Berlin Beer Week is happening right now. Too late to book a ticket, maybe, but there’s always next year. Meanwhile, Berliners are enjoying everything from Franconian night at the neighborhood kneipe to pop-up beer gardens to an end-of-week blowout bash on the site of Stone’s brewery. How did this come about? Largely through the initiative of two people, a Berliner and an American. Stefan Krüger runs a specialty beer distributor called Beergeeks, while Tiffany Herrington is an expat brewer from the Pacific Northwest—previously she worked at Pike, Ram and Elysian in Seattle. She told us how the inaugural Berlin Beer Week came to be.
JS: You left behind a professional brewing career in Seattle to move to Berlin. Why?
TH: My love of travel is the only thing that rivals my love for beer. I’ve always intended to live abroad, though I didn’t have any specific idea as to where, so I just started backpacking around before ending up in Berlin in March 2014. I immediately liked the city’s creative vibe and diversity, and when I discovered the burgeoning craft beer scene, I was hooked.
JS: How did you connect with co-organizer Stefan Krüger? How did you both decide that Berlin needed its own Beer Week?
TH: I was connected with Stefan last year through a mutual industry colleague. He was setting up his first month-long pop-up bar—the first one in Germany, in fact!—to promote his new craft beer distributorship, Beergeeks, and was looking for beer enthusiasts to pour brews and educate consumers about all these cool new styles that were making an appearance in the city. I was glad to help out. After that pop-up bar ended, we regularly talked about what we could do to keep promoting craft beer in Berlin, and I asked him if there was a Beer Week in Berlin. Coming from Seattle, and the brewing industry, I always had a plethora of amazing beer events happening throughout the year, and Beer Week was my favorite one. Stefan responded to my question with, “What is Beer Week?” and I excitedly blurted out, “The best week of the year!” And then we couldn’t stop talking about bringing the Beer Week concept to Berlin. While the scene is still young here, we feel that it’s projects like this that will help get the craft beer ball rolling. The purpose of Berlin Beer Week is to promote and educate consumers about local, hand-crafted, high-quality beer versus the typical beer one finds in a Späti [convenience store] here, and to support all the local businesses that are producing and distributing craft beer.
JS: What makes Berlin’s beer scene different from others that you’ve known?
TH: Growing up on the West Coast of the U.S., I was very lucky to have an array of awesome beers available to me at all times. I was born around the time the American craft beer boom began, so we kind of grew up together and by the time I was of drinking age, I could walk into a gas station, or a chain grocery store, and find 20-plus different, really good craft beers on hand. That same choice isn’t available here. And while there are a lot of really great local brewers, they are still testing the waters with regard to breaking away from traditional styles, or what I might consider a “safe” style like a pale ale. It’s a far cry from the States, where you not only have the requisite IPAs, porters, stouts, pale ales and the like, but also many sour/wild beers, barrel-aged beers, and other creative and highly experimental brews in general to choose from. There is still definitely some innovation here in the brewing scene, but it’s on a much smaller and slower scale. The potential is there though, it’s just going to take some time for it to be fully realized. It’s like sex, you start out with missionary, and work your way up to the BDSM stuff.
JS: Um. Quick: Your current favorite German beer, and why.
TH: My current favorite beer in Berlin is the German cream ale brewed with coffee beans, from Lenny’s Artisanal Ales. It’s the first cream ale brewed in Berlin, I am told by the brewer, and I am a big fan of the flavor combination of coffee and lighter beer styles. It’s just a really nice beer that goes down easy.
JS: Are you planning to stick around and do this again next year?
JS: Ms. Herrington, if you please, why do you clearly hate traditional German lager, which is currently my favorite thing on the planet?
TH: Haha. Lager is certainly not my favorite style, but I definitely don’t hate it! I am all for it, if it is not mass-brewed with bland ingredients of mediocre quality, in a giant facility by passionless robots masquerading as humans, and governed by monster corporate entities who want to dominate the market and are unsupportive of small brewers who do what they do as a labor of love.