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Der Wolf: Old-world German Beer Hall Flourishes in Pasadena

By Marina I. Jokic

German food and beer have always occupied a special place in American restaurateur minds, and the town of Pasadena is no exception. One of the most spacious and imposing beer halls in town, Der Wolf, or Der Wolf for short, is located just steps from the heart of Old Town Pasadena and is run by Ryan Sweeney and his team. During its debut, Der Wolf impressed guests with its varied selection of soft German pretzels, tater tots, bratwursts, and kielbasas alongside a draft beer list consisting of 20 rotating options.

"The inspiration was to pay homage to the great German beer [style halls] that [are] underappreciated in North America; beer hall meets bar is the overall theme," manager Marina Spidla said. "It's a large space with a large heart?same with our draft list, it's large enough to appeal to the ultimate beer nerd and has lot of options for someone who is just learning about beer [and] wants to try something new."

The first floor of the restaurant has a designated club lounge for which you need a special pass but you won't encounter snootiness here. This place is a beer hall first and foremost, and you'll find that attitude reflected in its delicious, epicurean snacks like schnitzel, tots, and house made pretzels with beer cheese dip.

Long communal tables are the choice of seating here, which makes for a more fun and open atmosphere and sparks unexpected conversations. Medieval-like lighting fixtures hang from the ceiling to complete the look.

Let their signature dishes, the oak-smoked beer bratwurst with tots and the Bavarian pretzels with beer cheese sauce, melt away your worries and discourage your diet plans. If you're sitting at a communal table drinking a stein of Köstritzer Schwarzbier, you'll want to eat a bratwurst and a pretzel, period. The sausage is served in a toasted potato bun with a side of caramelized onions, pickles and your choice of fries or tots.

There is ample choice for vegetarians, too, who might automatically disregard a place like this. From the eggplant schnitzel and the black bean burger to the kale salad and shoestring fries, rest assured there are plenty of meatless options to pair with your draft, wine, or liquor. The spaetzle mac is a bowl of dense egg noodles in a rich and creamy garlic cheese sauce dripping with Parmesan and fresh herb flavors.

The restaurant boasts more than a dozen German beers, hand-picked by Sweeney, and four signature cocktails such as the boilermaker and the Wolpertinger, the latter made with tequila, apple brandy, dry vermouth, green tea syrup and cayenne.

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