Of all the things Americans associate with Germany—great beer, good sausage, the consumption of large quantities of both while wearing lederhosen—easy pronunciation is not one (see also: lederhosen). Der Wolfskopf, an Old Pasadena beer hall, doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but conversational German is not required for entry here. Brought to you by the same folks behind The Surly Goat, Little Bear and the neighboring Blind Donkey, the “wolf’s head” is a modernized take on a medieval banquet hall: a large, imposing space with rows of communal tables, giant chandeliers and flat screen TVs. What Der Wolfskopf lacks in Old World charm, however, it makes up for in the sheer volume of its offerings, with 15 German beers on tap bearing enough syllables and umlauts to twist your tongue well into the night. There are four German-style beers from Oregon and California, as well, including Pasadena-based Craftsman Brewery. Overwhelmed? The friendly bar staff actually know their stuff and will guide you in the right direction. Add a food menu with sausages, pretzels and schnitzel and an outdoor beer garden, and this place ticks all the necessary boxes. You can leave the lederhosen at home though, for everyone’s sake.
Good for: The layout lends itself to accommodating large groups—birthday parties, work outings and pub crawls will all find a place at one of Der Wolfskopf’s tables, as will couples and smaller parties—as long as they don’t mind sharing. We're betting this place will be packed come Oktoberfest, along with every major soccer game.
The scene: Despite being situated in the middle of bro-centric Old Town, Der Wolfskopf’s atmosphere is surprisingly low-key. The bar is populated by young spuds and old timers in equal measure and, judging from our visit, there's some quality multi-generational bonding going on. As the night progresses, this gives way to a millennial and 30-something crowd more befitting of the neighborhood, but far more tolerable than Barney’s Beanery. As it turns out, communal seating and beer make for fast friendships.
Drink this: Start with a Schofferhofer Grapefruit Radler. We were skeptical when the bartender described the taste as “a bit like Squirt, in a good way,” but he wasn’t wrong—it was fresh, light and citrusy without being sweet, and we could easily put a few of these down on a hot summer day. If you’re into heff, try its darker cousin with a Hacker-Pschorr Dunkleweiss, or if sours are your thing, pucker up for the Professor Fritz Briem 1809 Berliner Weiss. For an extra buck, you can sweeten it up with raspberry or woodruff (a green herb) syrup, just like they do in Berlin. The Aecht Schlenkerla Fastenbier is a smoked “rauchbier” with a unique, almost savory flavor akin to bacon or smoked Gouda that’s surprisingly delicious. Because why order a charcuterie board when you can just drink it?
Our Tip: For those in search of something swankier, a secret (but not-so-secret) bar beneath the main outfit opens at 8pm and serves craft cocktails.
|Venue name:||Der Wolfskopf||Contact:|
72 N Fair Oaks Blvd
|Opening hours:||Daily Noon-2am|
|Do you own this business?|
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This is a really fun alternative to some of the cocktail lounges or clubbier bars in the area. Its take on a German beer hall has just the right amount of kitsch without feeling like a joke. The cocktails are good enough, but I've been a little bit let down by the beer menu. It's weird, because the dozen or so German beers on tap is the bar's main draw, but I just haven't found any of them particularly memorable. On the other hand, there's some great bar food. The pretzels and kartoffelpuffers (potato pancakes) are must orders, particularly with a side of beer cheese.