press room



The Albatross Soars

By Angela Wagner Coleman
04/15/2004 — The Celebrator
The year is 1964: the Beatles land in America; the Civil Rights Amendment is passed by Congress; and the Albatross Pub ("The Bird") in Berkeley, California opens. This was, indeed, a fine year. It is with great joy that this April 2004, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Berkeley's oldest drinking establishment. A variety of owners have crossed the transom of this drinking and gathering place, but none have nurtured "The Bird" more than current proprietors Wendy Halambeck and Linda Ksilavetz, who took over in 1997. Under their partnership, the pub has maintained its comfortable and inviting quality, while turning an eye more toward the connoisseurship of libations (especially beer) as well as the addition of fine art from local artists and live music also gleaned from the local community of musicians.
The beer selection is substantial, varied and of high quality. Fourteen beers are on tap including San Francisco Bay Area favorites like Drake's Hefeweizen out of San Leandro, Anchor Brewing's Steam Beer and Speakeasy's Big Daddy IPA, both out of San Francisco. As for bottled selections, there are 50 from which to choose. Many fine European beers are offered including an excellent choice of Belgians, such as Chimay, Duvel, Delirium Tremens and Maredsous. Appropriate glassware is always used. Keeping with the Belgian theme, several Belgian-style Unibroue products are also available as well as North Coast Brewing's Pranqster.
Halambeck, a practicing psychotherapist, and Ksilavetz, an entrepreneur, have been best friends for fifteen years. Always wanting to go into business together, the duo started with a coffee cart business on Berkeley's busy Telegraph Avenue. After a couple of years, they sold that business and bought the Albatross Pub. Committed to maintaining the warm character of the place, they kept the feel while cleaning things up with much more attention to detail. Clearly drawing from her, training as a therapist, Wendy explained, "We’ve tried to create an ambiance that helps make life better." They have succeeded. Upon entering the pub, one feels as though they are in familiar surroundings; almost like coming to a friend's comfortable home where others have been invited along with you. With emphasis on people, Wendy added that, "The pub is all about talking, communication. We're unique this way." This is evidenced by a lack of blasting music and a wonderful variety of comfortable nooks and crannies where one can easily converse with friends over a pint.
Albatross pubgoers are a diverse microcosm of the Berkeley community itself. On any given evening, you will find University students, writers, soccer teams, a hangglider club, local business people and lots of foreign accents. The nearby Czech community is known to gather here. As a special touch to honor this group, a small flag of the Czech Republic adorns the wall near the front door.
"The Bird" is also notably a "house of games". Tons of board games are available including the standard checkers and chess, as well as old Milton-Bradley favorites. Darts is a big deal at the Albatross. Approximately half-a-dozen well delineated dart lanes are happily occupied in the back of the pub. Each is walled off by clear plastic (This is a good thing for those who may have had a few too many). Tuesday night dart tournaments are very popular. I stopped in on a Friday night and the darts were flying.
So, let the celebration begin. On April 8, 2004, the Albatross Pub will be forty years old and Wendy and Linda happily open their door at 7 p.m. with an event that will feature live music by Bluegrass Intentions, a buffet and a special prize drawing. There will be games, gathering and what promises to be a good time. What a pleasure to see this warm and wonderful place enter its fifth decade of business. Hats off to the dynamic duo who have kept "The Bird" so inviting.
The Albatross
1822 San Pablo Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94702
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