Bärenquell Brewery

by jonnywhitlam

Exploring the abandoned East German brewery.

Number 4 in the series about my exhibition focuses on the last of my themes, looking into the many abandoned spaces we have here in Berlin. For me it’s one of the things that really makes the city so fascinating. These buildings aren’t always places that are up for demolition, or sad tales of collapsed businesses or fire damage. In fact, more often than not there’s a fantastic historical relevance behind them.

The abandoned Bärenquell brewery sits in a now somewhat-forgotten corner of East Berlin, Schöneweide. To be fair it’s the greatest part of town, in fact I’d never have headed there had I not heard of this place. After reading about it on Abandoned Berlin I knew I had to visit, so I took a couple of friends and went along.

Bärenquell was one of the ‘Big Four’ breweries in Berlin, and after the division of the city fell into the East. This was not necessarily a bad thing for a brewery. Now, there were definitely a lot less personal freedoms in East Germany than on the other side of The Wall, everyone was watched by the government, and the country was so poor that during the 1980s – right before it disappeared altogether – the country was on the brink of collapse. This meant that any Ossis (East Germans) looking to escape it all turned to the cheapest option – a cold glass of beer.

Due to this, alcoholism was actually a fairly large problem in East Germany. However as with many problems in communist states it was somewhat swept under the carpet. There was no rape in the GDR for example, not because it never happened, but because the government didn’t want to bother the public, sitting pretty in their Socialist Paradise, with such terrible things.

Being in the East, Ossis didn’t really have a lot of choice when it came to going for a beer. In fact in Berlin it was either Bärenquell (Bear Sping) or Bürgerbrau (citizens’ brew). Now, I don’t know about you when you’re on holiday or travelling, but I always go for a beer I’ve never had before. Well, when in 1989 The Wall finally fell down the East Berliners not only had a couple more of Berlin’s own pilsners to try, they were allowed imports, too. Readily available at good prices Berliners from East and West were drinking together, sipping beers from the world over. Unfortunately for Bärenquell, this meant they were long forgotten, and in the mid-1990s the brewery closed down.

This means that there’s a huge industrial site just ripe for exploring. There’s a million and one things to see and photograph in this place. In fact you can see more from day at Bärenquell here. There’s a tower for a great view, there’s a wealth of Street Art, there’s old cars, Take That stickers from the early 90s, it’s a fascinating place.

The reason I chose this photo for my Social Spaces exhibition is that I think it somehow captures the sadness, creepiness and emptiness of these abandoned spaces, whilst keeping an element of exploration. For me, it’s like I want to wander through the doorway, discover whatever or whoever may be on the other side.

If you would like to visit the exhibition it will be on at Speakeasy Sprachzeug language school, 116 Boxhagener Str. Berlin (Nearest U-Bahn is Frankfurter Tor.) from June 24 until August 24. If you would like to buy a print of this or any other photo please feel free to send me an email (see contact).