By Emily G. Peters
It looks a bit like the Great Hall at Hogwarts, but Der Wolf is not make-believe. In a city of bars where adequate space, affordability and ambiance tend to come at a premium, this German-themed beer hall has managed to combine all three.
“Der Wolf (formerly known as ‘Der Wolfskopf’ or ‘The Wolf’s Head’) was founded in 2015. The owners are part of The Goat Group, the partners behind some of the best bars in Southern California, including The Blind Donkey, The Verdugo Bar and more,” said Emily Lansdown, bartender and assistant manager at Der Wolf. “Pasadena was already home to The Blind Donkey, and I think once they saw the potential of the space for a German Beer Hall, it just made sense.”
The space at Der Wolf does have a an other-worldly feel about it, functioning a bit like the Tardis: it’s bigger on the inside. The spot has three spaces to clink your steins: the main hall, an open-air biergarten and Der Rathskeller—secreted beneath the main hall with comfy booths and whimsical murals.
“‘Der Rathskeller’ literally translates to ‘The Council’s Cellar,’ which is what Germans call a bar located in the basement of a city hall,” said Lansdown. “We really wanted to create a space in the heart of Pasadena where people can gather for taste of the German experience without leaving their hometown.”
Those tastes consist of pub favorites (warm Bavarian pretzels with a cheesy dipping sauce) to German sausages, sauerkraut and all-things-pickled. Got vegetarians, vegans or gluten-free folks in the crew? There’s something for you. And while the menu is small, the 20 beers on tap span a delicious selection of German options with a few American brews for good measure.
“Sometimes when new patrons come in they can be a bit overwhelmed or nervous to pronounce some of the beers we have. I get it—Köstritzer Schwarzbier was a challenge for me to say, but now it’s one of my favorite beers of all time,” said Lansdown. As a bartender, she finds inspiration in the simple, fresh ingredients blended with her customers’ personal tastes.
“It makes my whole shift when a guest approaches me with no idea of what they want, and after I ask them a few questions, they leave finding a new favorite beer or cocktail,” she said.
Indeed, the Der Wolf team pays attention to what the people want. Events are big here, with Der Wolf hosting everything from weekly karaoke and jazz nights to the recent Astronomy on Tap talks, featuring lectures by Caltech and JPL scientists. With this year’s Oktoberfest complete (Lansdown brought in a polka band to play in the biergarten) Halloween events—Harry Potter night, anyone?—are up next. Bottom line: no matter when you drop in, chances are Der Wolf will have something for you.
“I think one of the best parts about Der Wolf is the range of our audience. We love welcoming families (we’re all ages before our kitchen closes at 10pm), meeting out-of-towners, hosting wedding after-parties and being a mainstay of many a work happy hour,” said Lansdown. “Our space is very welcoming—and based on the feedback of our patrons, they love it here, too.”
Der Wolf Bar and Restaurant is located at 72 N. Fair Oaks Ave. in Pasadena. For more information, contact Der Wolf at derwolfskopf.wixsite.com/derwolf | (626) 219-6054 | firstname.lastname@example.org and follow along on Facebook and Instagram @derwolfla.