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Make a great meal taste even better with a Gordon Biersch lager. Photo by C. Eneri | IST.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

RYAN SMITH, Beer Editor of THE NIBBLE, brews, drinks and writes about craft beer in New York City.

 

 

August 2008

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Beer

The Gordon Biersch Brewing Company

Great Lager Beer From A Pioneer In American Craft Brewing

Page 1: Introduction to Gordon Biersch

 

 

CAPSULE REPORT: Do you know the way to San Jose? That’s where the Gordon Biersch Brewing Company produces more than 3 million bottles per year, making it one of the largest craft breweries in California. Beer Editor Ryan Smith sits down for a tasting with co-founder Dan Gordon, one of the pioneers of the American craft brewing unit. His foregone conclusion: These lagers are must-trys. This is Page 1 of a three-page article. To visit the other pages, click on the black links below.

Introduction

Dan Gordon, co-founder of and Head Brewer at the Gordon Biersch Brewing Company, has just poured me a glass of Marzen, a German-style lager the color of burnished copper with a rich, tan head of foam. I bring the half-full glass to my face and begin the ritual of the Serious Beer Taster: I bury my nose in it, inhaling the sweet, malty aroma. I take a sip. I look pensively toward the ceiling, furrow my brow and nod approvingly. 

Gordon laughs. “There will be no sipping here,” he says. 

Gordon fills his own glass and empties it in a single gulp. He opens another bottle and pours it into my glass. I drain it before the foam has time to settle, eager to put that whole sniff-and-sip episode behind us. Before I know it, my glass is full again—and as the foam rises on my fresh glass of Marzen, our whirlwind tasting tour begins. 

As we taste, we talk. We talk about the history of Gordon Biersch, and Gordon describes each of the company’s beer styles with the relaxed expertise of a man who has devoted his life to crafting fresh beers, using the finest ingredients. While we drink, Gordon surprises me with his refreshing approach to our tasting: Unlike most artisans for whom flavor is their trade, he does not tell me what I am supposed to taste. He’d rather let the beers speak for themselves. 

Gordon Biersch History

Dan Gordon brewed his first batch of Gordon Biersch beer nearly 20 years ago, making him one of the pioneers of American craft brewing. The company was founded in 1988, after California repealed a law to allow restaurants to brew beer on-site, thereby paving the way for the creation of the brewpub. In 1987, Gordon, fresh from earning a degree in brewing engineering from the uber-prestigious Technical University of Gordon Biersch BrewpubMunich in Weihenstephan, sat down with restaurateur and fellow California native Dean Biersch to map out a plan to bring freshly-brewed beer and freshly-prepared food together under one roof. One year later, the pair opened the first Gordon Biersch brewpub in Palo Alto, California, featuring a menu of appetizers, entrées, salads and sandwiches created to complement Gordon’s expertly-crafted beers. Gordon even created a barbecue sauce made with his Marzen that is still served today with burgers and their barbecued chicken pizza. Gordon also invented the restaurant’s wildly popular Garlic Fries.

Today, there are 27 Gordon Biersch brewpubs across 16 states and Washington, DC. In June, the company went international with the opening of a Gordon Biersch restaurant and brewery in Taiwan. All of the beers served at the restaurants are brewed on-site; beers are also brewed and bottled at a state-of-the-art brewing facility in San Jose, California. Gordon Biersch produces more than 3 million gallons of beer per year there, making it one of the largest craft breweries in California. 

But when you visit one of Gordon Biersch’s numerous brewpubs, you won’t find any explosively hoppy IPAs on tap, or extra-strength imperial stouts, or any of the other so-called extreme beers that have grown in popularity in recent years. At a time when many American craft breweries seem to be engaged in a perpetual battle to out-hop each other, Gordon Biersch remains an anomaly. The company brews only German-style lagers—solid, down-to-earth beers that are as unpretentious as the man who brews them. 

Continue To Page 2: Gordon Biersch Beer Reviews

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