2011 Gordon Biersch Sommerbrau Tapping Party Recap

If you’re a fan of this blog, you’ll know that I’ve been a fan of the Gordon Biersch tapping parties whenever they have them. Gordon Biersch is my local, it’s the craft brewery I drank at before I even knew what craft beer was. All I knew at the time was that it was different that many of the other beers (marco lagers) I had been drinking at the time.

So I was a little bummed when I realized that I would be missing the Sommerbrau tapping party at the San Jose Gordon Biersch. I was bummed not because I’d be missing out on trying out their latest seasonal, or because I’d be missing out on hanging out with my friends, but because I’d be missing out on an opportunity to introduce to you, dear reader, their new brewmaster.

Dan Satterthwaite, the dread-locked brewmaster who was a staple at many of the Gordon Biersch tapping parties, is no longer working at the San Jose brewpub. Assistant brewer Matt Redpath held down the fort until their new brewer was able to transition in. The new brewmaster, Jeff (sorry, I don’t know his last name), transitioned in from Gordon Biersch Hawaii in early June. I thought this would’ve been the perfect time to do a brief interview and introduce the newest member to the south bay craft beer brewing community.

The lovely GB ladies pouring Sommerbrau.

I don't have a recent photo of Dan Satterthwaite or of the new brewmaster Jeff, so you'll have to settle for this pretty young thing serving us Sommerbrau.

Alas, it was not to be as we were in San Diego for the 33rd AHA National Homebrew Conference.

Luckily for me, there happened to be a Gordon Biersch within walking distance from where we were staying. Mrs. BetterBeerBlog and I hoofed it over for the tasting party where we got to try their latest seasonal.

Sommerbrau, Gordon Biersch Brewery

Close up of Sommerbrau.

Close up of Sommerbrau.

Sommerbrau pours out a clear, pale gold color with a long-lasting white head. The aroma is of a floral hop character with pils malt notes and a slight sulfury character. The flavor is of pils malt with a balanced and earthy hop flavor and medium hop bitterness that lasts only a short time on the palette. Sommerbrau finishes dry, is medium-low/medium bodied with a spritzy carbonation.

Lasting head on the Sommerbrau.

Lasting head on the Sommerbrau.

Described as a kölsch on the Gordon Biersch website, I thought Sommerbrau was a bit hoppier than many of the kölsch I’ve tasted in the past. Whenever I think of kölsch, I always expect something more delicate and light lager-like. But I spoke with a homebrewer several months ago who was in Cologne, Germany where the kölsch style originates from and he mentioned that the kölsch he tasted there reminded him more of a traditional pilsner as opposed to what is described in the BJCP style guidelines. If he is in fact correct, then Sommerbrau tasted like an accurate representation to me as I thought it was a pilsner.

Gordon Biersch San Diego

After attending soo many tapping parties at the San Jose Gordon Biersch, going to the San Diego brewpub felt like… cheating. Despite the Gordon Biersch brewpubs’ best efforts to remain consistent, the San Diego location just felt different.

Quite a packed house for the Sommerbrau tapping.

Quite a packed house for the Sommerbrau tapping.

Obviously it is different. Their beer garden is significantly smaller than the San Jose location. Because of the large windows, the San Diego location feels more open and airy. And while I didn’t get a chance to really take a look at their brewhouse, they appear to have more brewing capacity. Again, I didn’t confirm this, just basing things from what I saw, and even then, it was at a distance. I just wished I had taken more photos of the restaurant as it really is good looking.

Accoustic music act.

Accoustic music act.

Just as in the San Jose tapping parties, the San Diego location was serving free appetizers for a limited time. Mrs. BetterBeerBlog and I managed to score a cup of their garlic fries. Also like the San Jose location, the brewpub booked a musical act to entertain us during the tapping party. While I enjoyed the artist’s voice, I feel he got lost in the situation and that most of the people attending wouldn’t have cared if he was there or if they played tracks off an iPod. The life of a working musician is not an easy one but you gotta take the gigs when they come I suppose.

The San Diego brewpub is a great looking restaurant located in the centrally located Mission Valley area of San Diego, making it minutes from many local attractions. Increasing their chances of success, the brewpub is not too far from Hotel Circle, which as the name implies, is a road loaded with hotels hopefully filled with people in the mood for what Gordon Biersch is selling. The restaurant was pretty busy the night we went and the tasting garden was packed with folks but I think a good number of them were there for a fundraiser that was running concurrently with the Sommerbrau release party.

Last Call

As much as we enjoyed our time in San Diego, all good things must come to an end. “There’s no place like home”, at least that’s what Dorothy says in the Wizard of Oz. And she’s right; few things beat being able to sleep in your own bed, drive your own car or even drink at your local brewpub. Gordon Biersch would be the last craft beer experience we would have before driving home from our NHC trip. We had a fun time at the Sommerbrau tapping party but being there only made us miss home, and all the mundane that comes along with it, even more.

Needless to say, it’s good to be back in the ‘Yay Eh-ree-yah.


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