Thirst for Knowledge: a tour of the old Kindl beer brewery, Berlin

We gather under the shadow of an impressive, looming old brewery – the former Kindl-Area in Neukölln – in an eerie, industrial wasteland that might feel intimidating if it wasn’t so familiar, so Berlin.   As the nearby clock tower strikes four o’clock, we file punctually into the brewery to start the Berliner Unterwelten guided tour. I’m excited. Beer is an important part of the city’s history and I’m thirsty for knowledge.

old Kindl brewery

old Kindl brewery



Luckily, I don’t have to wait long for refreshment. The tour’s introduction is delivered by a passionate and knowledgeable guide who has facts on tap. We learn the historical significance of beer brewing since the middle ages, when beer was the staple drink of the entire population, including children and pregnant women.  The brewing process removes harmful bacteria so back then it was much safer than water, despite the obvious pitfalls.



In 1516, the Reinheitsgebot (Beer Purity Law) was implemented in Bavaria and spread quickly throughout the country. It stipulated that the only ingredients that could be used in the production of beer were water, barley and hops. Today, the law no longer exists but there is still a hangover of traditional brewing customs and German beer is some of the purest and tastiest in the world.

Inside the brewery

Inside the brewery



Brewing beer required cellars because before refrigeration, going underground was the only way to control the temperature. Berlin’s water table is particularly high, so the old breweries were clustered around the high ground in Prenzlauer Berg and Kreuzberg- Neukölln.  As technologies have dramatically changed the brewing process, the old breweries have been rendered defunct and, sadly, most have been demolished or converted. Touring the Kindl brewery is a rare treat, and understandably popular.



We start our tour at the beginning of the brewing journey, in a huge, imposing room with stunning art deco detail. A glance around the room confirms that these brewers took immense pride in all aspects of their work. I’m starting to fancy a beer, but first we must explore the depths of the cellars and learn the fascinating history of brewing techniques.  This first room is where the carbohydrates from the grain are broken down into sugars and the unwanted proteins removed from the sludge. Then, downstairs in a massive, open cellar, the yeast is added and the mixture left to ferment. Down further, to about 20 metres, and it gets very chilly. Here is where the liquid is put into Lager (German for storage and the origin of the name) until it is ready to drink.



The cellars are dingy, wet, smelly and cold, but this only adds to the atmosphere, and our guide’s enthusiasm and knowledge are more than enough to keep the group warm and engaged. After an hour we emerge squinting into the afternoon, our pupils racing to contract in the low autumn sun. We’ve worked up quite a thirst by now but before we hit the bar there’s one final area left to see – the modern Rollberg micro-brewery.  Located in a section of the old brewery building, the Rollberg brewery and bar are a stark reminder of the world-shaping effects of technological progress.

beer!

beer!

Where once immense cellars were carved out of hillsides, the process can now happen in a room no larger than a corner pub.  The pub is, of course, exactly where we end up to finally sample the three varieties of Rollberg – Rot, Hell and Weizen (red, light and wheat). Prost!




The Rollberg Brewery is open from 5pm on Saturdays and from 2pm on Sundays. The Berliner Unterwelten tour (German only) takes place every Saturday at 4pm and costs €10. Participants must bring their own torch.

By Natalie Holmes - www.horseshoenail.org

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