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Malzfabrik Schöneberg
© Malzfabrik, Foto: Matthias Friel

Malzfabrik in Berlin (Malt factory)

The Four Knights of Tempelhof-Schöneberg

Wherever the observer looks: Anyone looking around Tempelhof at Südkreuz cannot miss the Malzfabrik. In the 1920s, it was the largest malt factory in Europe and is an exciting monument to Berlin's industrial architecture.

The malt factory dominates its surroundings mainly thanks to the four metal bonnets that tower over the building. They look like giant knight's helmets - the comparison is almost inevitable. The name "Schlothexe" has also been handed down. These metal or "kiln bonnets" were once indispensable for malt production, but today they are merely decorative.
For the malt factory is no longer a brewery. New businesses have found accommodation here, turning the Malzfabrik into a modern location for art, culture and media.

The new users of the listed building are furniture inventors, creative manufactories, photo, film and music studios, but also a computer workshop and a mannequin factory.

Malzfabrik Schöneberg
© Malzfabrik, Foto: Matthias Friel

Schultheiß - Birth of a Brand

In 1853, the merchant Jobst Schultheiß took over a small brewery in Neue Jakobstraße in today's Mitte district. With considerable success: within a few years, the native Franconian becomes Berlin's most successful beer innkeeper. When new owners took over the business in 1864, the name was retained, because Schultheiß was a brand and that is how the new brewery is to be called to this day.

But in the 19th century the great rise is yet to come. Schultheiß develops into one of the largest industrial companies in Berlin, producing almost all the necessary products itself. Schultheiß not only brews beer, but also has its own malting plants, barrel-making facilities and workshops. The beer is sold in the company's own pubs. The company equips other pubs with sets and delivers Schultheiss beer to them with its own fleet of wagons.

But success also brings problems. Shortly before the First World War, the demand for beer is so great that the company's own malt production is insufficient. Schultheiß has to buy in malt and can no longer guarantee the taste quality of its own beer. A solution was needed, and it was found in Schöneberg.

The largest malt factory in Europe

Schultheiß does not want to fill a gap in malt production in a makeshift way, but to solve the problem fundamentally. The new malting plant is not to be an appendage of the brewery, but a new, independent factory dedicated exclusively to malt production. And it should not only secure the brewery's own malt supply, but also produce surpluses that Schultheiß can sell to other breweries. There is no room for such a project in densely populated Berlin. So Schultheiß decides on a site in the then still independent town of Schöneberg.

There, at what is now Bessemerstraße 2-14 on the border with Tempelhof, he does not spill the beans but makes a big splash. The architect Richard Schlüter designs the largest malt factory in Europe for Schultheiß. It is built in just three years between 1914 and 1917, during the First World War.

The factory is a large-scale complex which, in addition to the actual production buildings, also includes a cellar, a stable, a machine hall, a warehouse, a wagon shed and a representative administration building. In addition, the malt factory has its own connection to the railway network so that grain, malt and coal can be delivered to and from the kilns. With its red clinker facade, the monumental facility resembles the other Schultheiss buildings from the imperial era and thus fits in with the brewery's corporate identity.

Malzfabrik Schöneberg
© Malzfabrik, Foto: Matthias Friel

The landmark at Südkreuz

The eye-catcher, however, is still the ensemble of four vapour vents or "kiln bonnets" on top of the production building. Take a close look! The kiln bonnets are constantly in motion because they rotate with the direction of the wind. What appears to be an artistic trick once fulfilled an important task in malt production. For if barley is moistened, then malt is produced through germination. This so-called green malt, however, is still quite moist because of the liquid added. To produce beer, the green malt must first be dried or "kilned". This is where the kiln bonnets provide invaluable services. Through their constant movement, they regulate the draught inside the heated kilns. Damp air thus escapes to the outside.

From industrial factory to start-up centre

After the First World War, the Malzfabrik is in full production. It also survives the Second World War without any serious damage, although bombs do hit the production building. The period immediately after the end of the war in 1945, however, is a greater challenge. The Soviet occupiers dismantle the machinery as reparations for the German war of conquest.

The division of Germany and Berlin did the rest: the GDR nationalised the Schultheiß property in the eastern part of the city, and factories such as today's Kulturbrauerei in Prenzlauer Berg were lost. But the West German economic boom also helps the Schöneberg malt factory. Since the 1950s, the factory has not only been producing, but also modernising. The factory gets new machines and production facilities.  

As a result of German unification in 1990, all the Schultheiß factories in Berlin are also reunited. But what seems like a promising expansion cannot mask serious problems. For the Brau und Brunnen group, to which Schultheiß now belongs, runs into considerable difficulties. Sales are falling and the Schöneberg malt factory no longer appears economically viable. In 1996 Schultheiß ceased production for good. The building ensemble has been a listed building since 1995 and is therefore safe from demolition. But a new use does not seem to be in sight. The factory facilities stand empty.

But the end of malt production is not the end of the Schöneberg malt factory. A few years after the closure, artists and creative people discover the area as an event space. They organise parties and exhibitions. Then even the KitKubClub moved in for a few years. This attracts attention. In 2005, investor Frank Sippel and Real Future AG got involved and had the Malzfabrik redeveloped as a start-up location with a focus on art and culture. In 2014, Sippel received the Ferdinand von Quast Medal for his commitment to the Malzfabrik, the highest award of the state of Berlin for special achievements in the protection of historical monuments.

Malzfabrik Schöneberg
© Malzfabrik, Foto: Nils Krüger

Our tips around the malt factory

If you want to learn more about the history of the malt factory, then take a guided tour, which the malt factory offers.  A journey of discovery with many preserved machines and original objects. 

Other interesting monuments of Berlin's industrial culture can be found nearby, for example the Reichsbahnausbesserungswerk Tempelhof (Sachsendamm 47) or the former telegraph construction company and telegraph wire factory Mix & Genest (Geneststraße 5).

Comprehensive information on Berlin Modernist buildings and their history can be found on our website:

On Berlin Modernist Architecture