Schlachthofviertel is a district full of contrasts: in the mornings butchers are firing up their sausage boilers while party people are saying “good night”. Traditional businesses continue alongside trendy bars and stylish apartments. Brewer Tilman Ludwig brings together the colourful world of Schlachthofviertel more than perhaps any other single Munich resident could.
We meet in Frisches Bier (fresh beer), the wonderfully simply-named bar he owns on Thalkirchner Strasse. The counter is an arc which curves through the middle of the shop, and Ludwig tells us this design facilitates communication. The counter has been built to have a kind of holdable edge, just in case the floor starts to get a bit wobbly for patrons (he assures us this is not because of the building work happening on Thalkirchner Strasse).
Beer is his thing. Tilman Ludwig runs Frisches Bier together with his partner Maximilian Heisler. It is a small site which offers 14 different varieties of freshly tapped beer. He is also the founder and namesake of ‘Tilmans Biere’, one of the city’s most popular craft beer brands.
The fact that Tilman Ludwig creates and successfully markets his ‘Tilmans Helles’ light beer in Munich is of course down to the young brewer being born and raised here. Nonetheless, it’s something of a wonder that Tilman Ludwig started the craft beer scene here – in Munich, the capital of traditional beer production – and has continued to lead it with his own brewing. Of course, he is every bit as skilled in his craft as traditional brewers are: Ludwig studied the art of beer production for five years at university in Weihenstephan, Freising.
We get a beer to go and wind back through the piazza into Adlzreiterstrasse, where Albert Einstein spent his childhood days, before he screwed light bulbs into the fairy lights at Oktoberfest.
We are striding along the brick alley of Zenettistrasse, where the ground has four different consistencies and butchers occasionally trudge across our path in white rubber boots and work coats. We briefly wonder whether the famed ‘butcher’s breakfast’ is still a phenomenon; an 8am congregation of butchers in a local pub, over a plate of meat and one or two beers. I ask Ludwig whether he ever goes to Monti, because isn’t that where foodies like to be seen? Rarely, he says. He prefers Essbahn on Bahnwärter Thiel, which also does very good food.
He explains to me that he ended up in Schlachthofviertel by chance, simply because there was a shop empty at that time and another came available later. But he settled in here very quickly. Tilman Ludwig is very straightforward in his appearance and attitude, wearing dark cropped jeans, a black t-shirt, tattoos and no nonsense. You won’t see any quirky loden appliqués, staghorn buttons or other totems of traditional folksiness, but you still know that this guy is passionate about beer culture.
You won’t see any quirky loden appliqués, staghorn buttons or other totems of traditional folksiness, but you still know that this guy is passionate about beer culture.
In fact the beer brewing almost didn’t happen, but chance brought him here. “My best mate and I would always give each other the silliest gifts – once he brought me a magazine he found on the floor in the suburban train. The magazine was just called ‘Bier’, and in it I read that you could study to become a master brewer. I didn’t have any other plans, so I did that.” And many Munich locals are thanking their lucky stars that he did.
We cross Tumblingerstrasse, where people keep stopping to look at the new Volkstheater (People’s Theatre) – everyone’s got an opinion and sometimes disagreements arise. “I like it,” says Ludwig. But he also likes the venerable establishments in the neighbourhood, such as the Messer Massari sharpening shop, where butchers buy and sharpen their knives. As we pass the gunsmith, I ask whether he’s ever gone into it out of curiosity. No, Ludwig says, astonished, “are there actually guns in there?” The gunsmith has always been there – no surprise really, as large numbers of hunters used to socialise in Schlachthofviertel.
The gunsmith has always been there – no surprise really, as large numbers of hunters used to socialise in Schlachthofviertel.
A little further on we arrive at our destination: Bierkiste, the second beer supply concept from Tilman Ludwig. There are a few people sitting in the Schanigarten terrace in front of the shop. Bierkiste is a mix between a beer pub and a drinks shop, and the license makes extended opening hours possible. “So you can buy a crate of Augustiner here at 10pm on a Sunday, for a normal price,” he explains. It’s also possible to lounge in the green salon, drinking select beers – it’s all very democratic. “The neighbours sometimes come to Bierkiste and complain, but we all keep dialogue open because the neighbourhood has grown organically here. I think that’s really cool.”
We get a beer to go and wind back through the piazza into Adlzreiterstrasse, where Albert Einstein spent his childhood days, before he screwed light bulbs into the fairy lights at Oktoberfest. Tilman Ludwig points to a billboard. “Someone’s sprayed some graffiti here: ‘The rear courtyard house is ugly. Then a few days later someone added underneath it: ‘And so are you’.” He likes this kind of thing: being direct.
Ludwig wants people to talk to one another – and he wants his places to contribute to that. “Something struck me in the coronavirus crisis: churches were allowed to stay open, but not restaurants. But places like this are important for a city’s psyche, because it’s where you meet people, talk, and let go of your worries and everyday stress; a good pub culture is important for social harmony. Beer is an important component of that. I almost wanted to say then that it’s a simple drink, but of course it’s not.”
“Someone’s sprayed some graffiti here: ‘The rear courtyard house is ugly. Then a few days later someone added underneath it: ‘And so are you’.” He likes this kind of thing: being direct.
Perhaps it’s Tilman’s punk past or simply a mature understanding of democracy: although he does charge a price for his own product, he ensures quality and continuity in return. But he also thinks of those who cannot afford premium goods every day. “My beer contains ten times as many hops as other beers, and that also costs ten times as much. Other beers use a small amount of hops, just enough to get a bit of a tang. But for me it’s about flavour, not money.”
We turn into Kapuzinerstrasse, just along the edge of Schlachthofviertel. We come across Make Falafel, Not War, a one-man Levantine food outlet where Tilman likes to eat falafel and hummus. He tells me it’s run by “a really great guy, who does it with so much love and calmness”. Halloumi cheese, parsley salad and falafel. It’s an unpretentious place, honest, with poise – he likes it.
Tilman is an itinerant brewer, meaning he brews his beer as a customer in other brewery facilities. He does not have his own production site, and arrangements are made by means of a handshake.
Tilman is an itinerant brewer, meaning he brews his beer as a customer in other brewery facilities. He does not have his own production site, and arrangements are made by means of a handshake. I ask him whether that’s a risk for him, and he says no. Everyone’s happy because beer gets sold, people talk, and together we all get better. It’s a win-win. But don’t you want your own brewery for a Münchener Bier (a specific recipe with standards protected by law)? No, he says, it’s good how it is. After a brief pause, he says “Though yes, perhaps a bar brewery, maybe that could be something.” A place for beer culture. But what about that Münchener Bier? “For that you need a well, which is a huge investment.” And the Wiesn (Oktoberfest), the holy grail for beer brewers? Tilman laughs. No, he doesn’t get involved in that.
The breeze rustles the chestnut trees on Zenettistrasse, and the building work on Thalkirchner Strasse can no longer be heard. The ground sings in different rhythms as a car drives past. “Over there, the hall there, that would be a good place for a pub brewery,” says Tilman. Perhaps there could be a beer garden too.