New Brews in Classic Settings

You know the beer world is moving fast when one of the pioneering restaurant chains in the American brewing revolution changes things up.

Since its inaugural unit opening in 1988 and in all 35 current brewery restaurants, Gordon Biersch has been built on adhering closely to traditional German brewing rules and ingredients and producing classic styles - marzen, hefeweizen, helles and others. But Tom Dargen, director of brewing operations for Biersch (a division of CraftWorks Restaurants), told me recently that while they are getting away from their hallmark brewing style, the chain has decided to open things up quite a bit.

“The biggest trend is people want to know what’s next, new and special,” he says, and so these days, brewers at each location have more leeway to choose and experiment.

In general, chain-wide guests are finding more Belgian style beers (including a Belgian IPA) and American ales, and the chain has switched from serving at all times five German styles and a seasonal rotating brew to offering two of their classic German beers while rotating in and out as many as ten or more other beers at one time, depending on the capacity of each unit - the older units can’t handle so many types at one time through their draft lines.

Sour beers, barrel-aged ales, more rare classic styles like the astringent Gose style beer - all these are likely one time or another to show up these days at one or more of the Biersch brewery restaurants.

Dargen says these changes are driven by the desire among beer consumers for more complex flavors, which had moved the chain to bring in more guest beers in the past, and they still offer some locally produced and popular beers. “But now that we’re doing our own IPAs, Belgian tripels and things like that, we try to make as many different styles as we can to satisfy the demand. We’re not trying to please everyone all the time but we are trying to find a way to serve them styles they want.”

“It’s a whole different world than when I started out 25 or so years ago. It’s invigorating to allow our brewers to have much more influence on what we make, more creativity and engagement in a much wider process.” And it’s what consumers want from their beer selection today: more.

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