Gordon Biersch, San Diego

This week’s business trip took me to San Diego and I opted for the sampler at Gordon Biersch.

Golden Export – a light lager with heft. Bitter without being hoppy and a crisp finish with just a hint of a barley aftertaste. A great everyday beer and nice to see a chain brewery not give in to the less-than-100 calorie crowd.

Hefeweizen – no real scent to give it away. Unfiltered with a banana aftertaste. Seriously. A lot of banana in the aftertaste but not in a bad way. It’s different from most hefes. No heavy aftertaste or build up on the tongue which is surprising for an unfiltered. This would be an easy beer to drink all night in temperate Southern California and they get props for not serving it with a piece of fruit.

Czech Pilsner – It’s about here that I noticed that none of them have a smell. Maybe it was my lingering cold or the overwhelming scent of garlic fries in the restaurant. This beer reminded me of Grolsch more than Pilsner Urquell. Made with Saaz hops, it’s a good example of how hops ‘spice’ a beer. Not like pepper but seasoned. This has the sour aftertaste you’re used to with Stella or Heineken which distinguishes this brew from the Golden.

Blonde Bock – It’s weird to see a lighter colored bock but it doesn’t deceive the taste or texture. Many misjudge a bock because of its color and mistake it for a ‘dark’ beer and therefore unapproached by many, so I like that the color makes it approachable. If treble were malts and bass were hops then this beer opted to turn both dials up. It’s balanced like a light beer but I think it would be slightly overpowering or off-putting for a typical light beer drinker. At 7% the alcohol taste is very present with the sour aftertaste typical in Belgian ales. The alcohol notes are more present than is probably necessary and it seems as if it’s done on purpose to cater to the same crowd that wants to taste the alcohol in their mixed drink. I’ve had higher abvs that were smoother. The waiter even called it their party beer and I assume it’s popular as a means to an end. Nothing else special here besides the color but it’s nice to see a blonde bock. This was my least favorite of an otherwise impressive line up.

Marzen – As a prejudice, this is my fav style and this is their most popular beer. This is the first one where the bitter hops are the star of the show but the texture is a bit too light for my taste. Meaning watery. To be such a fan of this style, I am not a fan of this particular version. Its color makes light beer drinkers think they are connoisseurs. Keep in mind that I did follow it after the alcohol notes of the Blonde Bock. My suggestion for future tasters would be to switch the two in the line up. I’m positive I would rate this beer differently if sampled prior to the Bock. So, add to the standard tasting rules of ‘light to dark’ and ‘malt to hop’ the fact that ‘strong alcohol notes’ trumps all and should go near the end of the sampler.

Schwarzbier – Black beer. I love how many options we have for this style now – 1554, Shiner, Asahi – this has a bit too much coffee for my taste though and I bet the bartender tries to satisfy stout drinkers with a shot of this. It’s a bit of a hybrid between a stout and a black but it does neither parent justice and I don’t think it should be classified as a black beer at all (try it next to the others listed to see what I mean – this one would stand out and seem out-of-place). It’s too effervescent and the coffee just seems to exploit the stereotype of dark color and coffee connotations. Did I say the bock was my least favorite? I think I just changed my mind.

Winter Seasonal (WinterBock) – I was here the night they tapped the keg and this is the star of the show. 8% abv but you’d never know it. This is how you balance a bock. Everything harmonizes. The waiter called it when he said it was a blend of the Blonde Bock and the Schwarzbier. So much so that I would dare say you could mix those two and enjoy this anytime of year. No wonder the place was packed to sample this in a mug-style glass. If you only order one beer, make it this one but I don’t know if you can appreciate it fully without opening your palette first. The inexperienced beer drinker probably wouldn’t get through an entire glass. The alcohol notes build up with each sip similar to a well spiced pepper hot dish.

To eat, I had the $20 lobster and shrimp mac. It was good. No spice like the mac and cheese at Karl Strauss. This one was the traditional creamy variety.


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