The Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, 27-11-15

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It was off to Berlin for a week and I was expecting the Wurst. Strangely, in the area in which we stayed, most of the food outlets were Italian, so pizza and pasta was the order of the day, washed down, in one case, with a bottle of Sardinian ale. We did try a Lebanese place, but the only German restaurant we found was a Bavarian theme bar, with the waiters dressed in lederhosen as they served lots of meat and potato based dishes. Despite this being about as authentic as a pie, mash and liquor shop in Newcastle, the food was good and they did have some nice unfiltered wheat beer from what claims to be the world’s oldest brewery, Weihenstephan Abbey which has being brewing continuously since 1040, although there is some evidence that it was in existence in 768. They now have a partnership with the Technical University of Munich and I can testify that the blend of experience and state of the art equipment has been put to good use.

However for the definitive food experience we decided that the snacks at Hertha Berlin’s game at the Olympic Stadium would be the best choice. On the way to the ground, we seemed to be the only fans not swigging from a bottle of beer, but there was plenty of opportunity to put that right inside the perimeter fence, where fans of both sides jostled round the myriad stalls dispensing beer into plastic cups. For those who missed out there were the roving salesmen with a sort of plastic dustbin strapped to their back who would dispense you a half litre whilst you were in your seat. Welcome though this was, it was the food we wanted to try, so we ordered a couple of helpings of Currywurst and Chips. This consisted of a plastic tray with some sliced sausage drowning in tomato sauce and liberally sprinkled with curry powder. I think that I was keener than the barwife on this piece of culinary magic.

At the end of the game, a disappointing 1-4 defeat for the home team, we joined most of the 58,000 fans making our way back to the S-Bahn station, though we were unusual in not stopping at the beer stall for a refill. The home fans mingled with the large away following from Borussia Monchengladbach (Give us a B…) with a great deal of singing, shouting and posturing, but the lawbreaking was largely confined to ignoring the prohibition on smoking and drinking on the station and train. Interestingly, the deposit of a couple of Euros on a bottle or plastic cup encouraged some of the less well-off to collect up all the empties and leave the area largely litter free. Perhaps there is a lesson for us here.

Back near our hotel, we had a choice of bars. There was a backpackers/student type bar which we had tried late one evening after a hard day looking round the film museum and Botticelli exhibition. During our visit every other table was occupied with guys playing with laptops. They were plugged into the wall sockets, using the bar’s electricity, but none of the people in question had bought a drink. Try that in a Lynn pub.

This time we chose the other option, Berlin’s newest microbrewery. Located in a cellar at a hostel, the overpowering aroma of malt confirmed that the Circus unfiltered and unpasteurised Pils was the drink to order. Not only was it excellent, but the other customers were actually drinking it and talking to each other. Coincidence? I think not.