The Bier Garden in Encinitas has 32 taps, including from a few notable breweries outside San Diego. Photo by Bill Vanderburgh
Columns Craft Beer in North County

Craft Beer in North County: Bier Garden has cool history, even cooler beer list

Here’s a phrase I’ve never seen on a restaurant website before: “Originally built in the shape of a T-bone steak in the late 40’s….” Old-timers might know, I’m talking about The Bier Garden of Encinitas.

Located at 641 S Coast Highway, only half a mile from Moonlight Beach (even closer to The Coast News offices, and next door to Culture Brewing Encinitas), The Bier Garden retains some of the historic character of its building but adds a beachy, bohemian twist. Most of the walls on the two long sides are roll-up windows, which brings a lot of light and air into the space. The interior, including exposed original beams and a whimsical floor-to-ceiling tree sculpture made from twigs, is decorated mostly in pale woods. There is a long bar with more than a dozen seats, plenty of indoor tables, and another patio with more bar seating out back.

Most of the time, those big, open windows are a good thing. They make it feel like you are outside, even if you are at one of the counters facing the street rather than out on the roomy patio next to the sidewalk. Good, that is, unless about a hundred motorcycles go by (I’m serious, it was at least that many), in which case the whole restaurant is unable to converse for about five minutes and for the next few minutes afterwards everyone is choking on motorcycle exhaust.

But such traffic oddities are no doubt rare and they certainly aren’t the fault of The Bier Garden. Staff and management were welcoming, accommodating, and patient even though it was an early Saturday afternoon and the place was completely full. Vacationers and locals alike come in droves to enjoy the delicious brunch and lovely atmosphere. Many members of the crowd were apparently hoping to recover from Friday night’s overindulgences — or were getting a head start on Saturday’s. The beer, wine, and cocktail menus are all extensive.

My wife, Sarah, and I were invited by The Bier Garden to come try out their offerings. The food menu has plenty of variety but it isn’t overwhelming. We both found something we liked — a burger for Sarah and a Reuben for me, though I nearly ordered one of the flatbreads. Everything was well prepared and tasty. Most entrees range from $12 to $18. The only drawback to the whole experience is that they are one of “those restaurants” that adds a 3.5% (taxable!) surcharge “for increasing operations and labor costs” to your bill, a kind of political protest I find counter to the spirit of the “service” industry. Just ask a fair price, don’t surprise people with an underhanded upcharge.

We were really there, though, for the beer. They have an impressive 32 taps, and whoever curates the beer list really knows local craft beer. Although the list had plenty of IPAs, both hazy and not, there were browns, reds, lagers, Kolschs, pale ales, and even a hard seltzer. A handful of the beers available were from notable breweries from outside San Diego, which ads interest for beer explorers. Even without the good food and atmosphere, a beer list like that would be enough to keep me coming back.

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