The day starts as every other. In a sweaty hotel room.
It’s followed by another wasp skirmish and a light breakfast of fried things. For me at least. Andrew tries to stare down another croissant, Dolores sticks with salmon and Alexei grazes from all sections of the buffet.
Today we’re finally getting around to the main purpose of this trip: visiting the beer festival. The Internationales Berliner Bierfestival, to be precise. A beer festival not quite like any other. In that it’s a linear affair, strung out along a wide avenue. Then there’s the beer selection. But we’ll be getting to that later.
We’ve arranged to meet fellow beer writer Joe Stange at the festival.
“Hurry up, we’re supposed to be meeting Joe at 10:30.” I tell Dolores.
“What? I thought it was 11.”
I’m sure I told her the time yesterday. We’re running a bit late. Fortunately the festival is only a few minutes’ walk from our hotel and we’ve arranged to meet at just about the closest spot.
The plan is to arrive early, grab seats and drink beer until we get bored. With a little food thrown in, possibly. We leave Dolores to hold our seats while Andrew and I grab some beers. Luckily we’re right next to a nest of Czech breweries. Well, not really luckily, as Joe chose this spot to meet for that very reason. I love me some Czech beer. I get a Novopacké Dark. Andrew gets two Pales for him and Dolores.
A bit sweet, bit of diacetyl. OK.
While I’m ordering the beers I spot Joe, who has brought a friend along, another American living in Berlin.
We start on the serious business of drinking while Dolores drops Alexei off at the computer game museum, which is handily nearby. Hopefully it will entertain him long enough for us to knock back a few beers.
I love this festival. For many reasons. First is the total absence of geekiness. It’s a festival for people, not geeks. People of all ages and shapes. Second it’s on one of my favourite streets, Stalin Allee. Sorry, Karl Marx Allee. Home to the best Stalinist architecture in Berlin. Then there’s the beer selection. Always lots of Czech breweries present. And there are no geeks. Have I already mentioned that? Good food, reasonably priced and country-coordinated with the beer. It’s pretty much the exact opposite of the Borefts Festival.
True, there are loads of dreadful beers. Desperados, Fosters, Carlsberg, Heineken. It appears as if the participants have been chosen at random from a directory of breweries. Doesn’t bother me. There are far too many beers to drink more than a tiny percentage. And there are plenty of good ones I can’t usually drink.
Oddly, there are a few classic geek breweries present. I’m surprised some didn’t turn their noses up at the company they have to keep. I don’t pay them a huge amount of attention because you can find them effing everywhere. The same handful of geek brewers fill the taps of geek pubs worldwide. It’s one of the reasons I find the “craft” scene unbearably dull. The same bloody Mikkeller beers from San Francisco to Seoul.
My next beer comes from a local geek brewery, Hop’s. Strange use of the apostrophe in their name.
Hop’s Fransmann No. 1
A dry-hopped Lager. Quite pleasantly hoppy.
My tasting notes are particularly expansive today. Here’s the full set for your delectation:
Opat Dark Lager
Pretty nicely dark. Liquoricey – in a good way.
Sweetish and a bit dull.
Chodovar Skalni Lezak (unfiltered)
Pretty impressive, eh?
Andrew has a reasonable thirst and is finishing his beers quicker than me. It makes me feel so proud as a father. He’s turning into quite a pisshead.
The computer game museum keeps Alexei occupied for a good few hours. Plenty of time for us to drink at our leisure. And indulge in the occasional bit of food. I know, I’ve turned into a boring old twat, keeping myself fed as well as beered.
Eventually it’s time for Joe to leave. He has a babysitter to relieve and he lives quite a way across town.
“Daad, what to Novgorod?” Alexei asks on the way home.
“Which, Novgorod? Nizhny?”
“No, he means the other one, dad.” Andrew adds helpfully.
One more afternoon at the festival, then a flight home.
Internationales Berliner Bierfestival
Tel: +49 30 60988577
Artyfacts from the Nyneties #5: Sainsbury’s Bière de Garde, 1991 - The image above comes from the Sainsbury’s supermarket in-house magazine for November 1991 and is a great reminder that interesting beer didn’t arrive in...
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