The Battle for Berlin

By hopcave
September 02, 2019

I moved to Berlin more than a year ago, but I fell in love with the city in 2012 when I came here for the first time. Back then I was a normal beer drinker, loving pilsners and slowly falling in love with Hefeweizens. This was only a small taste of the German hops, malts and yeast, and I continued my romance with this beer style until I betrayed them for the craft beer movement that was slowly developing in my home country of Chile. This is where I discovered West Coast IPA’s and Imperial Stouts, after that my palate craved bitterness, passion fruit notes and the thickness of those chocolate malts. I needed more and I was consuming everything that was being imported to the most southern country of the world.


Suddenly the opportunity of moving to Germany presented itself on the horizon, my desire for more beer and especially craft beer would be quenched; I seized this chance and began my journey back to Berlin. My first stop was in the west, in the beautiful city of Münster, where my knowledge of beer increased but I still felt that I was not satisfying my deep beer needs. I decided to frequently travel to Berlin and try the beers offered by the different bars. With every sip of beer, I knew that I had to live in Berlin. The city would be key in my concept of “the cultivation of hoppiness”.


I settled in Berlin in the month of April 2018, it just felt right since I am a person who has always lived in big cities and led a cosmopolitan lifestyle. Berlin made sense -and I don’t mean this only because of my passion for beer - it felt right because of its openness, the multicultural environment and its history.


Well, enough about me and let’s get straight to the point; why is there a constant struggle in Berlin regarding the craft beer scene?

Even though Berlin is an open and diverse city, beer is a sensitive matter and must not be taken lightly. Beer is part of the German culture; there is pride in its brewing history and the styles that have been created here have been imitated across the globe but never been perfected. Even though Berlin has been the place in Germany to develop and foster a huge craft beer scene, most of the Germans who live here are not sold with the whole craft beer revolution. Many of them still walk into a bar that offers more than 15 beers on tap and they ask for a “beer” which translates into a pilsner. The haunting words “this is not a beer” when they try an IPA or a Stout echo in many of the craft beer bars here in Berlin.

What is even worse is that many of the brewers who have gone beyond traditional styles and have taken risks to brew New England IPAs, Sour IPAs and Stouts are constantly labelled as hipsters and seen as those who have betrayed the German tradition of brewing. Therefore, the craft beer struggle in Berlin is real and it will take time to sink within the masses.


But Berlin will prevail as it always has because of what I said before, it is an open and diverse city, where a significant expat community is eager to try craft beers brewed here in Germany and the imported goods that come from all over Europe and the US. In addition, there is a new breed of Germans and especially Berliners who have come out to embrace the craft beer movement and switch from their traditional pilsners to a juicy IPA or a tongue twisting lambic.


The bars are growing throughout the city, the curiosity is increasing, almost every week the great bars like The Muted Horn, Protokoll, Mikkeller Berlin, Biererei, Monterey, Brewdog, Stone Taproom, Labor, etc. are organising and hosting incredible events that contribute to “the cultivation of hoppiness”.


What does this mean? Well, it is simple, in each of those bars I have met and shared so many good beers and conversations with such amazing people, where some have become great friends and other regular friendly smiles. Beer is powerful and it has an element that enables us to become even more sociable, meaning that drinking a good beer leads to the desire to share the experience that beer has given me, which in the end is quite similar to sharing happiness. It might be the spell of the hops that enchant us and make us want to talk to people that share our same passion and talk and drink for hours. I really don’t know but all I can say is that hops have over more than 400 compounds and may of them open up while hinting your taste buds, so maybe some of them trigger our sociability and make us want to meet new people and provide us with happy moments while share a beer with complete strangers, who knows? Let’s just leave that to the magic of the hops.


So, all I can truly say is, “Berlin, du bist wunderbar” and I do not mean that lightly. The beer scene here in the German capital will allow people to not only embrace new styles but it has also led them to value tradition and good quality beers that have a long history in the making. In the end, Berlin is offering the best of both beer worlds and the battle might come to a peaceful coexistence.