Aarti Mehta Kroll uncovers Berlin’s most Scottish pub and finds a hair-raising selection of whiskies…
Anyone who has spent any time in Scotland will be aware of its lively pub culture. In cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow, there’s a pub on every corner where locals gather in the evening for a pint and chat friends and neighbours.
“That is what it was like in Germany in the 1970s,” says Christian Mirus, the German owner of Loch Ness, a Scottish-themed whisky bar in Lichterfelde.
While it’s possible to find whisky tastings in the city, bars that offer a decent selection of the famed tipple, trendy spots opened by members of cult Scottish indie bands, and even an annual whisky festival (in Köpenick!), Loch Ness goes a step further by presenting a comprehensive “Scottish” experience that runs from food and decor to the superlative selection of drinks on offer.
The idea came, as you might expect, from Christian’s travels to Scotland. His first visit was in 1993 and since then he’s been going back three or four times a year. His growing interest in the world of whisky eventually came back with him to Berlin, where he established a whisky society with a group of friends. In 2009, while doing a tasting during the annual Strohballenfest in Berlin-Buckow, visitors asked where they could try whiskys in the city; Loch Ness was born soon after.
Tucked away in one of Lichterfelde’s quiet residential areas, the bar is run by Christian with the support of his wife and his mother-in-law. When more help is needed, they call upon a circle of friends and acquaintances who are happy to lend a hand.
Subdivided into three parts, the bar offers terrace seating from April to October (till 10pm), after which guests can move into the cozy indoor area, which has a separate smokers’ section. In the main room, there is a long table to accommodate larger groups while the rest of the space is taken up by high stools and comfortable leather sofas and chairs. The walls are covered with pictures and maps of Scotland and you’ll see veritable flocks of ceramic sheep seated by the windows. On your way out, you’ll probably be handed a packet of ‘gummi sheep’ sweets.
But really, who needs sweets when the bar offers a selection of 551 whiskeys, 520 of which are malts? Loch Ness has the third largest collection of any pub in Germany. Budding connoisseurs even have the option of participating in monthly tastings, while others can enjoy a range of Scottish beers and ales that are not available in any other bar in Berlin, including Belhaven, St. Andrews Ale, Belhaven Stout, Abbot Ale, Old Speckled Hen, Belhaven Scottish Ale and Belhaven Best.
Those needing something non-alcoholic can enjoy Scotland’s popular soft drink Irn-Bru—but whatever your tipple, the experience would be incomplete without a packet of Walkers Crisps. Loch Ness stocks them in five different flavors, including my personal favourite, Salt & Vinegar.
Loch Ness also incorporates a restaurant, though the small size of the kitchen makes Christian hesitant to apply such formal appellations. Let’s just say you won’t go hungry, with available treats like cottage pie, haggis and fish and chips, all made by Christian and his wife.
Their cuisine enjoyed a recent stamp of approval by a visiting Scot who came into the pub one night and told them the haggis tasted just like how his grandmother makes it. “That’s when we knew we had nailed it,” grins Christian.
The pub is open from 5pm to 12am Tuesday to Thursday and from 5pm to 1am on Friday and Saturday. The hours are perfect for the clientele, mainly locals coming in to unwind over a few drinks.
“These aren’t people who want to party through the night. They have things to do the next day,” says Christian who himself works as an IT technician and property manager during the day.
Due to the small size of the pub and its kitchen, Christian recommends reserving tables in advance, especially if you plan to bring a group. However if you happen to come alone, you can always hang out with the regulars, perhaps with a few surprises, like the time a punter once gave an impromptu violin concert. Central and full of trendy hipsters Loch Ness ain’t. But it is one of the few places in the city to experience a genuine slice of Scottish pub culture, and as many high quality wee drams as you can handle.
12203 Berlin – Steglitz (Lichterfelde)
T: 030 832 10 289