Saturday, June 4, 2011

All things German

I have to admit I'm lucky to live in Albany. She's not a huge city, by any means — just over 90,000 residents. Sure, she has the same problems as any other small city, not-enough money, screwy politics, crime, and lousy parking.  But, her good qualities far out weigh her bad. Washington Park in the spring is beautiful; the Center Square neighborhood is a bustling hub of entertainment and dinning; festivals and events dot the calendar throughout the year. Most importantly (for this blog's sake), she's a beer town.

The bars and pubs are great and we have a good number of beer stores, as well. But, that's not what makes Albany a truly great beer town. It's the little gems she offers — the hidden away places, you'd never expect to find great beer. No spot in the  city exemplifies this better than Schuetzenpark Biergarten at the German-American Club.

Tucked away, behind one of the cites largest industrial areas, sits a slice of Munich. The club itself, founded in 1895 by German immigrants, is open to the public year round. An indoor banquet hall hosts events in the colder months, while the biergarten is open for picnics and Friday night happenings, throughout the summer and fall. Last night was the official summer opening of the park, so the family and I paid a visit. Friends of ours, Paul and Gravey are members, and when you have an in like that, how can you not take advantage of it?

Admittedly, the park is a little rough-around-the-edges, but there is a certain charm in that. The buildings are worn but homey and the outdoor kitchen, is little more than a lean-to. At one time, it may have tried to emulate the classic gardens lining the River Iasr, but it's long past caring about imitation now. The smell of sauerkraut and bauernwurst wafted through the air as the PA system joyfully spouted oom-pa music—occasionally interrupted by laughter and chatter in a decidedly Bavarian accent. Sitting on it's picnic benches quaffing cups of Franziskaner Weissbier, Hofbräu Dunkel, and Spaten Lager while the sun painted dappled patterns through the tall pines onto the sandy ground below, was nothing less than sublime.

Schuetzenpark Biergarten is what all beery places should aspire to be — simple. The park is what it is, a good place for people to meet, eat and drink all things German.