As a bartender, I end up talking to some of the most interesting people (for better or worse), and between the jerks and the weirdos, you can find a good crew of regulars that make work a little more enjoyable. Last week I was chatting with one of my regulars, and I mentioned how I hated IPAs and preferred german-styled beers. He said he knew of this place called Wolff's Biergarten that he described as the 'most genuine German bar you can get in the states.' That sounds awesome to me! So me and Chris decided to check the place out on Valentines Day - since fancy restaurants aren't really our thing anyway...
Located in an old firehouse in Albany, NY, Wolff's Biergarten was decorated like we were going to get a true European experience, with several country flags and a giant wooden sign overhead with old style lettering reminiscent of an Irish pub. We got there around 4 PM, thinking it would be slow on a Wednesday afternoon, and BOY were we wrong. As soon as we walked inside we were greeted by the frenzied cheering of dozens of soccer fans all decked out in their team colors, watching the match on several flat-screens that circled the room. The long bar sat about 15, with several wooden picnic tables in front of the bar. Further, inside past the bar were about six hightop tables each with a wicker basket on them full of peanuts. White Christmas lights hung from the ceiling as well as flags from all around Europe. Despite being inside with the flags overhead and TVs on the wall, it really did feel like you were outside in a garden of sorts, they even had a life-sized paper tree in the middle of the room (probably covering up a pillar). We sat at one of the round wooden high tops toward the back. Chris went to the bar and ordered a couple of pints. Pay as you go- no tabs here, cash only, which was fine with us because I tend to leave my debit card everywhere I go anyways...
We got some delicious beers, mine was from one of the oldest still existing breweries, Weihenstephan Brewery, located in Freising Germany. I got their pilsner which was so incredibly bright, refreshing, and crisp. "The bar offers 2-liter glass 'boots' of beer for those celebrating a birthday," (from Syracuse.com) and you have plenty of beers to choose from- Wolff's has 20 beers on tap, mostly middle European imports, with a few popular craft brews mixed in. I found out that beer goes extremely well with peanuts too, who knew? Good thing there's plenty of peanuts going around- like being at a real soccer game. Customers are encouraged to eat the peanuts and throw the shells on the ground. I mean, I'm a huge Red Sox fan and my dad has season tickets- so throwing peanut shells on the ground in Fenway Park is something I'm fairly good at. But I felt odd about tossing my shells on the ground of the bar, but I got the hang of it after awhile.
Between sipping our delicious beers and trying to follow any of the games on TV, we noticed dart boards lining the wall in the far back of the room. Chris loves playing with his dartboard at home, let's play! Once we started to play, other couples and groups noticed and decided to copy us and play a game or two of cricket themselves. As the games went on and the beer went down, we all started to get a bit competitive with each other, cheering and cheers-ing, with some light trash talk. It was so much fun!
Standing at the dart boards, towards our right, there was a small booth jutting out from the wall where you could order food, almost like a built-in food truck. They had a small menu offering traditional German snacks, like a variety of sausages, sauerkraut, pretzels and other typical pub
fares. We decided some warm pretzel sticks would fit right in with our German beers. The pretzel sticks came with two dipping sauces that you could choose, we went for the honey butter and cheddar bier dip-- HOLY CRAP they were delicious! So much so that we got another round of pretzel sticks and changed up the sauces so we could try all of them, this time getting warm chocolate ganache and raspberry melba - YUM! While I've never been to Germany or a soccer bar before, I feel this would be a pretty close idea of what it would feel like walking into a bar in Germany.
I know a lot of you reading this post would hate me for saying this- but I'm really not a soccer fan... that being said, the environment around us with bar patrons cheering for their team, clinking their big pints (or boots) of beer around us, nibbling on peanuts; it's as if we were THERE at the soccer game, and let me tell you, it is extremely intoxicating. Me and Chris were loving the enthusiasm of the fans here, it made us feel as if we were at game 4 of a Red Sox playoff game on Yawkey Way. Now that type of excitement for a team I understand, which made me respect these die-hard soccer fans so much.
"The Albany Wolff's location is currently leading in a YouTube poll to name the best bar in America to watch games from Britains Premier League, the top ring of UK soccer and has already been named Americas No. 2 soccer bar by SiriusXM." (from Syracuse.com) Wolff's Bierhall also has three other locations in New York state: Schenectady, Syracuse, and Troy. So if you want a genuine German experience watching soccer games on big screen TV's- definitely grab a pint at one of their locations, I'm glad I did, and I think next time I'll have a big 'ol boot of beer with my name on it.
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