A SELF-ADMITTED SUDS GEEK, IVAN KOHUT, PROPRIETOR OF WILLIAMSBURG’S RADEGAST HALL & BIERGARTEN, TAKES A THOUGHTFUL APPROACH TO CURATING ONE OF THE MOST EXTENSIVE BEER LISTS IN THE CITY
BY AMANDA McCOY
Two decades ago, when Central European native Ivan Kohut relocated to the Big Apple to pursue a finance degree, the ardent beer enthusiast scoured local bars for bottles and taps reminiscent of his homeland. To his frustration, the selections were limited, with little to no traces of German, Austrian, or Belgian varieties. Undeterred, he continued to bar hop up and down Brooklyn and Manhattan drags, pen and paper in tow, taking notes as he went. (“It was my college hobby,” he laughed.)
Upon graduation, Kohut took a suit and tie trade for a brief time before bringing his true fascinations to a then uncrowded street off Bedford. Now ten years after Radegast Hall and Biergarten opened in 2007, the double-roomed haunt still offers thirsty patrons a menu of authentic European ales, both bottled and on tap, accompanied by traditional fare, including brats.
“The structure of the building inspired me,” Kohut said. “I thought, ‘If I can take my heritage and love of beer and mix it together, I can bring something new to the neighborhood.’”
As a purist, Kohut sources from centuries-old breweries like Weihenstephan, Radeberger, and Benediktiner (all on tap), plus more than 50 bottle options, from weissbiers and pilsners to doppelbocks and stouts. Some would be familiar to Budweiser types, celebrating simplicity, while others pay tribute to geeks and connoisseurs.
The menu changes seasonally, its selection process a formula of intuition and analysis. As a pupil of finance, Kohut is able to crunch numbers to know what should work, but it’s his love of the craft, he explained, that allows him to truly create.
“In an age when everything is so complicated and tedious, our beer list is inspired by simplicity,” he said. “I’m listening and trying to offer what people want, while maintaining a level of authenticity.” His team has its own rating system, and periodically meets to taste hundreds of samples, rating each on categories like aroma, pour quality, freshness, and, of course, taste, over laughter and much debate.
While the selection is ever evolving, some brews have earned a permanent home on the menu, like the Zwickl by Radeberger (recommended for Radegast first timers by the owner), a fresh unfiltered and unpasteurized kellerbier out of Germany, and perfect for afternoon philosophizing. Another staff tap favorite is the Helles by Benediktiner, a full-bodied lager with aromas of honey and apple…and on warm spring days, there are few as refreshing as the crisp yet surprisingly strong English Aspall Dry Cider.
While draughts are always popular, the bottle selection is the real cornucopia here, boasting rare finds like the Van Diest Früli Strawberry Witbier and Rochefort Trappistes 8 out of Belgium and the Cidrerie du Vulcain Trois Pepins, which hails from Switzerland.
For those in search of a quick, casual bite, the grill churns out traditional bratwurst, currywurst, kielbasa, and a varied sausage platter, while full dinners include hearty Central European comfort dishes like Spicy Hungarian Goulash and Dumplings, Veal Schnitzel, and Crispy Duck Leg. Lunch is highlighted by Munich Pretzels and Sour Pickles, a Schnitzel Melt made with a veal cutlet and Swiss cheese topped with vegetable slaw, and the Radegast Club, a hearty helping of curry chicken, seasoned fries, and mixed Arugula.
The double-roomed hall offers two seating options: an open, traditional dining room with dark wooden booths and a large, circular bar, and an adjacent and sun-drenched stretch of long picnic tables, ideal for casual drinking and snacking. Both foster camaraderie, and you won’t find a TV anywhere.
“When I was in college, I would come to a packed bar, dark with TVs, and no one would want to talk to a stranger,” said Kohut. “We just wanted loud chat, people coming together and drinking good brews. That was always the goal.”
Radegast Hall & Biergarten
113 N 3rd Street / 718.963.3973 / radegasthall.com