Have you been to a German beer hall? They’re vast spaces that make you feel like you’re just one monkey in a big barrel.
Hofbrauhaus in Munich, the most famous German beer hall, has long tables meant for sharing. You see these a lot in craft breweries now, too. When a couple college friends and I went on a European tour together in the early 2000s, we talked to a local businessman who was stopping by for a pint after work. He spoke good English, and although we didn’t have a lot in common, the table provided us a place to meet someone new and learn about the city.
The Red Oak Lager Haus, opened in December 2017, has the same feel: sloped, soaring ceiling. Long tables with high-backed chairs. Although most people congregated around the bar, I was impressed by the hall’s authenticity. There was an intricately carved bench that I wish had a placard; I wanted to know what it was!
One end of the room has a pleasant, though not photo-friendly, waterfall, and the other end is sectioned off with glowing signs saying, “1516 Room,” a place you can book for a fee, I assume. It’s set off from the rest by beautiful carved glass, which further gives everything a Bavarian feel.
When my husband and I went for my birthday last week, we settled into a couple high-backed seats with a Scrabble game and a couple lagers. That’s all Red Oak brews here, but everything I tried was delicious. The Battlefield Bock was especially good: dark and roasty without tasting burnt or being too heavy. The Old Oak Oktoberfest was my jam that day, though — something I was more in the mood for.
The Lager Haus was on our way to Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, where we saw Minus the Bear for the last time. It’s quite a distance away from Winston-Salem if you’re going someplace just to drink, so make it a day trip. (Hillsborough is home to Mystery Brewing, another great one.) I expect my Greensboro and Burlington friends might get out there more often than I do, but even on a Wednesday evening, the place was rockin’ with couples and singles, after-work businessmen, and two large groups.
That’s what I like to see at a place this fantastic: It’s gorgeous but not too intimidating to host the average beer drinker.