This brilliant pub experience was slightly marred because people were openly smoking in a public place. Okay, it was a dedicated room, but nevertheless folk were smoking their hearts out.
I’d like to say it evoked memories of pubs when whiffs of cigar smoke mingled with filter tipped and notes of St Bruno. It didn’t, it just smelled disgusting. Not like the stale tobacco smoke on your clothes after you’d been to the pub, more like the residue of a half full ashtray that someone spilled beer in and put under the table for the cleaner upper to find the next morning.
I was castigated on social media, people saying I shouldn’t have gone in if I didn’t like it. To be fair, we’d no choice, there were no seats at or around the bar and Mrs C saw a small table by chance in the gloomy back room. I never realised it was a smoke-easy until I sat down and started coughing. We lasted about two minutes before we turned into table wraiths, forlornly wandering round the main bar room looking for a seat.
As with many Berlin bars, vertical drinking didn’t seem to be encouraged, nay frowned upon. Some friendly people budged up for us and we sat down in full view of an engaging lady contained within an old Black and White photograph. No one knew who she was, or where she came from, she was here when they opened up in 2008.
The original brewing kit along the right hand wall is just for show. The guy who gave me his card, Braumeister and Patron Philipp Brokamp, told me they soon outgrew it, and now brew somewhere nearby on a larger kit, it might have been next door, but in a crowded pub with my hearing I could have got that wrong?
The draught beers were all brewed in-house. There’s a core range with the pre-fix of Friedrichshainer; Pilsner, Dunkles, Weizen and Cider. Plus an ever-changing range of Spezialbeer. Prices were a good bit cheaper than most places. The Cider is made in house too. The Spezials on our visit included a 5.2% Brown Ale, 6.5% Weizen Bock, a Winter Bock at 6.5%, 5.4% Special Pils and a very excellent Mandarillo IPA at 6.2%.
Friedrichshainer Dunkles was my beer of the Berlin trip; malty, soft and slightly smoky, hints of coffee and chocolate, a foamy head, banana’s and bread, and only €3.8 for a half litre. When I say beer of the trip, it ticked all my boxes, German style, locally and independently brewed, supped in a good place with nice people.
We tried a few of the Spezials, all very good, brought to table by a lady holding two half litre glasses in each hand with fresh coasters sandwiched between her 2nd & 3rd fingers, very impressive.
I got the feel that this place is a real sort of … well pub to be honest. It really tended towards a pub and not one of the ‘could be anywhere’ craft beer bars I’d visited. It was packed at 7.45pm and they show all the BundesLiga matches live. Having said that, it was typically Friedrichshain, in so far as like many similar places in big cities, there weren’t many born and bred locals. Plenty of Brits, Aussies, French, Poles and Germans, but not many who could honestly say, ‘Ich bin Berlinner’.
There were however, lots of local people, who obviously knew each other and regularly drank here. We ended up drinking with Simon Gueneau, brewer at Zero Degrees in Bristol, and his multi-national friends, although like us, Simon was just visiting. I thank them for their honest and erudite company. We only made our excuses because we’d had too much ale and nothing to eat, hence no outside photo.
The decor was cool and there were substantial amounts of original tiling on the walls and floors, I don’t know enough about German architecture and design to date it, maybe pre-war? I think someone told me it was a butchers originally? Toilets were fine, but someone had pinched the ball from the urinal and you just had to piss into an empty net. You just wouldn’t do that would you, maybe they’d planned it and taken gloves and a ziplock bag to put it in?
You could do a little crawl around Friedrichshain with Hops and barley plus The Castle and Protokoll. There are zillions of other bars too, although none so beer focussed as these. Personally I’d miss The Castlesaying it’s just too far out, have a quick one in Protokoll and spend the rest of the evening in Hops and barley, avoid the smoking room, but try the Dunkles.