Located in an Alt-Treptow warehouse between the vibrant boroughs of Kreuzberg and Neukölln, you can find Our/Berlin – at first glance a small, hip café, but on further investigation you'll find one of Berlin’s finest vodka distilleries
The back wall of the Our/Berlin shop floor is covered in small, clear glass bottles. Two square windows in the middle look onto the white walled distillery, the place where the magic happens. Standing behind the counter we're greeted by Fabian Dieker, a jack-of-all-trades who's agreed to tell us the story of Our/Berlin.
“Our/Berlin is run by Jon Sanders and Paulina Hoch. They manage the distillery. But we’re like a little vodka-family here. Roughly, when everyone comes together, there's around eight to nine people working here.” Fabian explains.
The concept of Our/Berlin originally sprung from the mind of six creatives at the Stockholm based agency Great Works. Instead of having one huge distillery, they wanted to create numerous small distilleries in cities around the world where local people could create local vodka with local ingredients – all under the same name of Our/Vodka. Two years later, in 2013, the first distillery was established in Berlin and Our/Berlin was born.
“The essence of Our/Berlin, I would say, is to capture the spirit of our city and just make it a local thing, like a local brand with local people, and be part of this Berlin environment,” Fabian proudly tells us and continues: “It’s not flippity-flop bullshit. It’s smooth and it’s nice and you can combine it with a lot of stuff.”
Jon and Paulina initially introduced the small distillery to the Berlin fashion environment, from there they made contact with gastronomy, bar and clubs. We’ve even run across the small, delicate bottles in a number of bookshops in Berlin.
Fabian explains: “We started with a different approach than most other businesses would. Both Jon and Paulina have a background in fashion, so we had a lot of contacts in the fashion world… We did it a little differently, but it really worked out well to go and place our vodka in hip places, places our customers go to.”
The thought of drinking pure vodka might make you flinch, expecting a strong and burning sensation down their throats. But when it comes to Our/Berlin vodka, the feeling is quite different. Their secret's in two things: the raw goods and the distillation process.
“Vodka is probably the most simple drinking alcohol you can get. Just ethanol, water and then something that gives the edge to it, that's the aromatic fraction for us.” Fabian explains, proceeding to describe how they use raw alcohol from Münsterland in northern Germany. For the fermentation process, the best raw material is wheat. Finally, they use regular tap water from Berlin, filtering and demineralising it so that only pure H2O is left.
And then there’s a third ingredient called an aromatic fraction, which is what gives the vodka its taste, its edge and a slight fruitiness.
“It’s also the product of the fermentation process by yeast cultures. But this yeast culture that produces the aromatic fraction is specially selected yeast culture, it’s not a genetically modified organism, but a specially selected organism for this fermentation process.”
But, it is not only when it comes to the vodka, that Our/Berlin likes to be thorough. The manufacturing process is also very hands on.
“We do almost everything by hand. We add all the ingredients into the distillation process by hand, and we bottle everything by hand. No one does that.” Fabian explains, continuing: “The 350ml bottle stands out with its crown cap, no one has that cap and no one has this puristic black and white design, so there’s a great deal of care of the design of the bottle.”
Our/Berlin is in particular focused on the social aspect of drinking their vodka: “it’s a small bottle that’s meant to be shared with friends. That's how I do it. You can just bring it for a nice evening with friends at the park.”
In their combined distillery and shop they welcome locals to hang out, get a tour around the place and of course have a little taste. They focus on contributing to the local community and being as open and welcoming as they can by arranging events, showcasing various artists and conducting collaborations with other local companies. Recently they collaborated with LemonAid to bundle the vodka with mixers and as a special edition they worked with *thefirma* to enable people to conduct their own vodka-infusions for a special tasting experience.
Everyone is welcome in the Vodka-Family.
|VIDEO, PHOTOS & TEXT: MIKKEL INUMINEQ & MARIE BRANDT|
Current city Berlin