Beer, burgers and bratwurst.
Beer attracts men; beer plus good food, plus an agreeable outdoor patio that seats about 250, attracts women as well. During my visits, the ratio was about 60 to 40, men to women, not a bad ratio for any eat/drink place.
Rechristened in late November, Bierhaus joined the growing list of craft beer-centric eateries downtown -- Tied House, Steins and Buffalo, but only Steins and Bierhaus have beer gardens.
The term "beer garden" comes from the German biergarten first popularized in Bavaria. The exact history is a rather murky evolution that involved royal decrees, brewing regulations, hot summers, the state of the brewing art, big versus small brewers, picnickers versus restaurant-goers, and other complexities, and reaches back as far back as the mid-16th century.
In the United States, beer gardens were a product of the Gilded Age with opulent styles. According to historian Maureen Ogle, Schlitz Garden, built in 1879 by the Schlitz brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, featured a concert hall, dance pavilion, bowling alley and three-story pagoda that provided spectacular views of the city. Pabst and Miller also built gardens to promote their products.
Concepts cycle through cultures at intervals. Beer gardens were popular in the early 20th century, went extinct with Prohibition, were rejuvenated in the 1950s, and now, here they are again. Scholz Beer Garten in Austin, Texas, on the other hand, has been in continuous operation since 1866.
In this cycle, the food is as important as the drink. Top-notch chefs have helped beer gardens gain traction as destination eateries. At Bierhaus, owner Mike Finley brought in Aubree Arndt as executive chef. Arndt, a Scottsdale Culinary Institute grad, apprenticed in Colorado before cooking stints at several highly regarded Bay Area restaurants.
Bierhaus offers semi-fast food. Order at the indoor window and the food comes in about five minutes or so, just enough time to quaff some brew. Service staff takes over after that and supplies condiments, utensils and whatever else is needed. Food arrives on china; utensils are stainless steel. It's no picnic.
The burgers can compete with the best in the area. The beef is sourced from the sustainable Marin Sun Farms, is 100 percent grass-fed and pasture-raised and is ground in-house daily.
The fat Bierhaus burger ($12.50) came with white cheddar cheese, bacon, Russian dressing, caramelized onions, house-made pickles and whole-grain mustard. The moist beef had loads of flavor. It was perfect housed in a soft bun, baked to spec by Palo Alto Bakery.
The amped-up spicy burger ($11.50) with pepper jack cheese, poblano chilies, chipotle aioli, house-made pickles and whole-grain mustard rivaled the Bierhaus burger in quality and size. The meat was neither greasy nor chewy, nor did it have that grassy flavor that often accompanies pasture-grazed beef. Yet it was flavorsome and juicy.
No complaints about the mustard chicken sandwich ($12.50) with white cheddar, red onion, bacon, and avocado, on an Acme Bakery ciabatta roll. Ciabatta can be tough to chew if not fresh; this was fresh. The sandwich oozed cheese, the flavors and texture were luscious.
Add $3 for russet potato fries and a small green salad, or $3.50 for the sweet potato garlic fries and salad (the better bet, flavor-wise.).
Bierhaus also offers ground-lamb burgers (also from Marin Sun Farms), turkey burgers and veggie burgers. Building your own burger is another option with choices of sauces, cheeses and toppings.
There were also snacks for sharing. The crispy pork belly ($10) with roasted Brussels sprouts and walnut rutabaga puree revved the appetite. There were spĆ¤tzles and pretzels, bratwurst and a butcher platter featuring meats and cheeses.
The house-made bratwurst ($8.95) with braised red cabbage, German potato salad and whole-grain mustard was plump and meaty. Bratwurst does not have bold flavors and is more about what goes on the sausage than the sausage itself.
Beermeister and partner Scott Snyder assembled the beverage menu of beers, from lagers, ales, stouts, porters, ciders and meads to non-alcoholic options. There is even a gluten-free beer from Belgium. For those not quite with the beer program, there are basic red and white wine choices.
I confess to not being much of a beer drinker but with a great burger, a half liter of Danish Red Lager ($9), a warm summery evening and good company, I was ready to sing "In Heaven There is No Beer" -- in German, of course.
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383 Castro St.
Mon: 4 p.m.-9 p.m.
Tues-Sun: 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Reservations: 16 or more
Credit cards: yes
Parking: small lot plus city lots, street parking
Alcohol: beer and wine
Outdoor dining: patio
Private parties: yes
Noise level: moderate
Bathroom cleanliness: good
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