Visited on: Saturday 4th March 2017
It was dusk as I approached the bright lights of Strassenbräu. It wasn’t long after opening time so there were only a couple of customers inside with a few more at the tables on the street.
As I approached the bar a surreal experience occurred. As I was staring at blackboard with the beer list, the previously silent bar room erupted into sound. I recognised the song from the first couple of bars.
It was nothing less than “Heroes” by David Bowie. That it should come on at that moment is almost indefinable by quoting odds on the chances. That it should be that song is truly amazing.
Here I was, in former East Berlin, less than a kilometre from the site of the infamous Wall, listening to a song written about two lovers from the East risking their lives by stopping and kissing in front of it.
All the time it played I thought it must be a deliberate choice. But no, it was just the first of many modern rock classics and was the only David Bowie tune, so was a completely random happening. It was written in 1976 or 1977 whilst the singer was resident in West Berlin. David would cross the wall many times and he gained much, much, musical inspiration from those trips.
This corner of Friedrichshain is now completely unrecognisable from Bowie’s mid-1970s East Berlin. Back in the early seventies I changed trains a lot at Ostkreutz and the scene today is so different with a massive new glass-walled station.
Strassenbräu is found in the middle of a long row of continuous restaurants and bars. In fact Friedrichshain is now the place to “go out”, even for those from the western part of the city. There are many nightclubs here and places stay open late. There are also a couple of good brew-pubs, Hops & Barley and Schlander.
Back to Strassenbräu, I looked around the room. The décor is uncompromisingly modern and it holds around fifty customers.
There is an L-shaped bar counter that has a service area on the right end and becomes a conventional counter further along with stools in front of it. The left wall is exposed brick with a large neon sign. There is some low comfortable seating here. The walls at the front of the room are plastered and have old framed photographs. Here the seating is high tables with tall stalls.
On the right side of the entrance door the brewery’s equipment and the public areas get a bit mixed up. The copper and mash tun are by the window with a curved high wooden table in front with seating on either side. This is where I settled.
Further back in the room I noticed that the brewery “laboratory” and testing area is on the left and separated by a low partition, there is some low level seating. The brewery produces 270 litres per brew and there is also a small pilot plant or 20 litre capacity out the back. The floor throughout the pub is of stone tiles.
This pub and brewery is the idea of Timo Thoennissen and his head brewer (Braumeister) is Sebastian Pfister assisted by Sam O’Neill.
Beers on offer are only produced here and I noticed that they are all ales. I suppose that there is no space for fermentation and maturation tanks for lagers. The beers are served in 0.3 litre measures. There are ten taps and they were all in use.
This is what was offered when I visited: Stralauer Blond Ale (4.9%), a regular; Sonnenal(l)e(e) (5.4%), a pale ale which is a play on words (Sun Ale or Sonnenalle, a nearby street); NB30 IPA (6.6%); Beerengarten (6.0%), a forest berry beer; Ampelrot (5.4%), a Red Ale; Nachschlicht (5.5%) a Milk Stout, Hofenpfeife (7.1%), an Indian Smoked Ale (??).
And then there were more: Salzstangen Gose (4.4%), Gose is a traditional sour beer from Leipzig. This version uses salzstangen (salty bread sticks) in the mash with the malt. Ridiculously gimmicky as another brewer tries to out-gimmicks his rivals. Luckily it tasted like a normal Gose.
Then there was Travailleur (7.5%), a relatively normal beer in the Belgian Saison style and finally Bidda (4.6%), reassuringly nothing more than an English bitter.
They have a very unusual method of tracking customers around the pub for the purpose of paying their bills. There are no table numbers so you are given a small furry toy. Mine was a zebra (I thought it was a tiger, how stupid can you be?). The waitress told me thereafter that I was at the zebra table, weird, or what? There is no food offered but two adjacent restaurants will deliver, one Vietnamese, the other Mexican. However salt sticks are served gratis to each customer.
This is a good pub despite some of the more extreme beers and is totally recommended.
Strassenbräu, Neue Bahnhofstrasse 30, 10245 Berlin-Friedrichshain. Tel: 03055 527550
Sunday-Thursday: 17.00-02.00; Friday-Saturday: 17.00-last customer leaves.
Westkreutz station is just five minutes from the pub. But it might take you another five minutes to get from your arriving platform to the exit. These directions are good for the time I visited the pub.
However, things will change as there is much building work going on. From the exit walk along the path.
At the end turn right. This is Neue Bahnhofstrasse. The pub is about 200 metres along, on the left.
Another way arriving is by tram. Route 21 calls at the Neue Bahnhofstrasse stop, 100 metres from the pub.