Much to our surprise on first arriving in Berlin, the variety of local beers can be limited compared to the boozey Northwest. Seattle is full of breweries and local alcoholic specialties, but Germany's Reinheitsgebot (literally "purity order") closely regulates the production of beer in Germany making sure nothing too exciting can happen. In the original text, the only ingredients that could be used in the production of beer were water, barley and hops.
Beers are also largely regional, with most people drinking the local specialty while frowning on other region's offerings. In Berlin, this means there are lots of pilsners. And they are delicious! But as Americans we crave variety and all pilsners all the time isn't really doing it.
Berlin Beer Festival
Hence our excitement for the 17th International Berlin Beer Festival - a 3-day beer fest with offerings from around Germany and the world! There is literally more than a mile of beer (hence the nickname Biermeile) along the über DDR style Karl-Marx-Allee. A perfect setting for people from all over the city to get together, dress in silly costumes, and get down to the serious business of beer sampling.
- First weekend in August from Friday to Sunday
- Entry is free - just wander in! The festival runs along one-side of Karl-Marx-Allee with the beginning/end at either Strausberger Platz/Frankfurter Tor
- Beer is not. Prices vary widely, but expect to pay between 1.50-4 euro for the sampler size of .25 liters. More exotic = more expensive. Some of the usual heavy hitters like Becks are around for some of the lowest prices - but don't get Beck's. You
- Handy souvenirs mugs can be bought at info stands at each end for 3.50 which saves you from paying a pfand (bottle deposit) at each stand. However, note that there are some beautiful glassware on display that you can purchase for the price of the pfand (usually around 3 euro). We bought a lovely Chimay glass to add to our growing collection.
- Get a map! Free at information, this fold-out map provides a loose layout of where each brewery is with beers grouped into regions. If you do the festival right, it will be hard to remember exactly what beers you sampled throughout the day so we like to mark where we've hit.
- Feel free to dance. One of my favorite things about the Germans is that they never seem to feel awkward dancing and will do it anywhere. Add beer and live music to the occasion and Germans are maniacs. Music ranges from American classics to Schlager to truly bizarre miscellaneous.
- Costumes and props are encouraged. Did you see those banana suit guys!? However, do not ask a black man if his afro is a wig and try to touch it. C'mon Germs. Not cool.
- Eat & drink water! Recipe to any good day in the sun.
- Enjoy. You certainly won't hit everywhere, so just enjoy the time with friends and the wander through Berlin masses.
More pics of dancing bananas, beers, and lots of sausage.
And as the beer gods smile down upon us, I came across this beer video that I. Cannot. Stop. WATCHING.
If you prefer something smaller with more craft brewers, try Braufest in Friedrichshain in September. Glorious IPAs, beer fans, and new friends (and a shitload of expats). We woke up with heartburn and it was so worth it.