Stephanie King profiles ten of Wedding’s best bars and pubs…
Since the fall of the wall, several of Berlin’s inner-city neighbourhoods have been labelled with varying degrees of ‘hotness’. Eastern neighbourhoods like Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg had their day early on, with Neukölln stealing some of Kreuzberg’s thunder somewhat in recent times.
One district that has seems to have remained on the periphery of popularity forever, without quite making it into the mainstream, is Wedding. The phrase “Der Wedding kommt” (‘Wedding is coming’) is for a lot of people, particularly locals, a long-running gag – yet others are adamant that Wedding is destined to become the new Neukölln.
In reality, the district has been gentrifying, but gently and only in certain pockets (as opposed to the seemingly ‘wholesale’ takeover of Neukölln in the last five years). One great way of exploring the diverse community is through its pubs and bars, which run the gamut from whisky-filled Kneipes to artist-run back rooms.
In typical Wedding style, most are situated in the middle of a back street and unless you hear of them by word of mouth (or online blogs), you wouldn’t come across them. They’re spread out too, and its this relative sparsity that helps lend them such a comfortable feeling not only for the growing expat community, but also for Weddingers – and the occasional adventurous soul that decides to venture here or is just plain lost…
Often referred to as “F-Bar”, “The F” or simply just “F”, the Fos Café Bar is the kind of bar you pop into for a couple of hours and soon realise eight have passed. Started by Gekko and Ben, polar opposites and old colleagues, four years ago, it began as a daytime café (hence the name) but was soon continuing on into the night.
In one way it has a classic Berlin grungy feel, with walls covered in artworks procured from locals or internationals passing through, and couches picked up off the street. On the other hand, the bartender usually greets customers with a hello and a smile. Although it attracts quite an international crowd, it still manages to attract locals, some of whom have lived in Wedding their whole lives. With a list of 25 different gins and around 50 bottled beers, plus the occasional band or DJ, it’s a great all-rounder hangout.
Fos Café Bar, Gruntaler str. 9
Around since 2000, this pub ticks all the boxes: darts, a large TV for football, Guinness and whisky – 720 bottles of the stuff, in fact, which reach the ceiling of the back wall and fill most other nooks and crannies. Although the selection is international, their main focus is Scottish whisky thanks to current manager Lars Pechmann who also hosts beginner and advanced tasting sessions that explain the art of drinking whisky and the different distilleries of Scotland.
They also support local breweries by stocking brews from Beer4Wedding, tap beer, whisky and cherry brandy from Eschenbräu and liquor from Preussische Spirituosen Manufaktur – all of which are located in Wedding. At the other end of the scale they have a great selection of international craft beer including IPAs, porters, ales, and interesting ciders (including one that spends six months in a whiskey barrel).
The style of the pub is part classic pub with a Berlin twist: check out the bits of train track, birdcages and furniture hanging from the ceiling. The bartenders are extremely friendly and knowledgeable, and will often pop over to your table to take your order.
Offside Pub & Whiskey Bar, Julicher Str. 4
“At the dark end of the street” is the slogan for this lonesome bar in Grüntaler straße. Identified only by a small blue light that gradually appears as you approach it, the venue itself has been around since 1961, but it wasn’t until September of 2011 when current owners Jess Schmitz and Uwe Efferts breathed new life into it.
The original sign still stands outside, but inside you quickly realise this is no ordinary pub, the biggest clue being the two-lane, ninepin bowling alley in the basement (in fact it’s a German “Kegeln”, which is a bit different in that it has a slightly funnel-shaped lane and a smaller ball without any finger holes).
The overall vibe, though is of a lively and arty hangout, due mostly to it being part of Kolonie Wedding – an art collective that organises neighbourhood exhibitions as well as after parties with DJs and live music. Hence you’ll find here live bands every Friday night (and sometimes during the week), an open mic session every last Tuesday of the month, a jam session every third Thursday of the month, and a soon-to-be open mic hip hop session organised by Analog Bar (see below).
The bar offers a variety of drinks for a good price, but the most impressive part is their selection of tequila and mezcal, which tends to surprise even Mexicans.
Kugelbahn, Gruntaler str. 51
The name describes the idea: a collection of tapes and vinyl in a corner behind the bar – much of it hip hop – and the bartender chooses what will be played that night. The first Analog Bar opened five years just a few doors down, and three years ago, Thomas Pilz opened this new location, which is basically created a space for him and his friends to play his favourite music, and allowing others to enjoy it as well.
The bar has a laidback, community-like feel to it with most of the other bartenders being friends of Thomas since a very young age. It’s packed with couches and quite spacious, with two large rooms at the front and a smaller room at the back; even though it is a smoking bar it is well ventilated. They cover a bit of everything when it comes to alcohol, and have good prices as well. Every last Sunday of the month there is a hip hop open mic night where Thomas himself DJs, and there will soon be a second one at Kugelbahn every second Sunday of the month (see above).
Analog Bar, Martin-Opitz str. 21
Named after the wine-based brandy Dujardin, this café by day and bar by night is something of a keeper. Situated along the Panke in Uferstraße, Werener Geyer and Daniela Selig opened the venue around a year ago. It opens at 12pm during the week and 11am on the weekends, and continues until at least 12am – longer if the people demand it.
During the day it carries a cosy atmosphere and offers light lunches (quiche, boulette, potato salad, soup) as well as good quality coffee and a range of delicious homemade cakes. The wooden fold-out chairs are from its former incarnation as a cinema, and are well-matched to tables featuring fresh flowers and decor that favours soothing tones.
At night-time, Dujardin offers guests a selection of gin, whiskey, rum, bottled beer, wine, specials like Federweisse (young wine, with yeast) cider, and of course, Dujardin. Last summer the space held Balboa swing lessons every Wednesday, and even once hosted a clothing sale featuring different fashion labels; keep an eye on their Facebook page for future events.
Cafe Dujardin, Uferstr. 12
Kamine und Wein
‘Fireplaces and Wine’ – sounds like a perfect combination for the upcoming winter, right? Well, it is. But the venue also sells fireplaces and wine. In fact, selling fireplaces is Heiko Schmidt’s main business – he simply added a wine bar to go with it that happens to attract many of Wedding’s bar-hoppers.
Though these two elements were initially combined, Schmidt has recently separated them. The back room is strictly for fireplace customers, while the drinkers will want to head for the front room, which offers a wide selection of European labels – mostly Germany, Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, but also Bulgaria – as well as a few bottled beers.
The clientele here really varies; young people coming for a drink, young and old couples looking for a fireplace, and others making use of the bar’s ‘take-away’ service to enjoy a bottle at home. The mix of social classes is even more impressive, ranging from some who are often 50 cents short for a glass of wine to those who can drop 5000 euros upwards for a fireplace.
Kamine und Wein, Prinzenallee 58.
While the term ‘hidden gem’ is a journalistic cliche, this brewery bar – opened by Martin Eschenbrenner in 2001 – really is quite hidden in the courtyard of a student-housing complex. Modelled on a traditional Bavarian beer garden, in summer you can enjoy a classic German brew outside (where they have taps set up), and in the winter you can venture downstairs to the dungeon-like bar which has plenty of room and a real Bavarian feel to it.
There is no obvious audience either; the bar attracts everyone from students, families, couples and tourists. Martin and his three apprentices serve up four standard beers, mostly classic German types, with a rotating tap that normally holds one of his more intense, flavoursome beers. Eshenbrenner also distills his own liquor, which includes a range of fruit brandy, beer brandy, herb liquor and whisky, and even presses his own apple juice from six different types of apples.
For sustenance there’s pretzels and flammkuchen, but it’s also fine to bring along your own food and eat it there (cutlery and plates are provided). They also have a growler and mini keg system whereby locals can come and get refills to take home with them. More here.
Hausbrauerei Eschenbräu, Triftstr. 67
Opened about a year and a half ago by Matt, David and Tom, three American home-brewers who yearned for craft beer in Berlin, Vagabund Brauerei is the first crowd-funded brewery in Europe. The idea behind is again in the name: a vagabond, a wanderer, a drifter – though in this case it’s the beer that’s wandering.
To date, the trio have brewed Imperial India Pale Ale, Hoppy Weizenbock, American Pale Ale, Schzechuan Saison, and more recently their S.M.A.S.H series – Single Malt and Single Hop. It would take too long to explain all of these beers to those who don’t know craft beer, but suffice to say they equate to “tasty”. Part of the concept is that the taps change regularly, from IPAs to stouts to porters and they also have a hefty range of bottled beer from far and wide and a growler system for take away beer.
They are passionate brewers so they really know their stuff and they can find what you are looking for. The crowd is diverse, with students, expats, business people, retirees, ‘men with beards’ all sharing space at the pub’s long tables, united by a passion for craft beer.
Vagabund Brauerei, Antwerpenerstr. 3