At Biergarten Haus in Northeast Washington, Oktoberfest is year-round
By Fritz Hahn
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 9, 2010
The buzz: Oktoberfest has come to H Street NE. That's the only way to describe the scenes in the festive outdoor beer garden at Biergarten Haus, a German-themed bar that opened in mid-June, just in time for the World Cup. More than 300 people can crowd onto the spacious back patio, and visiting is like wandering into a party in Munich.
Groups of laughing revelers toast with one-liter mugs of German beer at long wooden tables, as strolling accordionists play traditional drinking songs. The flags of Germany's 16 states flutter overhead, and chestnut trees and umbrellas offer shade.
Under a blue and white striped tent, waitresses carry trays of glasses and giant platters of sausages, sauerkraut and fried schnitzel to more tables, while a tall fountain burbles away.
But it was when Germany played in the World Cup that Biergarten Haus seemed farthest from Washington. Lines stretched down the block, with many people wearing a Bastian Schweinsteiger or Michael Ballack jersey, or a red, black and yellow scarf. As the games played on a pair of 100-inch projection screens under the tent, men in lederhosen danced on tables, hoisted steins and urged the team on with German songs. (The upside of Germany's semifinal loss? It'll be easier to get in this weekend.)
The scene: Despite the heat, Meg Rowland and her friends found drinking under the outdoor tent to be "a very enjoyable experience -- it doesn't hurt when you're drinking giant liters of beer," said Rowland, 25, the author of a blog called 2Birds1Blog.
"It's like Disney, but in a good way," said Andrew Violante, 24, who works for a nonprofit group, though he wasn't a big fan of the German marches playing over the sound system.
"It's schtick, but I'd definitely come back," Rowland added. "I can see this being wonderful in the fall."
The beer garden is the jewel, drawing everyone from college students to German natives in their 50s for a beer and a snack. It's so popular that bouncers are occasionally stationed at both the front door and the door leading out to the patio, which hits capacity early on. It's not as if being stuck inside is a bad thing. Twelve German draft beers are available inside. The two-level space is modeled after a Bavarian hunting lodge, with rich chestnut trim, displays of vintage beer steins, and mounted animal heads. (Don't miss the enormous red stag hanging upstairs.)
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