BK drinkers’ survey: does anyone actually like beer halls?

You call this table service? via flickr user Wally Gobetz
Communal seating is a nice idea, in theory. via flickr user Wally Gobetz

Euro-inspired beer halls have been cropping up all over Brooklyn, with their appropriately import-heavy tap lists and their mostly pretzels signature food offerings. There’s Radegast, the Koelner Bierhalle, and Spritzenhaus to name a few. It’s also just been announced that Downtown Brooklyn is going to be getting a “massive” beer hall. But amidst all the hype, we’ve got a question: what’s so great about beer halls?

Hear us out: besides their sprawling size and trendy menu, beer halls aren’t all that welcoming. For one thing, the acoustics are terrible. In a large room made almost entirely of polished stone, you find yourself screaming just to be heard above the general din echoing off the walls. It’s like a community board meeting, that costs more money.

And another thing: service at beer halls is notoriously terrible. It’s not exactly anyone’s fault; communal open seating is just a dining-out nightmare. It’s fine during quieter hours, but on rowdy nights servers can’t tell who’s in which party, and they have to ask, and then there’s more yelling. The space also gives off the impression of a counter-serviced, casual setting where you can just sit wherever. But let me tell you, I can’t count the number of times that someone has disappeared from our party before the bill comes. And either they left some cash with a less-than-table-service tip, or they moved to the bar and forgot to tell anyone where they went.


What if you don't like the beer, and then you have all this beer to finish? via flickr user Shawn Hoke
What if you don’t like the beer, and then you have all this beer to finish? via flickr user Shawn Hoke

Seems to us like in order to have a well-functioning beer hall in Brooklyn, you have to behave somewhat like a corporate machine, keeping tabs on everyone who sits down. The beer halls with the best service also become the most sterile ones, and that barely evokes whatever made a giant room full of drunk people so popular over in Germany in the first place.

Lastly, do you really need that much beer at once? Many of these beer halls offer iconically-large steins, and sure, it’s fun to clink massive flutes of alcohol together with your friends. But beer that comes in a giant glass also forces you to drink faster before it gets warm and flat. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather sip slowly on 12oz of really good beer, and savor the flavors in it, than try to chug down 32oz in the same amount of time.

So weigh in, brokesters: are beer halls really the drinking scene of the future, or are you partial to the low-ceilinged, wood-paneled local dive bars of yore?


  1. Something about beer halls feels so stuffy and antiseptic to me, like a beer drinking factory. Maybe it’s the long tables, the unusual beers or, as you mention the notoriously bad service, the fact that you can’t just get up and get your own beer most times. I feel like it stifles normal bar flow, and limits interaction among drinkers. The crowds can be a bit much (especially at Radegast). Or maybe it’s just that I don’t care to drink surrounded by sausage smog and sauerkraut aura.

  2. knucks

    look, guys. Brooklyn does, in fact, continue to exist south east of Prospect Park. tell your beer halls to come to flatbush if you don’t want them; i’ll be happy to have them!

  3. Madelyn Owens

    Whole heartedly agree. It feels like you’re getting drunk in a summer camp mess hall, except somehow less sexy.
    If there is music (and there is often not) its in the form of a too loud polka band.

    Also, too much light. I like to get drunk in a dark hole, thank you.

  4. Conal Darcy

    Having lived in Germany for a long time, I’ve visited many a beer hall. It’s a long, long tradition. It’s also a place where everyone can socialize with strangers. Sitting at large communal tables puts you in contact with a lot of people you would never have met otherwise. Seating is fluid, there’s a lot of camaraderie and bonhomie, and there’s usually a live band that is subtle enough so you can year your conversations, but good enough to read crowds and lead them into great drinking song outbursts. The other appeal is the beer is usually cheap (6-7 bucks for a liter Maß!) and good, as is the food. The service is lousy and surly, but that’s just Germany. (Note: this is not the same as Oktoberfest, which is Germany’s annual festival of drunk, obnoxious Australian yobbos.)

    I’ve yet to find a place over here that recreates the German beer hall experience. Usually in American beer halls people get really territorial over seats and space. No one wants to socialize outside of the people they came with. Music, if any, is deafening. And the beer and food is so damn expensive.

    So my answer is Jein. I do and do not like beer halls.

  5. For me, what’s frustrating about Billyburg beer halls (Radegast, Spritzenhaus) is that they take something that’s supposed to be big and messy and communal and make it trendy and expensive and fratty (in the blue striped button down shirt sense, rather than the fraternal brotherhood of beer drinking sense).

    There’s nothing like washing down a brat smothered in onions and peppers with a Weihenstephaner Vitus on a breezy afternoon by the park. But when the check for you and your boyfriend’s lunch comes in close to $50…AND you served yourself…well you’re probably not going back to Spritzenhaus. That’s no place for the volks, after all. But Black Forest Brooklyn in Fort Greene and Bierleichen in Ridgewood might be.

    Beer halls are great in the right setting – I think it’s fun to sit at a big table with a bunch of friends and drink giant German beers you may not usually drink – but like any other beer experience, there’s a time and place for it. 99x/100, I prefer the slow-sipped pint (or 10 ouncer) at a pub.

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