Walking through Friedrichshain one sunny day we were thrilled to stumble into FRENC, who sell amazing craft beer and crêpes – what a concept!!! We were totally blown away and it’s still one of our favourite bars in Berlin. We thought we better ask owners Michael Arndt & Stefan Schröer a few questions before they get too busy with an exciting launch of their very own self-brewed beer…
We think the idea of craft beer AND crêpes is AWESOME! How did this idea come about?
Thanks a lot for the compliment! Well first, Stefan and I (Michael) got to know each other at our last office job as Sales Managers in the YouTube industry.
My girlfriend is from Brittany in France (where crêpes and galettes come from) and I was living in France with her for almost 4 years. That’s also where my passion for these simple and very tasty dishes comes from: From salty galettes to sweet crêpes you can create and combine almost any kind of ingredients to create great dishes.
The idea to open a crêperie has been in my mind for a long time as I thought that these delicious dishes don’t have the “cool and young” reputation yet as they should have in a typical Berlin style environment. To me it was obvious that a new-style crêperie with authentic products and recipes from Brittany would have a place in Berlin where almost everything is possible. I am also a beer lover and wanted to propose special beers with the dishes but I didn’t know about or even use the term “craft beer”.
Then I met Stefan, who was a perfect fit friends-wise and also business-wise. We complement each other but are following the same direction and have the same goals and ideas about what a business should look like. Stefan was more into craft beers than me, he especially loved the English and American ones which I quickly learned to love, too.
When I talked to Stefan about the idea of a crêperie, he was instantly enthusiastic about it but added one important condition: let’s not only sell craft beer but on top of that let’s also create our own beer for the crêperie! I totally loved the idea as I already tried brewing beer (a Düsseldorf style Altbier) when I was only 17 years old.
So the combination of craft beer and crêpes was born.
Do you feel that some crêpes or galettes pair especially well with your beer range and if so, which ones?
For the salty galettes we mostly recommend Pale Ales, IPAs or Lagers. The more solid and salty the galette, the more we recommend beers with high bitter units. The FRENC heartcrafted Pale Ale for example goes perfectly with our galette FRENC with Tomato (fried organic-egg, cheese, ham and homemade tomato sauce).
As our new beer the SUPERFREUNDE Super Ale (easy IPA) is slightly more bitter than our Pale Ale, we would recommend the galette Heavy Mushrooms with it. The homemade champignon sauce with cream, garlic, parsley, cheese and ham is one of the heaviest options we have, so it is great to wash it down with our Super Ale.
The sweet crêpes are pairing very well with dark beers:
At the moment we have the Maple Walnut Stout from Bierfabrik and Spent Collective. This dark beer with creamy dark espresso aromas is a perfect match with our Heartcrafted Chocolate crêpe.
But if people order an IPA with our sweet crêpes we don’t stop them, we only give our recommendation but in the end every taste of every person is different.
Actually we both worked in advertising sales and branding. Stefan comes from an artist management background in the music industry and also worked as a brand integration manager for online video sales. I started in marketing and then worked a lot in advertising sales and branded entertainment, so we both have a certain aesthetic claim for things we do and we hope that people can see and feel that.
Everything is always double-checked by each other and we always have to agree with every graphic or interior design decision.
As a side note, the difference between working in an office job and being the owners of a gastronomic company is mainly physical. You have to stand, walk and lift stuff the whole day. You feel the difference as your body is fully required.
On the other hand you get direct feedback for your work all the time, which is great! The daily contact with our customers and the feeling that you can make them happy is very satisfying and makes us happy, too . That was not always the case in our previous office jobs…
With established players like Brewdog and Stone Brewing now setting up shop in Berlin, how do you feel the craft beer scene in Berlin (or Germany in general) is developing? Whilst there is growth, do you feel it is still in its early stages compared to places like London, or is it already becoming a bit crowded?
The German craft beer scene as we know it from the USA or England is still small but growing very fast. As “craft beer” always existed in Germany, people who didn’t know these American style craft beer bars, didn’t really feel the need for them.
There was always decent beer around in Germany but a lack of different styles of beer which are not of German origin. With the globalization in Germany and especially Berlin as a hub for young people from all over the world, the drinking behaviours changed and also a search for dry-hopped beers e.g. Pale Ales and IPAs started.
Thanks to open-minded and adventurous people the craft beer scene in Germany now is growing very fast and we think Berlin with its international open-minded reputation and people plays a big part in it. The proof is the opening of places from big players like Stone Brewing, Brewdog and Mikkeller. With Germany’s history of being a beer country and the tendency to consume quality over quantity, we would say that the German craft beer market is one of the most exciting and fastest growing in Europe.
The market is still far away from being saturated, so every new place is helping that craft beer gets and stays in the minds of German people. Another point is that the German craft beer scene is helpful to each other. We (almost) only met great people who were more than willing to help us from the very beginning – so there is a feeling of being colleagues rather than competition.
You’re making quite a name for yourself now, but what were the biggest challenges in setting up FRENC in the early stages?
Having a gastronomic company requires a lot of work: strategic, operational, bureaucratic, financial etc. Fortunately we had family and friends helping us with lots of it but we would say the biggest challenge was setting up all the company contracts, dealing with authorities etc.
What made you decide to open in the location you chose to?
We were searching for a small place for our business and searched in Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg and Neukölln. Our place in Friedrichshain was the perfect fit in terms of size, neighbourhood and look. The charm of the old building fitted perfectly with our ideas of interior design you can see now: lots of wood, exposed brick wall and a lot of warmth.
We are hearing exciting rumours that you have started your own awesome microbrewery! What is it called, where can we find it and most importantly when can we get a first sip of your own beer?
Hehe, you heard right!
Our new project is called SUPERFREUNDE and is a company only creating and producing beer with the goal to be its own full brewery one day. This company will continue to make the FRENC heartcrafted Pale Ale and will start with the new beer SUPERFREUNDE Super Ale.
The Super Ale is an easy IPA which has a strong taste of fruity aromas but is not too strong alcohol-wise with only a slight hint of acerbity for an IPA. The beer is currently brewed at the Hops & Barley brewery; Philipp is a great brewmaster who helped us during the production.
The official launch of the Super Ale is the 29th of January and the beer will be on tap in 11 craft beer locations in Berlin: Hops & Barley, Dolden Mädel, Hopfenreich, IPA Bar, The Pier, Zum Starken August, Salt n Bone, Lager Lager, Monterey Bar, The Castle Pub and FRENC heartcrafted goods of course! Stefan and me will start from 6pm and cheer with you in every bar to celebrate the launch.
Where do you guys like to eat and drink when going out in Berlin?
I also like to stumble into Beuster in Neukölln for steak tartare as I only live across the street.
Complete the following sentence, “For me, Berlin is…”
“…the un-german capital of Germany, in a positive way”