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Touchdown in Berlin’s realm of beer

Or to be more precise in the “Hopfenreich”, located in the middle of Berlin-Kreuzberg. There, you see, during my recent trip to the metropolis I dropped in for a glass of beer and was hugely impressed by how the Craft Beer scene in the German capital has already evolved: numerous Craft Beer pubs and stores have made a name for themselves there and have meanwhile long since been familiar players on the market. The best example here is the “Hopfenreich”. And there I seized the opportunity and during my visit asked Mark, one of the two proprietors, a few questions about the “Hopfenreich”, Craft Beer in general, trends and the future of Craft Beer, etc. 


Mark, you’re the proprietor of the “Hopfenreich” Craft Beer bar. For how long now has the “Hopfenreich” actually been up and running, and why did you want it to be a Craft Beer bar?

I am one of three owners. We opened the “Hopfenreich” on 1 May 2014. Pretty quietly, and then we took it from there. Word got around pretty quickly here, which we naturally enough found very gratifying. We chose to add “Craft Beer Bar” to the name so as to make it clear what we’re all about. The “Hopfenreich” was the first bar in Berlin to offer exclusively Craft Beer on a large scale.

How many staff are there working at the “Hopfenreich”?

Eight at the counter at present, plus Attila Kiss and myself as general managers. Currently we could do with some more staff at the bar counter.

So what’s your basic philosophy, or what makes the “Hopfenreich” so distinctive?

Ah, that would be cask rotation, I suppose. As soon as a cask of beer has been emptied, another one is connected up to the tap. This time with a completely different beer, so that here within a minimised timeframe you can try out plenty of new beers. We reserve the right to never be tied if at all possible to anyone or anything and to be completely free in deciding what beers we offer our guests. And there we have a pretty wide range to choose from. This means we offer a hugely varied choice of beers, covering lots of disparate styles. We have 22 different beers on tap. And part of the “Hopfenreich’s” charm is rooted in the largely hand-carpentered, hand-crafted interior and in our staff. Country-style cosiness with a soul, coupled with friendly, knowledgeable bartenders.

 There’s more to a bar than just the food and drink. You need to get the “trappings” right as well. What were your priorities in terms of the “Hopfenreich’s” ambience?

 We still attach huge importance to a vibrant atmosphere. We achieve this with the overall ambience and furnishings. Lots of the stuff here is old, but it’s still very much alive. Plenty of it is homemade, a bit rough and ready, the way things are in real life. You very quickly notice when you enter the “Hopfenreich” that this has always been a tavern, serving beer for many, many decades. It creaks and groans, the floorboards have been worn away by the weight of years. Innumerable people have dropped in here for a drink and enjoyed this corner pub. We are building on this history with the “Hopfenreich” and our idea. 

What choice of Craft Beers do you have in your range? Is it even legitimate to speak of a “range”, or does the “Hopfenreich” continually change what’s on offer?

Basically we have all styles of beer to choose from. Not always at the same time, but over the course of weeks sure. We change our beers regularly in pretty rapid succession. This means visitors always get to taste something new. We’re careful to ensure that we invariably have some Berlin Craft Beers currently on tap, because we have close ties with Berlin’s Craft Beer scene, and are delighted it’s evolving so well. What’s more, lots of great beers are being brewed here in Berlin, so that these local beers are much in demand among our international guests too.

What criteria do you apply when deciding whether to include a particular beer in your range?

We can’t try out every beer beforehand, unfortunately, but we do taste most of them in advance. And if this is not possible, because a certain beer is simply not available beforehand, you can also get hold of some dependable information about it. We ourselves have rather a good grasp of the scene, and are insatiably curious. We also have plenty of contacts to ask if we have any questions, or there are always the relevant online forums. It’s a bit like doing research work. So the criteria for inclusion are our own personal tastes, and the preferences of our guests, our curiosity and our interest, general recommendations, plus awards for beers.

Do you also have some highly unusual Craft Beers on offer, where at first you perhaps have no idea whether your customers are going to like them? Or as a businessman do you tend to go for safe, perhaps more profitable variants, meaning Craft Beers that the majority are going to like?

We certainly also offer beers that don’t necessarily have mass appeal, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less exciting and delicious. These will then be the very special beers, such as the Vanilla Tripe Gruit from the Spent Brewers Collective in Berlin.

Do you restrict yourselves to German Craft Beer, or do you get your inspiration worldwide?

We offer Craft Beers from everywhere. The question here is whether and how you can get hold of the beer. Very many beers are not even available in Germany, don’t have any sales channels here. That’s when you need to use your initiative. We repeatedly import beers and are then the first and only ones to be offering certain beers in Berlin and also nationwide.

So is there in your opinion a Craft Beer that you always associate with Berlin?

For me personally, yes, there are a few. Primarily the beers from brewers who’ve been around for a long time and whom I first got to know. These include Schoppe Bräu, Heidenpeters, Beer for Wedding aka Bierfabrik, Vagabund, Brewbaker, Hops & Barley, Spent and Lemke. But the “younger” breweries need fear no comparisons either.

Do you also brew Craft Beer yourselves? Does the “Hopfenreich” have its own brand?

Not yet, no. Last year, we brewed the festival beer for the Brewing Festival in Berlin, and we’ve just begun, together with the Lemke Brewery (Berlin’s first Craft Beer brewery, by the way), brewing the festival beer for the Berlin Craft Beer Festival 2016 (29 – 30 July). And then we’ll see how everything goes and when we’ll be brewing “Hopfenreich beers” ourselves. This is also above all a question of time, since we’re still busy with other promising projects. At this point, I’d like to briefly recommend a visit to the IPA Bar in Neukölln. The name is the programme here.

What does your clientele look like? Are there particular age-groups or classes that regularly patronise your bar?

The guests are a colourful mixture, with plenty of different nationalities. But the direct neighbourhood and Berliners also come and drink our beers. There are curious guests who come to the “Hopfenreich” specially, because they’ve heard about it. Our regulars drop in most days, and people involved in the beer trade. Brewers and beer nerds from all over the world. And simply curious people who would like to find out what Craft Beer is. I estimate the age of our clientele as 25 and well over. But we also have traditional pub guests who have nothing against Craft Beer. 🙂

Which Craft Beer is in your opinion the most popular among your customers? Which one is your own favourite, and why?

Among the guests who don’t live in Berlin, the city’s own Craft Beers are particularly popular. But plenty of Berliners like them too. It’s hard to be specific here. IPAs and also Pale Ales are still very much in demand. As are beers from the USA and Scandinavia. But often our guests don’t know exactly what they really want to drink when they walk into the “Hopfenreich”. The huge choice of beers can be a bit confusing. This is then a classic case for our staff at the counter, who chat to the guest, and perhaps offer one or two tasters, to find out what sort of beer with what kind of flavour he or she’s actually looking for.

You also offer beer tastings, don’t you? How are these being received, and what exactly does one of these tastings involve?

They are being well received, and demand for them is rising. We offer beer tastings for groups with an advance reservation. We discuss the framework, and then it might look like this: a group of twelve people have registered for a tasting, which will then be separately hosted by our trained staff in a semi-public room at the “Hopfenreich”. Different beers and beer styles are sampled, accompanied by a snack. The tasting is moderated, with informal background information on the beers and the breweries concerned. We also provide insights into Berlin’s Craft Beer scene, and give tips and recommendations.

What other events do you offer in the “Hopfenreich”?

We additionally offer the “Berlin Craft Beer Tours”. A walk through some Craft Beer spots, with tastings and commentary from a guide, plus input from the brewers and tavern staff involved. A really great opportunity to familiarise yourself with Berlin’s Craft Beer scene, to discover new places, and to understand why Craft Beer in and from Berlin is particularly popular. The tours are held in Friedrichshain or Kreuzberg or Neukölln. We’re just starting out on this, but it’s already up and running. 🙂

Do you as a Managing Director see other Craft Beer bars as competition or more of an enrichment?

As an enrichment, definitely. We work together quite a lot here. But sure, on the other hand you have to really get stuck in, you must never stand still, you have to keep on evolving, keep coming up with new ideas.

How do you personally assess the development and future of the Craft Beer scene? Are there discernible trends or particular focuses?

I am confident that the trend towards Craft Beer will intensify and broaden. There’s still plenty of potential. Craft Beer catering is above all an urban phenomenon, and at some point there’s going to be saturation at the locations concerned and the urban centres. But this is bound to take quite a bit of time yet. Craft Beer production is only just beginning here in Germany. This is very exciting at the moment, because in Berlin and other big cities (like Hamburg), for example, many new small Craft Breweries are being set up. Here, too, you need to survive and prosper on the market if your brewery is going to be viable in the medium and long run. In Berlin, the process of professionalisation in regard to marketing your own brewery’s products has just begun. This was not yet the case two or three years ago. In contrast to the catering trade, the breweries basically have an opportunity to deliver their beers anywhere they want so they can expand correspondingly. The brewers have to decide whether this is what they want or not. Ambitions on this vary quite a lot here in Berlin. We as a Craft Beer bar in Berlin can grow at this location only up to a certain level, which we then have to maintain.


One thing is certain: at the “Hopfenreich”, passion and enthusiasm for Craft Beer is embraced on a daily basis: something you notice as soon as you walk in. Here, the name is in actual fact the programme: “Hopfenreich” means “Realm of Hops”, and that’s where you feel you’ve arrived. For me at any rate, the bar was a thoroughly successful overall package, not just for its beers. Do you know of any other interesting Craft Beer bars or stores you’d like to share with us? Then feel free to post your suggestions as comments 🙂

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