This is the latest in our series of reviews of local bars, clubs and other venues along the Grand Strand through the eyes of a music fan. Tuesday evening we stopped by Gordon Biersch at The Market Common which was hosting a tapping party for its seasonal microbrew called Winterbock.
Before I start my review of Gordon Biersch as a musical venue, let me first state that I love Gordon Biersch as a restaurant. Between the Garlic Fries, the microbrews and a fairly extensive menu of unique dishes, there's a lot to like. It can be a bit pricier than some places in the area, but it's usually worth what you spend and because of the slightly-more-upscale feel of The Market Common it tends to draw a different crowd than your average Myrtle Beach dive bar.
I attended my first tapping party, an event where the brewpub unveils its seasonal brew with food and drink specials, in the spring. During that event, which had been dubbed a "Tapping and Tweeting" party, I enjoyed not only the fun of eating and interacting on Twitter but also about five too many Maibock seasonals. This led to a somewhat blurry evening and a tough Wednesday morning, but it also taught me an important lesson: Gordon Biersch beer is strong!
So, in attending Tuesday night's Winterbock tapping I was smart enough to drink in moderation, opting for a single glass of the heavy, bourbon-tinted brew which tasted great in small doses, but which I couldn't have imagined downing multiples of.
But enough about the beer.
The bar itself was set up quite nicely for the event. There was a wintery feel throughout the place, as the windows were tinted with fake snow, snowflakes and streamers hung from the ceiling and some of the waitresses were dressed in outfits fit for a ski chalet.
At the prompting of organizers, many of the attendees were decked out in white, including an elderly gentleman who took the cake with a entirely white outfit, complete with ball cap, suspenders and long white socks.
As a fundraising event for the Coastal Uncorked Food and Wine Festival in May, organizers were soliciting donations which entitled folks to a small buffet of Garlic Fries, Chicken Tenders, a pot pie and some hearty Winterbock chili. In addition, the "chalet girls" were serving up small cups of the seasonal brew out of a wooden keg for $1 each.
The main event of the evening, as is the custom with every tapping party, was when Biersch's brewmaster and some of the other folks who had a hand in making the beer address the crowd. Speaking from atop the bar, each of the four folks standing took a moment to thank the crowd and speak a little about the beer.
"This style is a Dopplebock style of beer, Traditionally it was brewed by Bavarian monks during their fasts, and this was their only form of sustenance. It's about 7.8% alcohol and drinks really smooth so you don't notice it and has a little hint of a nutty flavor," they said.
From there, a toast went out to the crowd and after the four folks each sipped from the large boot-shaped glass of Winterbock, the container then made its rounds through the crowd. While this was a fun communal gesture that added to the night's special atmosphere, it still had me wondering a little how many lips touched the boot's rim before it was emptied.
Shortly after the ceremony local cover band Deville Street Parking took to the "stage," a small nook at the far end of the bar that usually holds a large table. While this area seems suitable for a DJ stand or acoustic duo, it was fairly cramped for a four-piece band and their equipment. It seemed the bar could have helped out by scooting the nearest table back a few feet, but instead there were a few folks basically sitting on top of the band.
While the boys buzzed through some really nice takes on songs such as Zac Brown's "Chicken Fried" and Sublime's "Badfish" it was obvious that the music was basically just background noise.
Playing a nice mix of tunes from laid back (Ben Harper, Jack Johnson) to country (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) to rock (Pearl Jam) the band did well to live up to their reputation as one of the area's best cover acts, but at best I'd judge the crowd reaction as polite. Some of the folks up close clapped between tracks, but most just went about their meals and drinks.
I guess it'd be easy to say that this bar isn't really a place for music fans, but I think that'd be missing the point. If you want to go out for a night full of music, then no, this isn't where you want spend it. But if you want to some meet friends for drinks and dinner before you head out on the town, it's not a bad place to be especially if they happen to have some music playing.
And if you do have a chance to attend the next tapping party, its definitely something worth trying...music or not.