After leading the beer scene in medieval times, corporate breweries slowly crushed the little guys in Germany. For a time, only mass-produced Berliner Pils or foreign beers like Beck's were commonly on offer. And that fit the clientele who was happy to walk in to any kneipe (bar) and simply ask for a Pilsner — whatever that may be.
But as the people of Berlin have changed, so has the beer scene. There is currently a craft beer renaissance with new breweries opening in every corner. For example, check out the craft beer map, and refer to the 11 best craft brewers in Berlin.
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The perfectly named Hops & Barley in Fredrichshain has been in operation since 2008. During their renovation from an abandoned 1950s butcher shop, they were careful to maintain charming elements like the green and cream tiles and exposed pipes. A bar dog can often be found sprawled across the entry way as waitstaff step over with an armload of beer. Sports frequently grace the screens, while Sunday nights feature Germans' favorite crime show and cultural phenomenon, Tatort.
Even more enticing than its inviting atmosphere is Hops & Barley's brews. Along with unfiltered pilsners and weizen, there are home-brewed ciders and IPAs. Specialty beers are frequently on offer, before they inevitably sell out. Try the Schlangenbiss (snake bite) that combines Bier, Cider and a shot of Johannisbeersirup (black currant syrup). They are continually trying new things and even have a brewing course for superfans.
To soak up the booze, order the classic Treberbrot platter that utilizes bread made from the spent grain from the brewing process. Or if you've had one IPA too many, Hops & Barley rents rooms upstairs.
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Vagabund obviously translates to "vagabond", which is fitting for a brewery started by three wayward Americans who found a home in Berlin. They began the brewery while working in other careers with the help of a crowd-funding campaign. Since then, their beer has been at the forefront of the craft beer scene in Berlin and their passion for good beer can be discussed in person with the founders as one of them is usually tending bar.
Located in the perennially up-and-coming neighborhood of Wedding, a window in the taproom showcases the brewing process. Their beer is produced on-site in small batches and they can be wildly experimental. The chalkboard menu must be frequently updated to reflect the changes that happen throughout the night. Their American Pale Ale is a standard, but they also serve such exciting beers as a Tripel Double IPA, Szechuan Saison, and a smoky Rauchbier creatively named the Social Smoker.
And they aren't Vagabund purists: Look for the fridge beside the bar where they sell an excellent variety of excellent bottled beer from around Germany.
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Taking the industrial aesthetic to the extreme, BRLO is located in a series of stacked railroad cars in Park am Gleisdreieck. The name comes from the original Slavic word for Berlin, but the inventive design team of GRAFT (who also designed PLATOON Kunsthallen) are all German.
This slick space regularly hosts top events, but people flock to it every day of the week for its high-quality core beers of Helles, Pale Ale, Porter and Weisse. Plus, they frequently host guest taps from other quality brewers locally and internationally. Want to try them all? Order a flight, or you can even order their beers on Air Berlin flights!
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Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg has been at the center of the international food scene, so it is no surprise it is also home to one of the best local breweries in the city.
Heidenpeters is always a delightful surprise to find it on the Bierkarte (beer menu), however, the best place to drink it is the small beer stand hidden in the Markethalle. Escape the crowds by following the alleyway along the Kantine and down a few of their six perfectly crafted smal batch brews. Their standards include the American Pale Ale and IPA, but something experimental is also usually on the menu like a Belgian IPA with an impressive 8.2% alcohol content. They walk the line between being a traditional German brewery while dabbling in unusual flavors and utilizing American-style hops.Continue to 5 of 11 below.
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Also located in a markthalle in sleepy Moabit, BrewBaker is making its way out from the corner of the market hall and into bars and restaurants all over town. Not that the market is such a bad place to be. Its small, friendly tasting bar is next to other exceptional independent operations like Pignut Barbecue and they offer fine pale ales and pilsners, plus seasonal offerings like a pumpkin lager for fall or ginger beer in winter.
Opened in 2005, this was one of the first craft brewers in Berlin. Get an inside look with a tour of production. While it'd be hard to perfect the art of their ales, they offer brewing courses to inspire more beer lovers.
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Pfefferbräu sits above busy Schönhauser Allee on the slight Pfefferberg hill which gives the brewery its name. Pillars frame the street life below, but up here, it is all chill and imbibe.
The site has a brewing history dating back to 1893, but has undergone several renovations, periods of dereliction, and the latest iteration began in 2011. Inside, the space is clean and industrial with a full service restaurant, but most people choose the sprawling biergarten that melts into the shared space of nearby restaurants, Pfefferbett Hostel and theatre.
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Now a wedding institution, Eschenbräu is well off the beaten path but its prominence continues to grow. They have been brewing traditional German beer since 2001.
Those in search for their impeccable Alt Berliner Dunkel, Hefe Weizen, Pilsner, and many sensational Saisonbiere must first hunt down the bar. Beer is brewed onsite in a sprawling brewery and bar tucked away within the Hof (courtyard) of a Neubau (new build). Those who do find Eschenbräu are rewarded with a surprisingly large underground layer dedicated to traditional beer drinking. There are mugs located near the entry for the regulars claiming a Stammtisch and the space fills up quick on weekend evenings.
While they offer flammkuchen to soak up the booze, food is not the focus here. Those who need something more are welcome to bring a picnic, but the beer is usually filling enough for visitors. If you get too full, you can also try their house-produced spirits like the house whiskey.
In the summer, the exterior courtyard turns into a cozy Biergarten with groups happily drinking beneath the leafy trees.
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This popular American operation has landed in Berlin with one of the biggest and most beautiful breweries in the city...or at least city adjacent. It is a trek to its location in Mariendorf, but worth it to explore this temple to beer.
This is Stone's first European location, housed in a historic early 1900s gasworks facility. The budget for this site is rumored to be around $25-million-dollars and it shows. It is a three-building campus with a total area of 65,000 square feet. Visitors can take tours of the brewing in progress (with tasting!), explore the grounds and biergarten, enjoy first-class dining at the restaurant, belly up to the bar, and leave with Stone merchandise and beers to go.
While the facility is a stand-out attraction, the beer is still the star. Stone has brought its infamous Arrogant Bastard Ale and hop-laden IPAs, but they have also fused their style with the local offerings. For example, Stone Xocoveza is a mocha stout that utilizes Berlin micro-roaster Five Elephant's coffee.Continue to 9 of 11 below.
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Privatbrauerei Am Rollberg
Located amidst the abandoned warehouses of Neukölln, Privatbrauerei Am Rollberg lies within what once a massive Kindl brewery operation. Producing fresh takes on traditional red, wheat, and bock beers, Rollberg was opened 2009 and produces small batch beers for its tasting room (only open Fridays and Saturday) and a growing number of bars around Berlin. The site is still a bit of a secret and takes insider knowledge just to find.
The small beer garden allows visitors to enjoy the best of beers and outdoors with even a small grill available to guests. When you're here, it's like drinking with family.
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The selection of brews is expansive with everything from above-average German Pils to truly inventive chili IPAs, seasonal Märzen, Festbier, and more. The daring may even try a world record holder. Brauhaus Südstern brewed one of the strongest beer in the world with at 27.6% alcohol that still adheres to the German purity law.
Like other breweries on this list, they offer behind-the-scenes guided tour from a master brewer and brewery classes for everyone from beginners to advanced amateurs. When you take a course, you don't just learn about brewing beer, you make life-long friends by finishing the hard work with a meal then come come back when the beer is finished for a final tasting.
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Berlin’s oldest brewery with restaurant is the elegant Brauhaus Lemke. With three different locations around the city and many establishments serving their beer, it is hard to miss — and you certainly shouldn't. Whether you visit the site off of Alexanderplatz, trendy Hackescher Markt, or Schloss Charlottenburg, you can expect polished wood, suburb service, and crisp, clean beers.
Lemke has been producing their own beer for generations with favorites like Lemke Original and Lemke Pilsner, but recently they have started to get more adventurous. Note that each beer has info on what menu item should be paired. This is more than a suggestion, it is a very worthwhile recommendation.
Take a guided tour for a special beer tasting.