Young and Hungry

Missing in DC: A German Beer Garden

Now far be it for us to find fault with DC's beer scene. We have a lot to be grateful for. Just a few years ago, the Brickskeller was the only game in town. Today, the competition outdoes it on a regular basis–especially if you get sick of having to order three or four times before they have something in stock. RFD does considerably better in this regard, but we digress...

Our fair city's beer renaissance, though, has focused almost exclusively on Belgian beers. Yes, Red Derby specializes in cans. And Commonwealth features an English list chock full of bitters. We've even got a few brew pubs, not least of which Dogfish Head's latest extreme beer mecca near Seven Corners. But what's lacking is the one of the most elemental of beer experiences: an old-fashioned German beer garden. New York's got Zum Schneider and Zeppelin Hall, among others. And Pittsburgh's got its own brand new, Munich-style Hofbrauhaus. Anybody looking to invest in a new place, we beg you, please give us outdoor seating, strings of white lights, oompa music, and steins full of delicious German malts.

This is not to say that there aren't German beer establishments in the area. We've got Cafe Berlin in Capitol Hill with decent outdoor seating but more of a formal atmosphere. Then there is one of the most overlooked and underrated places in DC: Cafe Mozart. Tucked behind a German deli on the first floor of an office building near Metro Center, Cafe Mozart is a bit dingy but lots of fun. If you have never been, be sure your first trip is on a Tuesday or Sunday when their accordionist Sylvia is on hand to play German drinking songs. You'll be shouting "Ein, zwei, g'suffa" like a tourist in Munich in no time. But for the things that Cafe Berlin and Cafe Mozart have going for them, they just don't pack the excitement of a real German beer garden.

Clay Risen, the Atlantic's beer writer, informs us that Blob's Park, an authentic beer hall in Jessup, Maryland, is a dream, the sort of place where after a few drinks, you might reasonably forget what time zone you're in. We have not been yet, but it ranks high on our list of priorities. Jessup, though, seems a long way to go to satisfy our thirst for German beer, pretzels, and polka. If you can recommend any closer places, please chime in. Prost!

  • Q

    Blob's Park is great, went there a couple of weeks ago.

  • Kelly in the Big Blind

    There is much truthiness to this posting. I've recently been giving a lot more attention to my first beer love, the almighty workman like Bavarian brews. The German beer garden the acme of outdoor drinking playing compliment to the indoor apex of the British pub or the American corner bar.

    While this town is lacking in a proper Biergarten, one might cast an eye at the reopened Blob's Park, though that's indoors too, there are some places that give a slight favor of the Garten experience. As you note Cafe Berlin, while a bit formal, has a nice little patio. Wonderland Ballroom has some nice picnic benches which worked perfectly with the Spaten Maibock a few weeks back and it felt very correct.

    Key to this though is the German beer. Nothing goes better with a wee tipple under the trees than a honeyish Helles, a solid Dunkel, a robust Marzen, or a chewy Bock.

    Now I had a Krug of Augustiner when I came in here.....

  • Tammy Tuck and Bruce Falconer

    Yes, Wonderland. Overlooked that one. It is pretty much as close as one can get to the German experience, particularly when Maibock is in season. But it's way too small to fit the bill. Maybe we're just asking for too much, but what an awesome thing it would be to have a large, outdoor area where you could laze around with a fresh Helles in hand.

  • Kelly in the Big Blind


    Not that it helps us here but I should mention that even though the Hofbrau brews are not tops with me, my experience with their Las Vegas franchise was surprisingly positive. The LV location imports the beer, as opposed to the locally brewed versions at their other locations. I've heard fairly positive things about the local made product, and while I am a bit suspicious (for the most part I still don't believe we can brew German styles well at this point... with notable exceptions) I am keen to check out the Pittsburgh branch.

    I agree that DC needs and deserves a giant field of tree covered tables and steady flow of malty Helles. Noch eins.

    As an aside, somewhere in here is the story of the death of what used to be a fairly robust and entrenched local German culture. Is the Washington Journal still produced?

  • Chris

    Is there a suitable location? The one thing we have that the traditional brewers of Muenchen do not is ingenuity. If we find a local, we pool our money, forma cooperative (the successor to the corporation) and behold we have a biergarten. As in Bayern though the place needs to accommodate a large crowd in the summer and zilch in the winter. That calls for a special local.

  • Kelly in the Big Blind

    I think land prices in the Metro area preclude something that is not already a going concern. I think more modest scale cafes a la Wonderland are about the best we can hope for.

  • Darren

    I have friends who live in Astoria Queens
    and I have been twice to this Place

    It is a Czech beer garden and has the ability to get the hipsters out of Manhattan and come over the bridge to come there. I would think that a Beer Garden might work if it was maybe in SE or NE somewhere, the place in Astoria takes up a full block. and fits hundreds of people in the summer.

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