Chemnitz, Sachsen (Saxony):
Friday 5th December 2014
This small brewery in the suburbs of Chemnitz is rather different to any German brewery I have so far written about. This is because it was in the DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik) or East Germany and is a true survivor. Most of the breweries of this size in the German Undemocratic Republic closed because of either impossible demands put on them by the State or they just couldn’t afford the cost of repairs to aged equipment.
I travelled quite a bit around the area of Chemnitz or as it was then named, Karl-Marx-Stadt, but I never came across these beers. Actually by then they were producing virtually no draught beer but I might have bought a bottle or two from a shop. A lot of the bottles in shops had no labels or they had been stuck on backwards. You identified the beer from the crate you were taking it from. Most of it was fresh, unpasteurised beer that had to be consumed within about three weeks, it didn’t seem to be a problem!
However, back to Reichenbrander. It is named after the district it is in and hasn’t always carried that name. Its foundation was in 1874 when it was opened by Karl-Friedrich Hofmann. The beer was sold at a small tap-room attached to a tiny brewery. It was only licensed to sell beer on Sundays and Holidays. No doubt Herr Hofmann had another job during the week. Notwithstanding that he was found bankrupt in 1895.
It was all to change after that as it was purchased by Oswald Bergt that year and thereafter was known as Brauerei Bergt. He made many improvements and the brewery made its name with semi-dark dark beer from 1900 onwards. Soon it was producing 2,000hl per annum, so I guess a new brewery had been built.
Recovery was slow after the First World War. A member of the third generation of the Bergt family, Joachim qualified in 1950 from the famous brewing university in Berlin, the VLB.
They traded well after the Second World War despite the Communist Government, as they managed to keep the brewery in private hands. However inheritance taxes imposed by the authorities and the need to make repairs meant that the family had to take out loans to survive. These had to be guaranteed by the government, so their hold tightened.
So reluctantly in 1969, Joachim Bergt accepted a Government stake of 17.4% in the business.
He thought this help was “shameful”. So improvements were made and at the end of 1970 they were bottling 40,000hl of beer per year. They were selling virtually no draught beer and they stopped it in 1971 so I guess all of the production was going to the small independent grocery shops, of which there were still many.
This progress was not to last long as on 4th October 1972 private companies were nationalised, or as they called it “sold voluntarily to the state”. History has told us that a guaranteed way to ruin a business is have it run by a communist committee.
Joachim Bergt was by now a “Manufacturing Plant Manager”. But he held on, using good ingredients and resisting demands to use adjuncts, such as raw grain and sugar.
From the first day of January 1980 the brewery became a production facility in the Karl-Marx-Stadt Drinks Combine (Getränkekombinat “Braustolz”) which was based around the large Braustolz brewery.
This all changed with the fall of communism and the family reclaimed their brewery on 1st April 1990. From 1991 the production of draught beer recommenced.
A new bottling line was installed in 1994. After 2000 there has been much investment to establish it as a modern brewery. In 2005 Michael Bergt joined the family company as a qualified brew master representing the fifth generation.
This tap is the best place to drink their beers as I believe this is the only outlet where you can get the full draught range. They are: Unser Helles (Light) (4.2%); Classic Pilsener (4.8%); Dunkelbier (Dark) (4.8%); Kellerbier (Unfiltered light beer served in ceramic krug) (4.8%) and Weizen (Wheat) (6.5%). Bockbier is also available on draught here in the appropriate season, presumably winter. There are also a number of other bottled beers. Apart from the wheat, Russell and myself went through the card and liked them all.
The pub is basically one room with a central service area with a layout set up for drinkers and there is a side room used for dining. There appears to be a real tree growing in the main room. Naturally there is a full food menu and I see that it has been recommended. In fact, I think Russell had something to eat and pronounced it satisfactory. I realise that not many tourists visit Chemnitz but, should you be in the city, you should take a journey out to Reichenbrand to taste some very good beer.
Reichenbrander Brau-Stubl, Zwickauer Strasse 478, Chemnitz-Reichenbrand
Tel: 0371 850214
Open: Monday-Sunday 11.00-24.00
Transport out to Reichenbrand is not difficult but it does mean a change. You catch the No 1 tram from anywhere in the city centre to the end of the route at Schönau. It mostly runs every 10 minutes. At Schönau change to the No 4 bus and catch it to the Brauerei Reichenbrand stop. You’ll not miss that one. This route is every 10 minutes at busy times, every 20 minutes at other times.
Chemnitz station is served by many local trains and also Regional Express (RE3) trains running from Hof in Bavaria through Zwickau and Chemnitz to Dresden.
RE trains also run to Berlin.