We Love Drinks: Biergarten Haus

Photo courtesy of
‘people watching soccer’
courtesy of ‘philliefan99′

Biergarten Haus is on the defensive.  They’re still sore from the reaming Tom Sietsema gave them in the Post (having your food described as “a lethal weapon” always hurts), and there’s a certain measure of bitterness amongst the staff against the Yelpers for their similarly worded reviews criticizing, amongst other things, the service. To me, Biergarten Haus isn’t about the food or the waiters, it’s about the beer. And how is the beer?  Well, it’s better than the food or the waiters. It’s not the best, but it’s good enough.

Biergarten Haus is the latest and greatest nightlife phenomena in DC.  It seems like one comes along every year or so, and Washingtonians pack the place out and make it impossible to find a seat on the weekends.  Last year it was Churchkey, this year it’s Biergarten. It’s a blessing and a curse.  The broader neighborhood benefits from the patronage that is turned away at the door for lack of space.  The patrons themselves face the frustration of massive crowds, slow service and lack of seating.

The beer garden was hyped and highly anticipated before it even opened its doors.  After a series of delays and extended soft openings, the DC citizenry was practically clamoring to get inside to experience the Biergarten for themselves.  When the establishment finally did open in June, it was rough, to say the least. If you came after 6, there were no seats.  If you happened to get a table, you where crammed in with literally hundreds of other people.  The staff was too small, the service was too slow and people generally left disenchanted.

Photo courtesy of
‘Biergarten Haus’
courtesy of ‘Mr. T in DC’

The management of Biergarten has taken significant steps to correct their most frequently criticized mistakes.  In the first three weeks, they nearly tripled their staff and attempted to streamline their order delivery process.  It’s been a mixed success, but, in my estimation, things have generally improved. I’ve been twice, gotten a seat both times, and had a chance to experience the tap list.

All in all, Biergarten Haus does offer a decent, authentic draft selection.  It’s filled with staple German beers and styles. The menu was designed to meet any budget, with beers ranging in price from reasonable to expensive. All selections are offered in different sizes, typically .5L and 1L, which further adds to pricing options.  The beer comes in heavy-bottomed, glass mugs, reminiscent of what you’d see buxom frauleins serving in some beer garden themed German post card.

The quality and breadth of the selection is adequate.  There are a dozen beers on tap and 13 more in bottles.  The real stand out in on the beer menu is Aventinus on draft. Aventinus is one of the best beers in the world.  It’s rare to see it in anything but bottles, as it’s traditionally a bottle conditioned beer, so having it on tap is a nice treat.  The rest of the list is pretty much the standard what’s what of German beers, which is my real problem with the place.

Photo courtesy of
‘Phil’s Beer vs. My Beer’
courtesy of ‘Kevin H.’

If you were to ask any semi-knowledgeable beer person to name a few German beers off the top of their head, they’d say “Spaten, Weihenstephaner, Franziskaner, Eggenberg, Paulaner, Hofbrau, Kostritzer” and that pretty much gives you the tap list at Biergarten.  They’re all fine beers, to be sure, but there’s nothing that stands out as being unique or exciting. It’s surprising considering that the menu was designed by Bill Catron, the man behind the phenomenally well crafted beer list at Brasserie Beck. I expected something more creative.

It would be nice to see some rarer German beers make their way onto the list at Biergarten, or, dare I suggest it, some American variations on German styles.  Menu updates will likely come as the restaurant ages, but for now it’s a pretty standard selection of good German beers.  Life could be worse, I suppose. They’re adding 12 taps for Oktoberfest.  That might be something worth checking out.

All in all, I do like Biergarten Haus.  I don’t love it, but I don’t think it quite deserves the beating it’s taken online and in the press.  The look and feel of the beer garden is pretty spot on, the beer is decent, the service is improving and I’m told work is being done on the kitchen.  You can avoid a lot of problems by simply going on a weeknight.  I think Biergarten Haus is a work in progress and will bring great things once it grows into maturity.

Kirk is a Maine-born, military brat who moved no fewer than 12 times during his childhood. He came to the DC area in 2004 for his undergrad and decided that it was the place for him. Since graduating, he’s nabbed a job with the Fed and spends most of his free time hunting for cheap thrills in the city. Find out why he loves DC.

9 thoughts on “We Love Drinks: Biergarten Haus

  1. I came to Biergarten Haus for the first time over Labor Day weekend and I have to say that most of Kirk’s review (and what people say about the service) is spot on. Having spent years in the restaurant/hotel industry, I was completely unimpressed by my visit. The outdoor patio was maybe 2/3 full, yet we sat for a solid 10+ minutes before anyone even acknowledged that we hadn’t been served. When we did get service, the waited barely mumbled and was about as enthusiastic as a turtle. The restaurant seemed adequately staffed, but half of the staff seemed like they needed something to do, which made our 10 minute wait all the more inexcusable. (Hint to owners: When staff is standing around in groups, there is absolutely no reason why anyone should have to wait more than a minute or two to be approached by a server)

    The German beer selection is interesting, but could use a little more depth. After one beer, we decided to not even venture into the food menu and went elsewhere on H street.

    The only redeeming part of this place is the patio, which is nice, but that in itself is not what is going to get people coming back. For me, service is what does it every time, and this place was sorely lacking.

  2. As a home brewer, beer connoisseur, and having visited Germany for the sole purpose of drinking beer….. German beer doesn’t really live up to its hype. Although, German beers have this drinkablity about them that hasn’t been achieved in American craft beers.
    American beers have come a long way in the last 15 years and can compete against breweries that have been around for a hundred years. We are making better ales and largers with a variety of flavor notes and making beer more palatable for a wider range of people who never really drank beer, so don’t be surprised if you are disappointed with a German beer.

  3. Went to Biergarten Haus looking for some German food and felt like I had walked into a dingy sportspub. This place was over priced, the food wasn’t good, and I didn’t even bother with the incredibly overpriced beer. I know we’re in DC And we can expect to pay extra for beer but the prices here were absurd. I would recommend staying away.

  4. No amount of cheerleading is going to change the fact that people are pissed off at having to wait in line to spend $25 for three bland sausages. As it is, it seems most folks are happy to drink there so long as they get a meal elsewhere first.

  5. “As a home brewer, beer connoisseur, and having visited Germany for the sole purpose of drinking beer….. German beer doesn’t really live up to its hype.”

    German beer is to the 00′s what Canadian beer was to the 80′s. With the exception of Aventius. That stuff’s gold.

  6. If you follow Rule #1 of drinking in DC, you will never find yourself overly disgruntled. If you see a line outside a bar, that’s guaranteed sign to move on.

  7. What? No mention of the pretzel balls? Was Die Fickte is a pretzel ball? Are they still selling those?

  8. first of all…the Post’s “bad-review” was pretty …well, “bad”….the writer was talking about “one time when he went to Germany 20 years ago he had really good food there” and he was hoping that this place’s food was going to live up to his memory. So he ripped it apart. Whatever…. how about the beer? Oh that’s right, I don’t think he even mentioned the beer. His review = sucked.

    I’ve been to the Biergarten Haus three or four times now… Everytime I’ve dealt with friendly people, sat at the bar, had a couple big-awesome beers and left happy. Guess I’m low maintenance.

  9. I’m surprised more hasn’t been made about the ridiculous insistence on playing nonstop polka music. “Authenticity” is not worth listening to that smarmy garbage the entire time you want to be there.