Monday 28th May 2012
I have visited a Gordon Biersch pub once before, in Seattle to be specific, and it left me slightly underwhelmed to be honest. Please see the report on this website. Well, I thought they deserved another crack of the whip. I am aware this large chain of brew pubs that stretch across the country, had to begin somewhere and discovered it was in Palo Alto. This is the original pub, which is why I was paying a visit.
Although they are found in many cities and even in Taiwan, it started here in Palo Alto in July 1988. It was the brainchild of Dan Gordon and Dean Biersch, hence the name. Dan Gordon was the brewer and had studied for five years at the well-known brewing university of Weihenstephan in Freising and Munich, Bavaria. Because of this he had a keen appreciation of the clean tastes of the various beer style of Southern Germany and had a desire to replicate them in the U.S.A.
Dean Biersch was a restaurateur who wanted to establish an outlet that combined the flavours of California with good home-brewed beer and that's how it all started. They joined forces and took over what was the Bijou Theater and the remainder of the story is history.
I arrived by train at the nearby station. This is served by Caltrains and there is a good service, even when I went there on Memorial Day. The station itself is a gem and was built by the Southern Pacific Railroad in the Streamline style which is a form of Art-Deco. Please see the photograph which unfortunately is slightly spoiled by the fence built to stop people running across the tracks.
It's just over five minutes walk from station to pub. On arrival I found a large barn-like building with windows more or less covering the front and rear. The back of the room is where the brewery is located with the bar situated on the right. There are five beers in the standard range and they were all available along with one seasonal special. Compared with my Seattle experience I thought the beers here were very solid with a lot more body and they mostly replicated the true styles.
This is what I had and what I thought of them:
Hefe-Weizen (5.5%) was a good copy of the original Bavarian style. Märzen (5.8%) had a very soft taste and not a lot of flavour as one would expect. Golden Export (4.7%) is in the Dortmunder style, I thought it was a bit bitterer than the original. Czech Pilsner (5.2%) was my favourite having a fair amount of bitterness and Schwartzbier (4.2%) was a bit of a paradox being both malty and quite bitter but nevertheless all right. Maibock (7.3%) was the seasonal offering and was a good copy with the taste, yet was a bit thin in body.
I have no reason to believe the above beers were not all produced in the house brewery. However their bottled beers all come from a purpose-built brewery in San Jose which opened in 1997 especially for that purpose. As this company has expanded the production of that brewery alone has more than doubled.
So, this is a brew pub that is worth visiting, especially if you like the Germanic style of beers.
Gordon Biersch Brewing, 640 Emerson Street, Palo Alto, California CA-94301
Tel: 01 650 323 7723
Open: Sunday-Thursday 11.30 to 23.00; Friday-Saturday 11.30 to 01.00
Happy Hours: Monday-Friday 16.00 to 18.00; Sunday-Thursday 21.00-finish
Caltrains runs a frequent service along the peninsular from San Francisco to San Jose
and onto Gilmour. Connections can be made to the trains of Amtrak and ACE at San Jose.
There are bus connections from most of the stations on this line to most other places in Silicon Valley.
From Palo Alto railway station you need to exit to Alma Street, then take Hamilton Avenue for two blocks, turn right into Emerson Street and the pub is on the right.