Young and Hungry

DC Finally Getting a German Beer Garden? The Lagerheads Share their Outdoor Picks in the Meantime

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Early this summer when the weather was ripe for it, several of you joined in our plea for a local outdoor space to grab steins of German beer and enjoy brats in the open air. Temperatures are now cooling off, but it seems that our prayers will be answered soon.

Russia House co-owner Aaron McGovern is heading up a project on H Street that could help fill DC's beer garden void. According to last month's Capital Community News, Biergarten Haus, a 5,000-square-foot German restaurant, will occupy the two store fronts adjacent to Rock N' Roll Hotel (where NorthEast Salon and DC Sanctuary used to be).

McGovern is planning a menu full of traditional German fare for his new restaurant, and an outdoor beer garden that we hope will satisfy the nostalgia of all those lucky enough to have been to a real Bavarian biergarten in Germany. As you can see from the Weltenburger Kloster photo above, that means long wooden tables under the shade of trees, space for plenty of people longing for some gemutlichkeit, an occasional oom-pah band, and most importantly, lots of great German beer. We're not sure how well the location will allow McGovern to deliver on all these stipulations, but there will be twelve taps, and that's a good start. We'll see about the polka. More details and our outdoor drinking spot picks below.

If all goes well, Biergarten Haus is will open its doors sometime this winter. The grand opening will surely be too cold to enjoy the outdoor space, but the Lagerheads are certainly looking forward to singing a few rounds of Ein Prosit there come spring. Although last week's weather was dreary, this week promises to be unseasonbly warm in DC, so if you are looking to take advantage of your final chances to enjoy beer outdoors, below are our picks out of what is available. What are yours?

  • 1. Wonderland Ballroom – The long wooden picnic tables and spacious, tree-laden space at this Columbia Heights neighborhood bar bring us back despite their lackluster beer selection. There's usually at least one German beer on tap and always a handful of craft brews (usually Sierra Nevada, Anchor Steam, Lagunitas, or Lancaster), plus a few Belgian imports. They have much better things on the menu but we love those chili dogs (be sure to ask for cheese and onions).
  • 2. RedRocks Firebrick Pizzeria – Just down the street, these guys have a similar but more cramped feel to Wonderland, with small wooden picnic tables and cover from trees and umbrellas. RedRocks has a much more robust craft beer selection, comprised mainly of regional craft breweries (Victory, Troegs, Dogfish Head, Brooklyn, Allagash, Ommegang) and some well-chosen imports. While you're there, take advantage of the great pizza, of course!
  • 3. Cafe Berlin – This Capitol Hill restaurant offers a truly German experience with regard to beer and food (and often clientèle), but is not so great on prices. If you want the real thing and demand an outdoor space, this is it. If you just want the German part and don't mind being indoors, we recommend Cafe Mozart (on a Tuesday when Sylvia is on accordion) or if you're up for a bit of a roadtrip, Blob's Park.
  • 4. Galaxy Hut - While the outdoor space isn't as open as the other bars on this list, the muraled walls and gaint tin can table in the back (our favorite) make this Clarendon spot unique. The tater tots are cheap, plentiful, and delicious. Most important, the beer list is outstanding and changes frequently. Among their 20 taps and around the same number of bottles, we always find something we haven't had and are rarely disappointed. Draft beers come in goblets, pints, or pitchers, which can get a little dangerous because of the many high-ABV beers available (if you bring friends and are willing to share, you should be okay). Plus there's rock on Sunday and Monday nights. A perfect combination.
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