About the Bar
It’s hard to describe Birgit und Bier. Walking past the imposing metal gates is like stepping into a fantastical new world; a maze-like magical playground for adults, full of old fairground rides, retro arcades, discarded carnival oddities, ping pong tables, dance floors, beer tanks and funky furniture. It is a new generation of biergarten, the type that can only be found in Berlin.
We’re in Kreuzberg, once enclosed on three sides by the Berlin Wall, but which is now one of the trendiest and most colourful districts of Berlin. Birgit und Bier is a stone’s throw from the River Spree (which flows through the Czech Republic on its way here) and sits along the Landwehr Canal. Birgit, as its friends know it, forms the centrepiece of a kind of mini counterculture island.
It was opened in May 2015 by Robert Kreissel, when he was just 30, and named after lyrics from the song Kaffee und Karin from German rock band Element of Crime. Hard to believe now but it used to be a garage where old taxis got fixed.
Birgit is the bar’s female statue. One has her riding a tank and holding a beer; while the other has her permanently reaching her arms above her head in joy and celebration. Perhaps lost to the music of the three dance floors, each designed for a completely different musical vibe: deep house / hip-hop, techno and 80s cheese. Bier is the seven tanks of fresh Pilsner Urquell beer found over the two bars.
“We want people to have an adventure – something they’ve never done before.”
“Birgit has a unique atmosphere”, says Robert. “You can do anything here. During the day families come and it’s like a fun park, chilled out, people eating and drinking and listening to nice music. In the night we never know what is going to happen – we want people have a crazy unexpected night.
Our friends helped us build this place. Artisans, artists and carpenters. We give them our ideas – or they come to us with theirs – and they make it happen. Things change and evolve every week – it’s a never-ending story. It’s why I like working here – to realise my concepts and see people react and respond to our ideas so well.
I studied engineering and economics at university but I began selling drinks from my own fridge in 2006, setting up my first bar with €1000. Things went from there. I’ve owned eight or nine bars since, but now I want to focus on Birgit. It’s my biggest project yet and takes up all my time – I work seven days a week, often coming in at 7am and leaving at 1am.
To be a success in this business, you need good people around you. You can’t do everything on your own. Steph Kiehns is my right-hand woman and she’s responsible for most of our concepts.
“You can’t find another place like it in Berlin.”
We were one of the first to get tank beer in Berlin and we’re really proud of it. I’ve never heard of anyone not liking Pilsner Urquell. It’s just really good fresh beer. Younger people love it because it’s like a craft beer. And because it’s so accessible, lots of women drink it too. For me, the secret is staff training – you need a real passion for the beer to pour it right. We could definitely do this better at Birgit, but we often have lots of young people, like students, behind the bar. We try to train them well, but they are not career Tapsters so don’t care as much.
We have a very open-door policy. Everyone is welcome – old people, young people, party people, hipsters, ravers, techno lovers, tourists, families. Everyone! People can come straight in – there’s no line like other places. I think it’s the most welcoming bar in Berlin.”