Food & Drink

The German Brewing American Craft Beer in Berlin

By May 31, 2017 No Comments

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You might expect head brewer of Stone Berlin to be a brash Californian, keen to show the Old World the error of its ways. Founded and based in San Diego in 1996, Stone makes extravagantly hoppy beers with provocative names, and its founder, Greg Koch, has been scathing about German beer in the past.

Meet Thomas Tyrell, Head of Stone Berlin

But Thomas Tyrell, the Head of Stone’s branch in Berlin, isn’t brash or loud, or even American. He’s German. This puts him in a unique position: a German brewer bringing American craft beer culture to Berlin.

Berlin is a cosmopolitan city, but few of its inhabitants have travelled like Tyrell. Having trained in Germany, he worked at Saxer Brewing in Portland, Oregon in the 90s, and has also worked in Venezuela, Spain and South Korea. This gives him a unique perspective on the advantages and disadvantages of two brewing cultures.

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The man charged with overseeing it all, Thomas Tyrell, is in a unique position, halfway between the world’s most traditional brewing culture and the most adventurous.

“It is fascinating,” he says. “In Germany we’re trained to make beer according to the purity law [the Reinheitsgebot, which says only malt, hops, yeast and water can be used to make beer], so it’s really funny to use all these other ingredients. There’s no accumulated knowledge.”

Berlin’s best craft-beer bar and breweries, according to Stone Berlin

Berlin now boasts dozens of craft-beer bars and breweries. Hotel Indigo Berlin – Alexanderplatz‘s central position makes it a good base to visit them all, with the excellent Kaschk particularly close, while one of Tyrell’s favourites—Brlo Brwhouse—is easy to reach from Hotel Indigo Berlin – Ku’damm. Hopfenreich, Hops & Barley, Monterey Bar and Castle Pub are also easily accessible.

Stone opened in the old Mariendorf gasworks in the south of the city last year. The 100-hectolitre brewhouse is the city’s second biggest, and its adjacent 2,400 square-metre bistro is gradually filling up as more people discover it.

There’s still work to do, though: Tyrell says only about 10 per cent of the beer brewed at Stone is sold in Berlin. “The number of good bars in Berlin is growing, but the number with more than 10 taps—there’s 20, maybe?” says Tyrell, who has lived in the city for 16 years. “Craft beer is still very niche here.”

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“In Germany we’re trained to make beer according to the purity law [the Reinheitsgebot, which says only malt, hops, yeast and water can be used to make beer], so it’s really funny to use all these other ingredients.”

German brewing has fallen prey to excessive conservatism in recent decades. Most German bars serve just one or two styles: drinkable but dull pale lager, and perhaps a darker lager or wheat beer. Many blame the purity law for this. Although the law no longer has the legal status it did, its influence is still strong, particularly in Bavaria.

The winter-spiced mocha stout

Berlin is different, though, as Tyrell discovered when he tried to get an ‘exception permit’ for Xocovesa, a ‘winter-spiced mocha stout’ made with coffee, peppers, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and milk sugar.

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This beer has every right to be arrogant, given how awesome it is. Deeply rich and complex with a sweet caramel and butterscotch base. A subtle hint of peppery spice gives way to piney hops and moderate bitterness with a touch of dark fruits on the aftertaste.

“We went to the authorities and said ‘We want to brew this beer, here’s our application,'” he says. “They said, ‘We are not responsible, nobody has ever done this!’ Nobody was sure what to do, it got bounced around. The Purity Law is not taken that seriously in Berlin!”

“I think experimentation combined with classical knowledge makes the best beer,” he says. Does that make him the best brewer in the world? He laughs. “I didn’t say that! But the combination is good.”

A self-declared craft beer lover? Meet Three Amazing Female Brewers in the UK who, similar to Thomas, are passionate about craft beer and the movement across Europe.

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