I can think of a lot of good things about American craft brewing, but one word that doesn't usually come to mind is Gemütlichkeit. (Not that that's a word that ever comes to mind easily.) The term is tough to translate, because it conveys several meanings all at once: coziness, sociability, comfort, homey coziness, conviviality. In German-speaking countries, it's applied to old-fashioned pubs and guest houses that serve up hearty, filling food and good beer with old-country charm. It's not something found very often in Seattle, a city that doesn't exactly abound with traditional Teutonic delights. In the past few years, though, a few outposts of German-style beer culture have popped up here and there, sparing Seattle locals a longish drive to Leavenworth or Portland for Germanic beery treats. Chris Navarra has pushed his way to the forefront of serving German beer in Seattle with his three German-style pubs. Navarra's first German joint was Prost!, which opened in 2002 on Greenwood Avenue North. The bar bristles with German tap handles, mostly big-city beers from Munich—Spaten beers feature prominently—alongside the likes of Bitburger Pils and Schneider Weisse. Prost! is something like a German Studentenkneipe, a pub where the local students and young adults gather. In 2004, Navarra opened his second German pub on Roosevelt Avenue North, Die BierStube, with a somewhat expanded tap selection, more of a neighborhood tav or Kneipe, a place to hang out after work. Even the antismoking law that went into effect last December didn't seem to dampen business too much, and this past February, Navarra opened his third German pub, Feierabend, in the Cascade hood, just a couple blocks north of REI. Feierabend also sports a mostly German selection on its 18 taps, the lone exception being a German-style brew from South Park's Baron Brewing, the only American beer on tap at all three of Navarra's pubs. There's also a menu that mixes German-style eats like bratwurst, schnitzel, Käsespätzle (small noodlelike dumplings), and Kassler Rippchen (smoked pork chop from the rib) with more familiar pub eats with a mildly Germanic touch, like a bacon cheeseburger served on a baguette with curry ketchup and beer mustard. It's all beer-friendly food to go with food-friendly beer, and German-style touches like communal tables promote conversation and the occasional clinking of glasses (if you're gonna do it with those tall wheat beer glasses, tap the bottoms together, please). Feierabend is located at the street level of an apartment complex, so bonus if you live there. There still could be more of this kind of thing in Seattle. The recent spate of warm weather is a reminder that, while there are a few places here and there to sit outside and have a beer, the Seattle region still lacks a good beer garden. With all the green space around, this should be a no-brainer in fine weather, but this is Seattle, Wash., U.S.A., where the Land of the Free has its limitations, especially when it comes to beer drinkin' in the great outdoors. (Gracious! Goodness! Think of the children!) Instead, enjoy the little touches of good ol' Germany that Navarra has brought to the Emerald City. Zum Wohl! email@example.com
Prost! 7311 Greenwood Ave. N., 206-706-5430, www.prosttavern.net. Die BierStube 6106 Roosevelt Way N.W. 206-527-7019, www.diebierstube.com. Feierabend 422 Yale Ave. N., 206-340-2528, www.feierabendseattle.com.