweries.
These tracks led to the Templehof marshalling yard of the state railway. The railway was also used to bring in coal for the boiler house.
Since closure it has been used for various performance artists. Since 2005 it has been owned by a Swiss investor who has the vision of using the building to become a centre for creative arts. It is known as Malzfabrik. Some work has been done, yet as far as I could see this is all on the ground floor.
Our group visited the upper floors where all the equipment was in the same condition as when the maltings closed, quite remarkable really. Here at least was a finite connection with my earlier Berlin drinking days, albeit not directly to a particular beer.
After this fascinating and eye-opening visit we went on our way towards the destination of some of the malt produced at the Schöneberg facility.
This was the former Schultheiss brewery in the Kreutzberg district. As always with Berlin’s breweries its story is long and complex and it wasn’t even the company’s first plant.
The trail from the past begins with August Heinrich Prell, a pharmacist established a brewery in Neue Jacobstrasse, Alt-Berlin in 1842. He died in 1863 and it was taken over by Jobst Schultheiss, although he lasted just year before the next owner Adolf Roesicke stepped on to the scene in 1864. However the name of its previous short-lived owner was kept on as the brewery’s title. Thereafter the Roesicke dynasty were in charge.
It became a public limited company in 1871 in order to obtain investment for expansion. It had moved its location several times but eventually ended up at 39 Schönehauser Allee.
This was where August Pell had established lagering cellars as his original brewery was located close to the River Spree and the water table was too high for storage below ground.
Until the Second World War the Schönehauser Allee was the headquarters and main brewery and as such it was known as Abteilung I (Department 1). It remained the main Schultheiss brewery in the eastern part of the city but ceased brewing in the years last few years before reunification. It was registered a historic building as long ago as 1970 so the building still exists. It is now the Kultur-Brauerei which is yet another up-market shopping centre (photograph, above left and right).
A program of expansion occurred and many other breweries were taken over. One very important step was a merger with the Brauerei Tivoli (Department II) in the southern part of the city at Kreuzberg during 1891.
Following the Second World War this was the company’s main plant in West Berlin and it was where we were visiting on this day. Back to the 19th Century; 1877 saw the company taking over the Waldschlösschen brewery of Dessau (Department III).
The acquisitions followed with Brauerei-Borussia in the Niederschöneweide district in 1898 (Department IV). In 1910 the Pfeifferhof brewery of Breslau (now Wroclaw in Poland) joined the fold (Department V).
There was an amalgamation in 1914 with the Brauerei Union in Hasenheide (Department VI), at the other end of Kreuzberg. This brought two other breweries into the group: at Eberswalde, a town north of the city and at Schneidemühl, now Piła in Poland. Around this time the distinctive logo of a mayor wearing his ceremonial chain appeared.
After the First World War they continued to acquire breweries such as Brauerei Spandauerberg in Spandau and Pfefferberg in Prenzlauer Berg. The maltings we visited earlier that day came on stream in the 1920s. In 1920 Schultheiss merged to become Schultheiß-Patzenhofer Brauerei AG. Shortly after the merger the Brauerei Patzenhofer at Friedrichstadt in eastern Berlin closed and the building was taken over by the Allianz insurance company. In 1937 it reverted to being the offices of Schultheiss Brauerei AG.
Another Patzenhofer brewery in eastern Berlin was the large facility on Landsberger Allee (later Lenin Allee). This was started in 1856 as a pub selling Bavarian beer, but soon Patzenhofen had moved all his production to Berlin. It became a public limited company in 1871 and expanded in 1873. During the period 1877 to 1886 it was completely rebuilt. With the amalgamation with Schultheiss in 1920 it became department NO of that brewery.
At the end of the Second World War the company was left with seven breweries in greater Berlin and the one in Dessau. That and those in East Berlin were withdrawn from the company and continued under state control. In East Berlin it was now known VEB-Brauerei Schultheiss. The name and logo remained the same in the DDR as in the west. In the west there was the former Tivoli brewery in Kreuzberg and the former Union brewery in Hasenheide which had ceased brewing by the 1980s if not earlier.
Another piece in the Schultheiss jigsaw was the former Moabiter Brauerei, which was founded in 1841. The brew-house dates from 1872-1874, the fermentation house from 1895-1896 with the maltings from 1898. The boiler-house was renewed in 1926.
I don’t know when it was taken over by Schultheiss as its department NW, but it ceased brewing in 1987 and the site abandoned in 1989. So, I had certainly consumed the products of this brewery.
Listed status was granted in 1995 and it is now an up-market shopping centre named Schultheiss Quartier. Other erstwhile breweries once owned by the company were the Berliner Bock-Brauerei in Templehof (department: SW) and Norddeutsche Brauhaus in Oranienburger Vorstadt (department N). There were also others in Upper Silesia that are now in Poland. These were at Oppeln (now Opole), Beuthen (now Bytom) and Hindenburg (now Zabrze).
An interesting development was in 1959 when the VEB Schultheiss-Brauerei Niederschöneweide, once the Brauerei-Borussia (Department IV) was disposed of as being surplus. It was established in 1882 by Max Meinert and Alex Kampfhenkel. It was acquired by Schultheiss in 1898. From 1959 it became the Bärenquell Brauerei (photograph above right and left).
I well remember passing the large brewery several times whilst travelling on the S-Bahn on my way to Schöneweide station where some long distance trains departed to the south of the country. It was well known in the East Berlin for its Bärenquell Berliner Pilsener Spezial. I certainly consumed a considerable amount of that beer in the DDR days.
It was privatised in 1990 following reunification. In 1991 the Henninger brewery of Frankfurt / Main purchased it but couldn’t make a go of it and the last brew was on 1st April 1994. Thereafter the beer was made in Kassel and it became Bärenquell Original Pilsener Spezial.
Henninger then got into financial difficulty and were taken over by Frankfurt rivals Binding. They then sold the rights to Brauhaus Preussen in Pritzwalk.
That brewery was absorbed by mega-brewing company Oettinger in 2006 and they closed it in 2008 and that was the end of Bärenquell.
Now to the former brewery we were visiting today. It commenced life as a biergarten built on the southern slope of the Kreutzberg, a hill in the southern part of the city. It was established by the Gericke brothers in 1829. It proved to be very popular and the demand for more beer meant that they constructed their own brewery in 1857. As a biergarten is essentially a pleasure garden it was named Tivoli after the famous gardens in Paris.
During the period from 1862 to 1873 the brewery buildings we see today were erected. They are very good looking, being constructed in red brick. In 1891 the company were taken over by Schultheiss and became their Division II. Shortly after this the very attractive Sixtus Villa was built, nowadays with ivy growing up the side (see photo above left).
Following the Second World War this became the main brewery in the western zone.
The Schönehauser Allee brewery (Division I) was in the communist controlled East Berlin where it still produced beer under the Schultheiss name until its demise in the late 1980s. Over in Kreutzberg a modernisation program was commenced. This didn’t save it however, as Berliner Kindl’s plant at Weissensee came onto the market after the fall of the wall as that company concentrated their business on their Neukölln brewery in the west and their newly recovered Kindl-Potsdam plant. Schultheiss purchased the Weissensee brewery in the east and concentrated all operations there.
Weissensee is where all of the major Berlin brewers’ beers are now brewed, see the Part 3 of this article. In Kreutzberg the site was acquired by a property company in 1999 and the work commenced on conversion into luxury flats. This was phase one and it finished in 2001. Phase two commenced in that year but ground to a halt the following year because of financial difficulties affecting the investors. A new contractor was employed with work beginning in 2004. It was just about finishing when we visited. I certainly drank beers from this brewery in the 1970s and 1980s (photographs left and above right).
After all this walking the group needed to recuperate and partake of lunch. This was achieved at the Brauerei Südstern at the eastern end of Kreuzberg. In new-wave microbrewery terms this one is quite old.
It was certainly open in 2010 when I first visited it. Then I met brewer Thorsten Schoppe who also greeted us on this visit. He gave us a brief tour and talk about his brewery which was followed by a meal.
Outside the pub has a small front terrace. Inside there is a long room with the brewing equipment on the right, which is followed by a long bar. There is a lot of seating and even more can be found at the rear of the building where there is biergarten that looks out to Hasen Heide (Heath of Hares). As mentioned earlier Thorsten is also brewer at the Pfefferbräu in Prenzlauerberg and I’m not sure if he is still at Südstern.
After that pleasant interlude we were off to visit what is probably one of Berlin’s most iconic breweries, at least architecturally speaking. It is the Brauerei Berliner Kindl in Neukölln, situated on the top of a hill called Rollberg.
The main brewery building is quite stunning (photograph left). Like the other major breweries in the city its history is complex, especially after re-unification.
The concept for the brewery began in 1872 when a meeting of pub landlords formed Vereinsbrauerei Berliner Gastwirte zu Berlin. This means Association Brewery of Berlin Innkeepers in Berlin. So they were setting their own brewery to supply their pubs. The first beer was released on 17th March 1873. Later the brewery was expanded.
One of the reasons for the establishment of this brewery as these innkeepers wanted to sell beers of the Bavarian style, thus bottom fermented lagers, rather than the top-fermenting styles offered previously. Attempts at producing light lagers in Berlin had not been very successful because of the low water table which precluded the use of lagering cellars. This is why this brewery was built at the top of a hill and the hills around the city are the locations of nearly all of the breweries established in the late 19th Century.
In 1889 its name changed to Vereinsbrauerei Rixdorf. In 1896 the Brauerei am Brauhausberg at Potsdam was purchased and renamed Vereinsbrauerei Potsdam (see Day 2 of this article). By now its best selling beer was Berliner Kindl, possibly inspired by the Münchner Kindl brewery.
In 1907 there was a competition to design a new logo and the Goldjunge in Krug (Golden Boy in the Krug) was born.
The Golden Boy was and is, an extremely well-known and successful trademark. So much so that the brewery changed its name to Kindl-Aktiengesellschaft in 1910 and the Potsdam brewery became Kindl-Potsdam.
Thereafter there was a period of acquisition and around twenty smaller breweries were taken over before the start and after the finish of the First World War.
In 1920 a couple of breweries were sold and the Brauerei Gabriel & Richter in Hohenschönhausen was purchased because of the limitations of the Rixdorf brewery. The new acquisition was referred to thereafter as the Weissensee brewery. The years following the end of the war were referred to as golden years and even when the great depression struck the company did well, as it seemed that unemployed men drank more beer than when they were in work! The Weissensee brewery was later rebuilt (see day 3 of this article).
Following the Second World War the Weissensee brewery and the Potsdam brewery both ended up in the Eastern USSR-controlled zone. The Kreuzberg operation in the western zone was badly damaged by bombing on 12th June 1944 because of its close proximity to Tempelhof Airport so took a long time to recover.
Until full modernisation was achieved an interim step was the purchase of the Schöneberger Schloßbrauerei in the Schöneberg district in 1954 which continued independently. Yet, no doubt it was used for the production of Berliner Kindl. Yet its main brand was Bären Pils and in 1959 it transferred completely to the parent company. It was modernised in the early 1960s, yet still closed in 1975. Kindl continued the production of Bären Pils after this.
The Neukölln brewery was constructed between 1926 and 1930 with a dark brick exterior. The architects were Hans Claus and Richard Schepke. It is built in a modernistic style, but not art-deco. More neo-Gothic I would think. There is a tall tower with two distinctly different sides. On the right are the coppers and mash tuns with the rest of the process undertaken on the left. The replacement of the war-damaged vessels was completed mid 1950s. There are two separate lines, each has three vessels, no doubt in continuous use when it was busy.
Notwithstanding that, it closed in 2005 and production was transferred to East Berlin and the Weissensee brewery that was once owned by Kindl. The Neukölln building became the Kindl Centre for Contemporary Arts. In 2008 a café was added; I wonder if it sells Kindl beers? Despite all this there is still brewing going on in the building, please see below.
Now some comments regarding Berliner Weisse. It is a sour beer that has been in decline since before the beginning of the 20th Century. Breweries had different recipes that were greatly different from each other. Normally a wheat / barley mix of 25% / 75% ranging up to 50% / 50% produced the wort, although it is said that some breweries didn’t use wheat malt at all. It is top fermented and comes out at around 3% abv. It was mostly drank during the summer, the biergarten months.
The sourness is traditionally achieved by a secondary fermentation which produced an amount of lactic acid bacteria. However some breweries added Lactobacillus at a later stage. Although it seems to remove the purpose of making a sour beer it is nearly always cut with a syrup, normally Himbeersirup (Raspberry) or Waldmeistersirup (Woodruff). When I have ordered it neat there is often an element of surprise. Once I had the choice of Elderflower syrup and I thought it to be better than the two traditional flavourings.
At the fall of the wall there were just four breweries making this classic style in the city. In the western zone there was Schultheiss at Kreutzberg and Berliner Kindl at Neukölln. In the eastern part of the city it was brewed by VEB Berliner-Brauereien’s Berliner Kindl Weissensee brewery and also by Schultheiss at their subsidiary Wilner Weissebierbrauerei in Pankow (see Day 1 of this article).
Berliner Weisse was never a draught beer but I am pleased to say I drank bottles from all of the breweries mentioned above.
Its production ceased at Kindl Neukölln and Schultheiss Kreuzberg on the closure of those breweries. The Wilner brewery in Pankow closed almost immediately on reunification, leaving just the former VEB brewery of Kindl at Weissensee as the sole facility making it. As this later became the major brewery in the city it is still brewing the style.
In the mid part of the nineteenth century there was a peak with over seven hundred breweries producing it, however the bottom fermented lager beers quickly became the most popular.
As mentioned there is still a brewing presence at the Kindl Neukölln site. It is to be found at the end of the brewing hall building and is the Privatbrauerei am Rollberg.
Production started on 23rd October 2009. It was founded by Wilko Bereit and Nils Heins who had experience in brewing and marketing respectively.
The first beer was released on 5th December 2009. Note the time differential between the brew starting and serving. They let their beer ferment for seven to nine days and mature for one to two months.
The brewery is of fifteen hectolitres capacity. They have three fermentation tanks and another fifteen for maturation. A very notable feature is that all of the production is sent out as draught, no bottled beer. It is not pasteurised or filtered so it has a limited life span.
All the malt used is from Weyermann of Bamberg and the hops are organic. Two regular beers are produced Hell (Light) and Rot (Red) along with a seasonal beer, often Weisse in the summer or Maibock.
I first came here in May 2013 and there was one very noticeable difference on this visit, the bar room had disappeared! This was quite large and had a beautiful dark wood bar counter; very strange to find it missing. Please see photograph of that earlier visit above left. There was also a small biergarten, where I sat on that occasion. It would appear that they have one again and looking at photographs it appears to have been relocated into the cellar.
A very notable feature are the bottoms of the huge Kindl brewing vessels that protrude though the ceiling. Presumably they were cleaned out from this level. They are part of the fabric of the building which being protected means they cannot be removed.
So, that was the last visit of the day and also of the Brewery History Society four day tour of Berlin. I thought it was extremely good, being extremely varied and providing a wonderful exposure to the city’s brewing past and also the contemporary scene. My thanks go out to all those who made it all possible, they are mentioned in the text.
Lastly; did it fulfil my desire to learn more about the provenance of the beers I had consumed in the past? Yes, it did, although there are still some small gaps in my knowledge, I did discover so much more than I thought I would.
Part 4 of 4