Friday, April 4, 2008

Interview with co-founder of Gordon Biersch; news from the new Gordon Biersch location, now opened in Myrtle Beach, SC

My recent conversation with Dan Gordon, co-founder of Gordon Biersch, uncovered news about the company's expansion plans. The following is from my column in the Weekly Surge in Myrtle Beach, SC:

Dan Gordon of San Jose, Calif., insists that each server passes a test on the beers at his Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurants.

"We're going to do some beer education," said Gordon, co-founder of the Gordon Biersch chain, referring to the role servers will play in explaining his micro-brewed beer to local customers. "A lot of people think microbrews are bitter and undrinkable, and this is going to prove them wrong."

I was already convinced. For about an hour, we had been sitting in the brand-new Gordon Biersch at The Market Common on the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base. The restaurant-brewery was preparing to open today (April 3). Several folks were already dining, and the restaurant was fully staffed.

Gordon walked me through five year-round beers and a seasonal brew. With six 0.4-liter glasses across the table, we started on my right with the Golden Export lager, which Gordon described as "the type of beer you'll find in a German biergarten." It was light in body but smooth instead of watery.

Next, the dry, auburn Marzen, a Bavarian lager which Gordon called his "flagship," followed by Czech Lager, a Bohemian-style Pilsner, made with Noble Hops, which provide a "pinpoint bitterness" to the flavor - a good bitterness, welcome in beer.

The Schwarzbier was lighter in body and easier on the palate than its nearly-black color would have suggested.

The Maiboch seasonal was a fairly accurate interpretation of springtime, with subtle fruit tones and crisp hops and yeasts. It was unfiltered, meaning the yeasts were left in.

The also-unfiltered Hefeweizen was a different experience altogether. Gordon said beer drinkers either love it or hate it, because the yeasts naturally yield hints of bubblegum and banana.

My personal favorites? The Czech Lager and the Maiboch. But any of these beers would be great at any time. All are made according to the Reinheitsgebot, the strict 1516 German Purity Law. That quality, to my tastes, made the biggest difference in the overall clearness, cleanness, and smoothness of these beers.

(The prices run $4.75 for a half-liter, $4 for a 0.4-liter, with a dollar off during happy hour, which runs 4-6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, with the same special available 10 p.m.-close Sunday through Thursday.)

beer food

Gordon also brought out his favorite dishes from the menu for sampling, not that he, or anyone else, could eat it all in one sitting.

For appetizers, Gordon Biersch Garlic Fries and Southwest Egg Rolls with roasted jalapeno ranch dipping sauce; then, Seafood Cobb Salad with shrimp and lump crab; Cajun Pasta with Andouille sausage, grilled chicken and shrimp; Gorgonzola Bone-In Ribeye, with Gorgonzola-buttered steak leaning on a mountain of garlic mashed potatoes; and Warm Apple Bread Pudding with vanilla ice cream and sticky bun caramel sauce.

I became convinced the restaurant's brain trust put as much thought into the food as it did the beer.

expanding empire

The Market Common location is the 26th Gordon Biersch. Four weeks ago, a location opened in Kansas City, Mo. In November, Gordon plans to open in nearby Overland Park, Kan. Meanwhile, a Plano, Texas, location is due in May; Taipei, Taiwan, in June; and Annapolis, Md., in October.

Within a year, bottles of Marzen, Czech Lager, Hefeweizen, and Blond Boch - available at retailers in other parts of the country - will be distributed throughout the Southeast.

The expansion of Gordon's company, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, was enabled by sound, long-term planning. "Nationally, the restaurant industry is down, and we're not," he said.

Gordon liked The Market Common concept because the development includes homes. "This kind of place, with the residential built in, is amazingly beneficial to us," he said

- Contact Colin Burch - the Beerman - at

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