The United States of Beer – Gordon Biersch

A couple of weeks or so ago I told you about Heartland Breweries which is a chain of restaurants/Pubs across NY which brew their own beer.  Well now it’s time to step it up a gear (or about five).

Whereas Heartland’s seven outlets are all in New York the Gordon Biersch empire stretches across 17 states (although interestingly no New York outlets) and numbers 29 regular outlets – 12 in airports (where all good beer lives).

I (perhaps unkindly) called Heartland the TGI Friday’s of beer, if that is the case then Gordon Biersch is approaching McDonald’s territory.

Of course this is terribly unkind. Their food is significantly better than the ‘food’ one is presented with at McDonalds, and they have beer (which US and Australian Micky D’s are lacking), and their locations have far more soul.

Or at least the location we went in Washington DC did. It was cavernous, it was located in a old bank, so it was suitably upmarket with more marble that my Uncle Guiseppe’s house (Okay I don’t have an Uncle Guiseppe, but I do have Italian heritage, so that seemingly racist, and unfunny joke is okay) and because this was America there we numerous big screen televisions showing baseball. I’m quite confident that there is a Major league Baseball happening every minute of every day in the US, in fact interweb tells me there are 2,430 regular season games.

The Gordon Biersch’s website claims that they produce world class cuisine and exceptional beer. The food is not world class, If it was served to you in a pub in Australia you’d say it was average at best, but the quality of food in Australia is consistently good, so I think we are spoilt. But the real question is was their beer exceptional?

Thankfully they offer tasting paddles which consisted of a reasonable sized sample of six of their brews. I set about tasting and ranking these beers, using a sophisticated system of placement of empty glasses on the table. This only became a problem when I was halfway through and the always overattentive US wait staff tried to clear my table. He was taken aback when I explained I still needed the empties, but caught on quick which meant he knew which was my favourite at the end and promptly bought me a pint of it – but which was it? Well find out after this break.

I have to admit as a fat guy I love the slogan 'Never trust a skinny brewer"

Let’s get into it. First up was the Maibock whichwas an amber colour with a thin white head. It was tart in the front of the sip, then some wheat flavours came through, only to be replaced by hoppy bitterness just as quick – A interesting beer and definitely pint worthy.

The Golden Export was the second tiny glass in the row. This was light in colour with just a thin ring of white head on the edge of the brew. A very light flavoured beer, clearly their mass market beer it was refreshing and crisp, but a tad on the boring side – Schooner.

The Hefeweizen was one of the better wheat beers I’d had up until that point in the US. It was more in the German tradition than most of them. It was a dull yellow hazy colour, and was quite gentle, with a subtle lemony aftertaste (Subtlety something the US versions of the Hefeweizen seemed to lack) – Pint.

Next up – Their Pilsener which strangelywas bitter at the front of the sip almost gassy but was barely carbonated It was quite crisp, and okay beer, but nothing to write home about – Schooner

I was looking forward to the Marzen, and I have to congratulate our waiter for teaching me how to pronounce it – It’s more like Mert-sen than Mars-en. The beer itself was a little disappointing though. It had an orange colour with no head or carbonation. It was malty and almost sweet, but lacked the spice of some other examples I’ve tasted. It all ended quite crisp – Schooner.

Last up was the Schwarbier  which I had been leaving to last because I had the sneaking suspicion that it would be my favourite as it would be roasty and hearty, but the problem was it wasn’t, there were some roasted flavours there at the front of the sip but they disappeared very quickly, and there was no aftertaste. It all felt a very thin. – Pot

So all in all their beer is not exceptional at all –better than average, and pretty good for mass produced beer, and you have to appreciate the range of traditional styles, but not exceptional. And in case you haven’t guessed I ending up have a pint of the Hefeweizen

Rankings:

Maibock – Pint

Golden Export – Schooner

Hefeweizen – Pint

Pilsener – Schooner

Marzen – Schooner

Schwarbier – Pot

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