Getting to know: Schoppe Bräu

The historic art nouveau Colonnades on Schönhauser Allee in Berlin’s chic Prenzlauer Berg district was built around 1911 and rejuvenated 98-years later to become an industrial monument and heritage area.  The Colonnades was built as an impressive, grand entrance to Bavarian Master Brewer Joseph Pfeffer’s 1842 now-legendary “Brauerei Pfefferberg”, albeit it was built on land that was, till then, the brewery’s beer-garden.

Despite the investment in an imposing entrance, the brewery closed less than 10-years later, a demise that signalled the end of 80-years span catering to Berlin’s thirsty drinkers.  Following the brewery’s closure, the complex and adjacent area was simply known as Pfefferberg, and the industrial heart took various guises over the years, including a stint as the home of DDR newspaper Neues Deutschland (at that time an official socialist publication in East Germany).

By the ‘80s most of Pfefferberg was empty, derelict and entering a relentless period of decline.  However, by 1990 a movement was afoot to regenerate and gentrify Pfefferberg into a cultural-centre: a multi-use event-space with galleries, art, restaurants and possibly a return to its former glory as a house of brewing.

Upon completion of restoration work in the early 2010s, the Pfefferbräu Restaurant & Bergbrauerei (mountain brewery) opened.  ‘Mountain brewery’ paying homage to Joseph Pfeffer’s Brauerei Pfefferberg, which literally translates as the Pepper Mountain Brewery.  Pfefferbräu is central to a larger facility that contains both a theatre and conference rooms.

Most importantly, there is once again a working brewery on the Pfefferberg site.  Within Pfefferbräu, well-known and respected local Master Brewer Thorsten Schoppe utilises over 20-years’ brewing experience, mostly in Berlin, to craft some great, unique beers for his Schoppe Bräu brewery.  In addition, he brews for another of his endeavours, Flying Turtle, and also creates collaborations with some of Berlin’s most notable craft brewers.

The Schoppe Bräu production facilities is fairly compact and split over two levels, with the Brewhouse within Pfefferbräu on the elevated Colonnades level, and the fermentation, storage, cooler, kegging and bottling areas at street-level below.  Having the Brewhouse on an elevated level leads to one particular peculiarity: the weight of a Brewhouse in operation, filled with water — the key ingredient of beer — was expected to place unnecessary stresses on the ceiling of the businesses operating below, so instead of sitting on the floor, the traditional-looking, copper-coated Brewhouse is suspended from the ceiling.

The fermentation area contains a handful of vertical tanks and several rows of horizontal bag-in-tank lagering vessels.  The tell-tale sign of barrel-aging sits nearby in the shape of a one-time bourbon barrel that has plenty of delicious history.  Demands for Schoppe Bräu beers is necessitating the addition of another fermentation tank.  Beers are not only produced here for Pfefferbräu, but also for many other bars, restaurants and two of Berlin’s largest supermarket chains.  Demand is so high for Schoppe Bräu beers, in fact, that the brewery can be producing around 18 distinct beers at any one time (plus special brews) — such are the calls of Berlin’s discerning beer drinkers who demand both the traditional styles of last year and the new, upcoming styles of next year!

Schoppe Bräu even has the Bierkombinat Kreuzberg (BKK) — its own taproom in Kreuzberg, just south of central Berlin.  There are even plans to create a unique beer-and-food experience (a taproom-cum-deli-cum-bakery) in the premises directly under Pfefferbräu, although the space needs some TLC due to its former life an alternative-music bar.

Thorsten Schoppe was once a world record holder for brewing the world’s strongest beer — the Schoppe XXL — although it was brewed as a one-off exception, and the majority of Schoppe Bräu’s great beers have a more customary ABV level.

Trying Schoppe Bräu beers is highly-recommended, whether you’re in Berlin or happen to find them in your local beer-bar or bottle-shop.  If you’re in Berlin, why not visit Pfefferbräu and enjoy a beer in the elegant confines of the Colonnades beer garden, or perhaps visit BKK, or if you’re planning to be in Berlin later this year, maybe a visit to the new taproom at Pfefferberg is necessary.

Either way, enjoy.