Music, Food, and Beer!
The sound of a raucous celebration coming from the inside of a corner building in Williamsburg could be heard as I approached Berry and North 3rd halfway from the block. A long rectangular building, which looks like it could have been an old factory, is covered with "authentic" hand painted signs saying Bierhaus and Willkommen. The Radegast Hall & Biergarten, made up of three distinct indoor sections (the main bar, the biergarten, and the back hall or cook area) makes you feel like you've just been transported to Munich during Oktoberfest, steins in hand and beer taps in every corner. I ventured in to this local favorite because I went to see the Raya Brass Band perform in the midst of this drunken mayhem. A Balkan/Gypsy band that had impressed me the first time I saw them perform a few months ago, the Raya Brass Band was to get the party started at this already festive bar. I had no idea what to expect, atmosphere-wise, and as I left the main bar with a tall Weiss beer in hand along with my camera, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size and energy that was coming from the biergarten. Long picnic tables with sturdy benches lined both sides of the room, seating 20 or more people at each. Hipsters celebrating birthdays, families with babies, local Brooklynites, outside Manhattanites and beyond all congregated to share something together that they all love - music, food and of course, beer!
The band, also described as an "Eastern European Wedding Band" (as you can see why from this video) got the entire place buzzed (if the people weren't already from the libations being served). A band consisting of traditional instruments not traditionally seen together at a bar in New York (accordion, saxophone, trumpet, tuba, walking bass drum), and playing music that seems maybe familiar at times, but very exotic at others (uneven meters, songs in 5/8 or 7/8, slightly unnerving scales). It's a trip, and the way this band migrates from one table to the other, shifting rooms and getting every single person transfixed to their music is infectious. With musicians climbing on tables, dancing with patrons and literally bouncing around the room, you just can't help but want to join in.
As I finished my first beer, the smells from the open grill began to overtake me - sausages of every kind, including those of venison, were all cooking and filling the room with tempting aromas. Perfectly cooked fries were calling my name, and if you did not get the hint already, nothing in this place is small. Large food portions, large beer portions, large everything! As the band continued to play, I made friends with neighboring tables (happy birthday, Rebecca!) sharing with them my overly large order of fries.
As the afternoon turned to evening, the light began to fade in the biergarten and a dim yellow glow came from each table. The day hadn't even reached 7pm, but the whole place was filling their bellies with food to replenish themselves of energy for the Raya Brass Band's last set. I couldn't help myself but dance with the group, and neither could new onlookers. It was a perfect fall afternoon; thank you, Max Fass (accordion player and friend) and the rest of the RBB!