Neighbourhood beer proves better than a bake sale for charities

Berliners can now feel good about their hangovers. For every bottle of a new beer the capital’s denizens guzzle down, the profits will go to social initiatives in their own neighbourhoods. The Local met with the founder of Quartiermeister for a drink.

Neighbourhood beer proves better than a bake sale for charities
Photo: DPA

This week, the dark and cosy Kuschlowski bar in a hip corner of Berlin’s Neukölln district became the eighth bar to begin serving the pilsner since the first shipment left the brewery in late August.

“It tastes good to help the world, right?” asks 30-year-old Sebastian Jacob, the enterprising young founder of the non-profit project, which aims to harness Berlin’s vibrant drinking culture for the good of the community.

Nestled into a retro olive-green sofa, Jacob describes the fundamental goals of Quartiermeister – it’s regionally produced, independent, and gives all profits to neighbourhood development projects.

“But the most important thing for me is bringing consumers an alternative that shows the effect of collective action on the market,” he told The Local.

Since launching this summer, Jacob says he has been pleased by growing sales and surprised to find that delivery for private parties may become the biggest proportion of revenue.

It probably doesn’t hurt that the beer tastes good. Jacob scoured the region for a privately owned brewery big enough for commercial production that would be willing to take part in the project. None of the big corporate breweries in Berlin fit into his idea, and the microbreweries were too micro, so Jacob decided on the 700-year-old Garley family brewery, located some 150 kilometres from Berlin in the neighbouring state of Saxony-Anhalt.

The result is their premium pilsner served in squat bottles that he describes as “a classic northern German beer that is smooth, crisp and bright.”

The bottle bears a label with the image of the mysterious imaginary Quartiermeister himself.

“The Quartiermeister, or Quartermaster, was once the officer in the military who saw to provisions in the encampments, which means he also took care of the beer,” Jacob said. “It’s also a play on the word quarter since the man on the bottle is also looking after our neighbourhood.”

The Wuppertal native came to Berlin almost four years ago to earn his law degree at Humboldt University, and the idea for Quartiermeister came to him in bed one night last winter amid the stress of final exam cramming.

“It was an exhausting time, but also a time when my mind was really sharpened and creative,” he told The Local.

Throughout his time in Berlin, Jacob has lived in the scrappy multicultural Neukölln district, or Kiez, as Berliners say.

The name of his beer is an indicator of what he hopes it will do for the district he loves, and later for the city’s other districts.

For every case of beer sold, the €3-profit currently goes to one of two Neukölln district initiatives – Bildog, a programme that provides extracurricular activities for kids from an immigrant background, and football club NFC Rot Weiß Neukölln, which is working to get entire immigrant families involved in sports.

Now that the project is up and running, Jacob says most of his energy is spent searching for new community programmes to fund.

His community needs educational outreach the most, Jacob says, but convincing some initiatives that deal with children to accept funding raised through alcohol consumption has proved a bit of a challenge – particularly in an area where many families come from a conservative Muslim background.

One initiative’s board recently decided not to go through with a Quartiermeister partnership, but Jacob said the success he’s already had means there’s nothing to be discouraged about.

“There has been some resistance, but it can be overcome,” he says, explaining that the football club organisers view the funding as part of a collective community project, and not simply about alcohol.

“Beer will be consumed anyway, we’re just directing the results in the right way,” Jacob says, adding that beer may in fact be the best product for such a social outreach programme.

“It’s a product that is consumed socially, and in Germany, usually locally too. In Berlin people drink Berliner beer, in Cologne they drink Kölsch. All I have to do is combine this and get people to drink for their community.”

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.