We went out to the big beer fest here on Saturday. It was scheduled for Friday to Sunday, but we skipped Friday because it was raining.
The festival was located along a 2.2km stretch of road pretty slightly east of the city center, in the district of Friedrichshain. It was a major road with a large sidewalk and grassy area off to the side, so there was plenty of room to fit various beer tents and lots of seating. Every 150m or so, there’d be a small stage in the grass and some sort of musical act, in front of a huge collection of benches for the beer drinkers. The beer sellers were arranged along both sides of the sidewalk.
The beer was arranged in vague sections, with international beers in one part, and then most of the rest arranged by the German state they were from. Some big name crap beers were present, but most of them seemed like actual good beers, since Germany has a lot of them. Some booths were staffed by knowledgeable people selling their own stuff, although others were being run by “booth babes” in skimpy outfits.
I wasn’t super impressed by the varieties of beer present, since Germany’s microbrew culture doesn’t seem to be the same as Canada’s. Very few were selling varieties of beer outside the normal range of styles. But within the normal categories there was actually quite a bit of variation. For instance, I’ve never really been impressed with any pilsners that I tried in Canada, or the regular ones I’ve tried here either, but I had two different pilsners at the festival that were really fantastic. If I saw them again, I’d buy them instantly…super good.
We tried some dark beers too, and tried to locate some local Berlin beers that we could buy again later. There was a local place from Friedrichshain that I’m definitely going back to. They made a terrific pilsner and a nice bitter dark beer (which seems to be hard to find in Germany….many of the darks are sickeningly sweet here).
About half-way through, we discovered that if we bought a small 200mL mug from the info booth, then we could get that filled at any beer seller for €1,50, so we started doing that. Much cheaper, since many of them were selling 300mL for €2,50, but 200mL seemed just right for the tasting that we wanted to do. We weren’t trying to get slammed there, but we did notice a small number of people who were.
Most people seemed to just be going there to enjoy a couple of good beers and the entertainment. There was lots of different food too, although much of it was traditional German faire, like a dozen different types of sausage and other meat products. I did have a really nice gourmet slice of bread with fancy cheese, tomatoes, and herbs though. I also had some deep-fried Kohlrabi (a vegetable with a crisp apple-like texture, from the broccoli family) with Kräutersoße. mmmmmm. What I thought was really great was that you’d just buy a beer, and wander around drinking it. Yay for sane German drinking regulations 🙂
Actually, I should mention that it’s totally normal to buy a beer and wander down the street with it. Not super common, but still normal. I also commonly see someone enjoying a beer on the subway. My friends showed me a Dutch video the other day where someone was investigating the trend of wandering around town with a beer, claiming that it was just the “cool” thing to do in Berlin (although it’s allowed anywhere in the country, AFAICT).
Anyway, definitely a fun day. My faith in pilsners is restored, and I found a good microbrew to buy more beer from later. And it was nice to see a 2.2km stretch of hundreds of beer sellers and thousands upon thousands of beer-drinkers wandering around freely with their beers, and absolutely no rowdies or troublemakers. Come on Canada, get your act together 😉