Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bay Street Biergarten Review! (Short Version Is: It's Awesome)

Having spent a little bit of time as a cook at the old East Bay version of the Boathouse, I had some high hopes for the beautiful structure that is now the current Bay Street Biergarten. The architecture on the inside is amazing, with beautiful, high wooden ceilings; built with long, wooden beams gracing the interior roof structure. The inside, for a beer geek like me was awesome. Taps, bar tables, wood, etc. graced as far as the eye could see. The place was packed on this Saturday afternoon with large parties abound, enjoying their “tap tables” (more in a second). I was greeted warmly by a hostess and quickly seated outside, in my desired location. You could sit at the bar, inside at a tap table, in a seated outdoor table, or a large communal outdoor table. It has a BIG feeling to it, one which fit the liter sized beers and large communal tables.

The basic concept of the restaurant would be encapsulated in the slogan gracing the shirts of the staff, “Bavarian Inspired, Southern Made”. I laughed out loud when I saw it, but I loved it as I sat at the place for about two hours this past Saturday. The theme of a German biergarten was clearly evident, but I knew I was on East Bay Street on the peninsula of Charleston. The menu reflected this inspiration both on the beverage side and the food side.

The place consists of a large interior with a separate outside bar/patio area. The inside is a sight to behold. The large hologram “Bier” sign emanates from the back of the venue. It oversees a seating area full of “tap tables”. This idea is amazing. For a party of 6 or more, one can buy filling rights to 3 taps for the duration of a meal. One can pay, by the ounce for all three beers tapped at said table. In addition, one can purchase a beer card allowing you to walk to a couple of their wall-based tap systems to purchase beer by the ounce. They have several beer experts on hand to assist you in this process. The beers were clearly described with thorough and professional looking cards hovering next to each tap. I had to ask a couple people there before I fully understood the idea, but they seemed to have a grasp on the concept. I must say people were certainly enjoying the benefits of the tap tables, as I saw a lot of energetic conversation about various taps, the inherent beer, and other various; yet related topics. I thought it was an ingenious idea, one which could capture the hearts of beer geeks and frat boys a like.

We decided to sit outside and enjoy the 75 degree Charleston November weather. We went with a group of 6 plus a 2 year old. The rounds were plentiful and many. I found the service to fit the “Charleston” mold. Super friendly and very attentive service. I started off with a Widmer Brothers Hopside Down. I was very cool with the 10 oz. portion for three bucks. Great, balanced IPA. I enjoyed every last drop. I looked around and saw the multitudes chugging liters of beer, so in the spirit of the place I ordered a liter of Westbrook’s One Claw Ale. I love this Rye Ale. Such a great take on the style and a refreshing beer to drink any time of year. Very well balanced beer, with nice hints of malt, with a kick of aromatic hops. While we sipped on the first round of beers we enjoyed some of their mussels. They were on par with expectations. We followed this up with their “Freaky Tater Tots”, which featured a gouda morney sauce. I truly liked the flavor (anyone who has been to the Rec Room knows how good tater tots can be : ) so I was feeling the dish, although it was a large portion and a bit soggy by the time we were able to eat them. While I ate my tots, I made my way to a Coast Milk Stout. Wow!! Such a treat to have while the sun set. It was a warm, turning cool Charleston evening and Coast’s take on this beer hit the spot. I had the 10 oz. format and wished I had tried a larger glass (my wife was glad I didn’t!)

Our friends tried a couple of cocktails, and seemed to enjoy them. One was infused with several bitters and a nice bourbon. The only “entrĂ©e” we tried was a Reuben. I had extremely high hopes, being a German beerhouse, etc. The dish, served with collard greens, was solid, although a bit pricey at 12 bucks. The flavor profile of the meat, sauerkraut, etc. was right on, and tasted like a Chicago delicatessen with a strong southern flair. It was not super heavy, like some versions I’ve tried, but I thought the taste was spot on and super enjoyable. I was drinking a Stone Cali-Belique at the moment and personally thought the two paired together extremely well. (but what do I know???)

Overall the ambiance earned an “A”. The service and experience earned a solid “B+”, while the food earned a reputable “B”. We think the place has a ton of space and is a great addition to the downtown scene. I think it a GREAT place to take friends and/or groups to, especially people with an urge to sample a lot of cool beers.

Review By Brandon Bobart

Other pics from the day:



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