Shite Guinness Berlin – “As John B. Keane said,” I love to see the cream on a pint” and I don’t see any cream on a Pilsner”

Did the blog come about simply from a decent Guinness being hard to come by in the city? 

Initially, the idea of the page was to shame the pints of Guinness on offer in Berlin. I had a number of bad experiences in a few places and I thought I could have a laugh posting about them, hence the name of the page! But after visiting Home Bar and a few others, I quickly realised that there are in fact some decent pints on offer, so the page evolved into a blog. A place where the Guinness thirsty Berlin public can see where the good pints can be found, a place to bring awareness of bars like The Lir in general, while also having a laugh!

Is Guinness your go to pint too back in Ireland? Or is there an element of nostalgia at play? 

Guinness has always been my go to. In Berlin we are blessed with an exceptional selection of beers – whether they are German regulars, European options or local craft beers, we are spoiled for choice in quality. But back home, although Irish craft beer is becoming more mainstream, there is still a lack of choice for beer in the majority of traditional bars. It’s a funny one, once I see Guinness available in Berlin I order it, but I’m still happy if not, while back home I’m almost exclusively ordering Guinness.

Tell us about your own first Guinness experience.

Hard to remember my very first experience, but I remember I started drinking Guinness around the age of 19/20. A friend and I both have fathers who are drinkers of the Black Stuff, so it was only natural we’d follow in their footsteps. I remember being at a family wedding around that time and standing at the bar with my father, who said he’d get the first round. He turned to me and asked what I wanted, and to his surprise I replied “Guinness”. He couldn’t get over that I’d started drinking it, assuming that, in his words “all the young lads wouldn’t like it” and that I would be drinking Heineken or Budweiser. I, of course, explained that I started drinking the stuff and had a taste for it. To be fair, it was the last time he needed to ask me what I wanted to drink at a family occasion!

What’s more horrifying to you – hearing that Guinness is shipped out to bars here in syrup form or seeing bartenders pull the pint in one full go?

I can almost forgive a bar for importing the syrup, but I can’t forgive them for pouring a pint incorrectly. The pint of Guinness is an art form, from the pour to the presentation. But unfortunately, unlike conventional art, there is a right and wrong way to do it! 

0,2l glasses and pitchers? How can this be stopped?

The stuff of nightmares! Those glasses do make for a laughable experience but something needs to be done. I believe that there should be a Guinness rep who comes to Berlin (and other European cities) at least once a year, to visit the bars who have Guinness on their menu. Firstly, a taste and experience test could be done anonymously, with the rep revealing himself with the test results and most importantly, recommendations for improvement – how to pour correctly, new glasses to be provided (by the rep himself) and other best practices. This is not a requirement in Ireland for example, because the bars know a reputation for a good pint of Guinness is priceless, and they all have a strong supply chain for glasses, beer mats, posters etc. I think it should fall on Guinness to maintain their own reputation on European soil.

What it is so that makes a good pint here as opposed to home?

Firstly, letting the tap run for a couple of seconds before filling the glass is so important. It’s something that some bars in Berlin don’t realise they need to do – this probably goes for all beers – the pipes usually have some residue from the last pour, which could have been hours/days ago and you simply don’t want customers drinking that. Also, I’ve had some super cold pints in Berlin poured incorrectly, but still are very drinkable, then pints which are luke warm – these are the ones with no head and have a dreadful aftertaste. So I would say, temperature is a basic need – that is before we get to the pour (another story!).

Favourite synonym for Guinness? 

I use “Guin or Guinny” for standard pints, but hold “Creamer” for the deserved ones.

Top three bars in Berlin so for a good Guinness?

The top three so far are; The Lír, ShamRock’s and Home Bar. I have a real soft spot for Home Bar, I love going there – a fantastic overall experience.

Finnegan’s in Steglitz is definitely going to break into that. I went there to watch an All-Ireland Final a while back and it was like a pint you’d get back in Ireland. Of course, a notable mention for Badfish. So all going well in 2021, I’ll be reviewing these spots, along with others I have on my long list!

For those of us stuck here in lockdown – what’s the best Guinness we can get in the Berlin supermarket? Bottles, or cans? Isn’t there a special imported one in some places too?

To my knowledge, all that is available in stores in Berlin is the Extra Stout edition and the 440ml Draught Cans. I recently reviewed the Extra Stout. All I can say is that it didn’t go down well, check that out if you haven’t already seen it! My recommendation is to head to Penny, Hoffi (Hoffman) or Real for the Guinness Draught Cans, for the best lockdown Guinness experience. They didn’t exactly score high, but as I said in my review of them, they do the job.

Badfish import the barrels – have you noticed a difference in taste there? 

Before I started the page, I went to both Badfish bars this year and thoroughly enjoyed both experiences – particularly the one in Friedrichshain. Definitely, I did notice the pint being colder and creamier than the average pint in the city. The Guinness tap stands out and glows on the dark bar, and the barman knows what he’s doing when it comes to the pour. But, I have yet to review it outright. I got the chance to review the one in Prenzlauerberg as part of the Lockdownlite Series. Their takeaway pint was as good as it could get.

And are you affiliated with Guinness in any shape or form?

Nope, unfortunately not! @Guinness any jobs going let me know! 

There’s been great debate this year as to your identity – it’s been the cause of great discussion and second guessing. Why remain anonymous? 

I find the anonymity allows me to fully express myself. But to be fair, my significant other, some family members and close friends know of my true identity. In general, I would rather not have my face associated with my SGB profile. Particularly, when it comes to visiting bars, I want to receive the same treatment as every other person, to maintain the integrity of the blog. 

Will we get a big reveal at some stage? Or a prize for guessing correctly? 

No reveal at all, unfortunately. But, I do have plans for a couple of competitions for Berlin Guinness drinkers to win some prizes during Lockdown, to help with the pint drinking experience at home.

Any exciting plans for the New Year for the blog?

First off, I hope to get my hands on some of the alternative Guinness craft beer/bottles and write a review on those. I’m a keen cook, and so have a plan to do a Guinness based recipe series. I’ve started an “On Tour Series” while I’m visiting home, but I am happy to extend this to other destinations I hopefully get to travel to in the upcoming year. Most importantly, once Covid and Lockdowns are over with, I can get back to discovering the shite (and decent) Guinness pints in Berlin. 

What do you say to those who may advise you to give up the search and switch to just drinking local beers such as the many quality Pilsner that you can find in abundance? 

I’m sorry, but no – my love is for Guinness. As John B. Keane said,” I love to see the cream on a pint”. I don’t see cream on any Pilsner, do you? 

What’s your advice so to bar owners across Berlin with regards to the perfect pint o’ plain? 

Patience. Take your time. First, let the tap run for a second. 

Enjoy the pour at 45°, let it rest and watch the surge. Top it up and serve with a smirk, knowing you’ve played a blinder – you’ve just poured an absolute beauty. 

As long as you’ve done this into a Guinness pint glass, you’re good. Then, sit back, relax and watch your Guinness reputation grow and your staff’s tip jars overflow.

Keep up to date with where to get a decent Guinness over on ShiteGuinnessBerlin’s Instagram.

Crazy Bastard Sauce – A Cornucopia of Flavours to Beguile Every Palate

Perhaps I should explain. My name is Tom Miodrag, and I’m addicted to chillies. I’m a “chilliholic”.  There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t have Thai chillies chopped and lined up waiting to set my lunch or dinner ablaze. Fortunately, in the midst of the Coronavirus crisis and “Ausgangsperre” in Berlin, I have nine bottles of Crazy Bastard Sauce to keep me company. Nine different flavours of varying intensity to enliven my mealtimes and satisfy my addiction. At least until the next mealtime, and the next craving.

Award Winning Sauces

Crazy Bastard Sauce is an award-winning hot sauces business based in Neukölln, founded by Irishman Jonathan O’Reilly. Its success can be attributed to its blend of organic ingredients, mouth-watering flavours, and eye-catching design. Before the Ausgangsperre came into effect, I headed over to its base of operations in Weserstraße for a chat with Jonathan about his lifelong passion for chillies, his success in channeling his enthusiasm into an award-winning business, and the enticing Berlin Superhot project. And inevitably, I also ended up trying all the sauces I could lay my hands on, before buying nearly everything that the shop had to offer. 

If you’re not already familiar with the company’s arresting name, you might be familiar with its logo – two mad eyes sat upon a ferocious moustache, emblazoning every bottle like a furious admonishment to the consumer for daring to savour the sauce inside. “Think you’re hard enough for this, you crazy bastard?” the eyes seem to ask from the shop’s sign in Weserstraße, taunting me to enter and try its wares. I gulp nervously before venturing inside, where I’m bedazzled by a multicoloured cornucopia of hot delights  – row upon row of sauces of different spice levels, all packaged in Pop Art colours, each representing a different flavour. There’s something for everyone here, from the green-labeled Jalapeño & Date for those wanting to add a little pep to their burger, to those seeking the “benign masochistic” thrill of setting their mouths on fire with the Superhot Reaper (approximately 500,000 Scoville and more than 100 times hotter than the Jalapeño and Date). I sample all nine sauces available at the time, and much to my delight, am given a badge to reward my accomplishment. Never have I thought of myself as a “crazy bastard” with such pride.

The Scoville scale was devised by pharmacist Wilbur L. Scoville in 1912 to measure the heat level of the chemical compound capsaicin (the hot part of a chilli). A capsaicin extract is diluted in sugar water until the pungency (heat level) is no longer detected by a panel of up to five people.

But serving sensation-junkies like me is just one of the business aspects of Crazy Bastard Sauce. O’Reilly, who has lived in Neukölln for over ten years, uses the Weserstrasse address as a kitchen for cooking the sauces with his team, most of which he sells online, or wholesale to shops around the world. But the address also serves as a pop-up restaurant, where his talented team cooks up an array of tantalising international dishes. We have an Irish Culture Berlin meet-up at one such event before the Ausgangsperre, chomping on fantastic Venezuelan food, which we naturally douse with lashings of Crazy Bastard Sauce, amongst an international crowd of fellow spice lovers. But what brought a spice-loving Irishman to the bustle of Berlin in the first place?

Discovering life’s spices

O’Reilly grew up in Westport in County Mayo – a beautiful town next to the Atlantic, voted the “best place to live in Ireland” by The Irish Times in 2012. But not a place where chillies were necessarily easy to come by. Indeed, even olive oil was hard for his mother to find during his upbringing. So how did he first become aware of big flavours?  “I would eat spoonfuls of mustard as a child” he grins. Then he discovered the whoosh of Tabasco sauce, which eventually lead to finding out about spices and chillies. And eventually he found himself in Berlin, a city he appreciates for its openness, and creative spirit – the mix of international and adventurous personalities providing an eager customer base for inventive chilli sauces. And indeed O’Reilly is the man to provide such recipes, and a delight to talk to on the subject  – brimming with enthusiasm, and asking me with interest if I can identify the different “burns” of the sauces I try, and distinguish between the chillies themselves.

Jonathan O’Reilly at his shop and restaurant on Weserstraße

But the success of Crazy Bastard Sauce doesn’t rest on O‘Reilly’s love of chillies alone. Having worked in graphic design and illustration prior to establishing the business, he knew that he would need a striking logo to appeal to the public. There was no question of adding to the plethora of skulls, guns and similarly trite macho images that typically adorn hot sauce labels. Originally intending to create something resembling the genial Pringles logo, O’Reilly was inspired by a film about real-life “crazy bastard” Charles Bronson to give his design the now iconically maniacal, wild-eyed expression. He would also need an catchy name for the business, happily given to him by a Scottish friend, who referred to O’Reilly’s creation as “that crazy bastard sauce”.

With all the tools he needed, he began selling the first bottles of his creation on Reddit in 2012, and his hunch that he’d come up with a winning formula proved correct. The sauces were snapped up quickly, encouraging him to produce and sell more online and in Berlin markets, culminating in the opening of the shop in Weserstraße, and the awarding of first place in the World Hot Sauce Awards 2015 (Medium category) to the original, Habanero & Tomatillo-flavoured sauce. 

The World Hot Sauce Awards is an annual competition to find the most extreme and intensely flavored sauces in the world. Crazy Bastard Sauce won first place in 2015 and 2016.

It is indeed the delicious concoctions within the striking packaging which ultimately accounts for Crazy Bastard Sauce’s success – all handmade by its dedicated team using organic ingredients with no added sugars, the natural sweetness coming from the various chillies themselves. I wonder how O’Reilly comes up with all these alluring flavour pairings – from Scotch Bonnet & Caribbean Spices to Chipotle & Pineapple. There are nice cultural combinations that display a global interest in flavours – the Bhut Jolokia (Ghost Pepper) is paired with mango for a delicious Indian flair, and there is an obvious North American connection in the Carolina Reaper & Blueberry edition. But O’Reilly ultimately chooses vegetables, fruits and flavours that will complement and amplify, but never obscure, the taste of his chief love, the chilli pepper, as part of a mission to show that the chillies don’t merely provide a burning sensation, we should also celebrate them for their distinctive personalities and flavours.

GIY: Grow it yourself!

But where does Berlin fit into this global mosaic of flavours and textures? O’Reilly has lived in Neukölln for over ten years, and as much as he talks positively about the shape-shifting nature of the city, he doesn’t intend to stay here forever, saying he might eventually return to Ireland or his wife’s native Scotland. But before he does, Crazy Bastard Sauces will be adding a distinctive Berlin sauce to its range: the projected product of the Berlin Superhot Chili project, whereby we can buy Carolina Reaper plants to grow on our balconies or in our gardens, and trade in the results to contribute to a hot sauce using only local ingredients. Now that spring is coming and the Coronavirus is preventing us from enjoying the pleasures of society outside, there is perhaps no better time to hone our gardening skills. And as we isolate ourselves at home, closed off from society, Crazy Bastard Sauce continues to sell its wares online to a chilli-loving audience, allowing us to spice up our mealtimes with its diverting, endorphin-inducing flavours. Now, please can you pass me that bottle of Superhot Fatalii?

Satisfy your chilli cravings here.
You can order sauces (there’s a 20% discount until Easter Monday), and even have finger-licking, spice-friendly food delivered to your door (Wednesdays – Sundays)