Photo: Courtesy of Owen's Ordinary

Behind the Bar: September 2017

September is the perfect time of year for hoisting German beers in beautiful fall weather. As you make the transition from summer ales to fall brews, celebrate all things Oktoberfest at these three stellar biergartens.

SaufHaus1 (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Shana Steele
Events Manager, Sauf Haus Bier Hall

On Tap: What makes German beers special? 
Shana Steele: The [German Beer] Purity Law, which was passed over 500 years ago. It says that you can only have certain ingredients in it, and that’s hops, water and basically other core ingredients. You aren’t adding a lot of extra stuff into it.

OT: What’s your go-to German beer?
SS: I love the Weihenstephaner Vitus. It’s a spiced beer, and it has banana notes in there. My palate is a little sweeter, so I really enjoy that one. It’s also one of the beers that has a higher ABV on the menu, so people tend to go toward that one.

OT: How is Sauf Haus celebrating Oktoberfest?
SS: We’re going to have live music every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We’re going to have Sausage Fest Sundays, where we’re going to grill a bunch of sausages. We also just got the NFL ticket, so it’s going to be great for football season. Basically, we’ll have sausages, beers and NFL [games] out on the deck, which is going to be a lot of fun.

OT: Why should we check out the rooftop deck?
SS: [It’s] super chill, fun and sunny. We have the only year-round, weather-proof, retractable biergarten in DC, so we’re open year-round. We have TVs out there and we do live music, so it’s a really fun, communal vibe.

SaufHaus2 (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Shana’s Pick
Weihenstephaner Vitus 

Sauf Haus Bier Hall: 1216 18th St. NW, DC;

Courthaus Social 1 (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Natalie Craver
Bartender, Courthaus Social

On Tap: What’s the vibe like on your patio?
Natalie Craver: We keep it really lowkey. We always have some type of entertainment going on, but I feel like people come here because they can hear themselves think, and relax [and] unwind from work.

OT: How do you choose which beers to offer?
NC: It all depends, as we like to keep it local. We do support all of the breweries, but we specifically like to support Virginia, and support them as far as our food and beer. It just depends what styles are in season.

OT: What’s your favorite fall beer?
NC: My personal favorite is the Hofbräu Oktoberfestbier. It’s a classic German-style, so that’s one I go to. I do like the pumpkin-style beers, which a lot of people either love or hate. My personal favorite would probably be the Punkin’ Ale from Dogfish Head.

OT: What are your Oktoberfest plans?
NC: We’re still in the works for that, but we do plan on launching our Blocktober Fest. That’s going to be the weekend of September 16 in [our] courtyard area where we’ll have live music, German food and a grill out there, so we’ll do some bratwurst and schnitzel.

New Courthaus Photo

Natalie’s Pick
Hofbräu Hefeweizen

Courthaus Social: 2300 Clarendon Blvd. Arlington, VA;

Greg Engbert (Photo - Courtesy of Owen's Ordinary)

Greg Engert
Beer Director and Managing Partner, Owen’s Ordinary

On Tap: How is Owen’s Ordinary similar to a German biergarten?
Greg Engbert: Owen’s Ordinary is a neighborhood tavern, and it’s complete with a state-of-the-art craft beer system. The windows open and extend onto the patio, so the bar services the patio just like it would at a biergarten. We’re tapping [the beers] indoors and then handing them through the window. It’s a really cool outdoor drinking experience.

OT: Do you notice an increased interest in German beer during the fall?
GE: [As Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s] first Maryland location, we still have a huge focus on the Maryland beers, but we’ve also made it a focus to feature a nice array of German-style brews. I think there’s a renewed interest in those because of Oktoberfest, but at Owen’s we have 10 or so on perpetually, because we want to showcase the full variation of that style.

OT: What’s your connection to German beers, and what is your favorite aspect about them?
GE: German beers are remarkable because of their complexity and simplicity at the same time. They’re balanced and nuanced, and even though they tend to be lower alcohol and drinkable, they give you something for every occasion. You can sit there and drink those beers endlessly in a social setting, or you can examine them for taste.

OT: What Oktoberfest events can patrons to look forward to this month?
GE: We’re planning a series of fun events at the garden throughout the fall. We’ll be turning the taps over to breweries, and we’re always looking to host programs in the venue throughout the fall. Every weekend, we feature different German beers at the garden while offering our normal selection. We also offer 20-oz. mugs on the weekends, and people can actually purchase those beers.

Greg’s Pick [Pictured Above]
Kellerbier Ungespundet-Lager Hefetrüb

Owen’s Ordinary: 11820 Trade St. North Bethesda, MD;


Reem Nadeem

Reem is a Cairo-DC transplant, teacher and journalist. She has a B.A. in English from George Mason University. If she isn’t writing, teaching or staring longingly into the cat shelter next to On Tap’s office, she probably has her nose in a book.