by Karen Day
Craft beer, once a cottage industry carried out by dedicated beer nerds, has reached an all-time high. Consumers around the world have come to favor small-batch, full-flavor brews over their mass-produced, watered-down counterparts. During our travels with Star Alliance’s Round The World program, we sipped on a Shiga Kogen IPA in Tokyo, a Magpie Brewing porter in Seoul, Bosphorus Brewing Company’s Haliç Gold ale in Instabul, and so forth. We were quite surprised, then, to arrive in Berlin only to find out the German capital’s craft beer scene is still somewhat fledgling (due to the Reinheitsgebot law, which states beer must be made from only water, hops, malt and yeast).
Fortunately, our stay at Hotel am Steinplatz in Charlottenburg opened our eyes to several regional craft beers (including two of the hotel’s own) and best of all, a deeper understanding as to why a country with a such strong foothold in beer production is now slightly behind the times. Coincidentally, the boutique hotel holds its own place in Germany’s drinking history: in 1949, Heinz Zellermayer, the hotel owner’s son, persuaded politicians to abolish set closing hours for bars. It’s because of this that Berliners (and visitors) can choose to pull a three-day bender at Berghain without ever heading home in between.
We asked Hotel am Steinplatz’s bar manager, Christian Gentemann, to further fill us in on Germany’s evolving beer scene and the hotel’s continuing place within it. Whether you stay at the boutique property on your next visit (we recommend one of the spa suites, which has its own Finnish sauna) or you’re just passing through, be sure to stop in and try one of the many craft beers they keep stocked at Bar am Steinplatz (and in your room).
Can you tell us more about Heinz Zellermayer and how he got the curfew lifted?
Back in the day bars had to stop serving drinks at 9PM. This year was the 66th anniversary of the “end of the curfew” (on June 20th). This changed the city in a unique way, which every Berliner and visitor of Berlin appreciates still till this day. Heinz Zellermayer, son of the first owner of the Hotel am Steinplatz, met US General Frank Howley. After a few drinks the curfew was history. It’s a really nice historical highlight!
How are craft brewers getting around Reinheitsgebot?
The German Reinheitsgebot of 1516 is still valid and has been discussed in recent months around the 500 year anniversary. The basic law now declares that only malted grains, hops, water and yeast are permitted. For example, Belgian Witbiere are known for being brewed with special ingredients like orange peel or coriander seeds. In Germany, it was just a dream of brewing beers like the Belgians. Now, there is an opportunity to get a special permit for brewing to bypass the Reinheitsgebot. Since nearly all special permits are confirmed, it´s now possible to brew differently than before.
What are the two types of craft beer you have that are exclusive to the hotel and why did you choose those?
Our exclusive bottlings are brewed and bottled by Schoppe Bräu. Its owner Torsten Schoppe was the first brewer in Berlin who took a special interest to craft beer. Since 2001 he’s brewed classic, traditional and forgotten beer styles. We started in 2014 with our Endell Ale [named after the Art Nouveau hotel’s original architect, August Endell], which is a light, fruity “beginners” Pale Ale. In July this year the August Pils followed his brother. We’ve deliberately chosen a classic German brewing style in order to provide a supplement to the more modern Pale Ale.
What are some of the other craft beers you have on offer? Are most of them German or made elsewhere?
We currently have a selection of 25 different beers in 15 different styles. We are very convinced of the quality and diversity of German brewers, therefore its very important for us that all these beers come are brewed in Germany.
Does it seem like Germans are starting to become as bierernst about craft beers as they are about traditional pilsners?
I think that the Germans were always known for brewing delicious beers. Modern mass-market breweries claim their beer is “technically” pure, though it lacks taste and character. It is just about brewing with more diversity and to focus not only on the Pils. And since the small breweries have the advantage to react more rapidly with their equipment they can produce new/old styles.
Hotel am Steinplatz is located at Steinplatz 4, 10623 in Berlin, Germany.
To celebrate their Round The World offering Star Alliance partnered with Marriott TRAVELER to offer Cool Hunting Editor-at-Large Karen Day her dream trip. She chose to explore locations she’d visit on a professional gap year, taking a break from the grind of NYC to explore places that inspire the creative spirit.
Images courtesy of Hotel am Steinplatz