Words by Diane Catanzaro and Chris Jones
Photos by Diane Catanzaro
Picture this: You’re sitting at a long table with thirteen new best friends in a well-lit room, the ceiling festooned with blue and white checkerboard banners from the Paulaner Brewery in Munchen (Munich), Germany. Each of you holds a half-liter of beer, and all are in animated conversation about current events, beer, sports, beer, politics, beer, weekend plans … and beer. The convivial conversations always come back to beer. Unlike politics, we can mostly agree that beer is good. Those who feel differently are contentedly sipping wine, spirits, or schnapps. Prost! Most of you are chasing your beer down with fork-fulls of sausages (both meat and vegetarian), sauerkraut and German potato salad. A server walks by with a giant pretzel hanging from a display. Goodness, you needed this quality “down-time” to decompress, grab a bite and enjoy some Deutsche hospitality.
So, where are you, Munich? Bamberg? Berlin? Bremen? Nein, you’re at the intersection of West Great Neck Road and Shore Drive in Virginia Beach, VA – you’re in the new Bier Garden Festhaus, and that, friends, is sehr gut!
The Bier Garden Festhaus in Virginia Beach is younger schwester (sister) restaurant to the venerable Bier Garden, the beloved family-operated restaurant on High Street in downtown Portsmouth. The original Bier Garden is near and dear to our hearts, and the new Festhaus is going to spread the love to the lively Shore Drive corridor. While the original Bier Garden is a cozy warren of small rooms, the Festhaus is one large, airy 5000-square-foot dining hall with high ceilings, blonde wood, and a partition separating the bar area from the main room. Looking at the bannered kirche-like (church-like) ceiling, the Festhaus feels like a beer hall… fun. In addition to the large festival table, there are a variety of seating options in the main room, in a raised seating area on one side, and at the long bar framed by colorful Aventinus and Ayinger banners and an attractive blond-brick wall reminiscent of the original Bier Garden’s exposed brick walls but with a lighter feel.
The draft list at the recent opening featured 21 beers. The ever-popular Hacker-Pschorr Hefe Weisse and Ettaler Munich Dunkel, at 5.5 and 5% ABV appeal to those who like their beers quaffable. The Bahnhof Gasthaus Leipzer Gose, at 4.5%, is one of the rare opportunities you will have to taste a real German gose on tap without traveling to Leipzig or Goslar. Lots of craft brewers attempt a “kettle-soured” gose style these days, but this is the real deal. In the mood for something stronger? Might want to line up a Lyft to get you home afterwards, because the Dogfish head 120 Minute IPA is 18% ABV, and the Dansk Viking Blood Mead is 19%. Many of the draft offerings will rotate but you will find a selection of beers on tap that you won’t find elsewhere in our region.
The bottle list is the most extensive collection of German and Belgian beers at any restaurant or bar in Virginia Beach. You’ll find five Rodenbachs, four offerings from our friends at Alvinne, fifteen hefeweizens, five dunkelweizens, and six weizenbocks! Speaking of weizenbock, you never forget your first Aventinus, and for many of us that was at the Bier Garden. Aventinus and his seductive but dangerous big brother Eisbock (at 12% ABV) are ready to help you party. We counted sixteen tripels, seven dubbels, and five authentic gueuzes from Oud Beersel, Girardin, and Hanssens. There are many additional exciting beers to choose from but we’ll let you discover them for yourself.
Trying to find a beer for your friend who claims to not like beer? Belgian babes like The Duchesse de Bourgogne, the Duchesse Cherry, and her little brother Vichtenaar might rock their world. If they have an affinity for sweet and fruity cocktails, direct that friend to one of Lindemans’ “lambic style” beers in the peach, cherry, raspberry, apple, or black currant format. At 2.5 to 4% ABV these are perfect for brunch, dessert, and those who prefer a light, fruity cocktail to most beers. Want a regular beer that tastes like beer and doesn’t knock you upside the head? Reissdorf Kolsch is the benchmark kolsch, light, smooth, and incredibly drinkable. Or, choose one of the many fine pilsners from Germany, the Czech Republic, and American craft breweries like Victory’s Prima Pils that will fit your mood perfectly.
At the original Bier Garden, Mom and Dad Osfolk — Tony and Lore — and their offspring Stefanie and Kevin led us through the “dark times,” when finding great beer was a challenge. They introduced many of us to an amazing assortment of delicious beers that we could not find elsewhere. The Bier Garden Festhaus will absolutely light the way for those at the Beach to discover or dig deeper into the wide range of German and Belgian beers that are the “standards” that inspired the craft beer revolution in the United States. With the Festhaus, Kevin and Stefanie are branching out while carrying the family tradition into the future as an independent, co-owned business.
Of course, beer and food love each other, and the Bier Garden’s menu has not been tampered with. You’ll find German sausages, schnitzels, rouladen, and a variety of palate pleasing sandwiches. One innovation that made us very happy – a vegetarian charcuterie platter. German and Italian style veggie sausages, grilled properly to a tasty crust but not overdone, several cheeses, an array of pickled vegetables, spicy mustard, and crackers. We were very happy with this noncarne offering. The Festhaus has a couple of salad additions that, combined with the vegetarian spaetzel, veggie burger, and side dishes makes it possible for a veg-head to find a decent nosh here.
The Bier Garden Festhaus is located at 2272 West Great Neck Road at the corner of Shore Drive, in Virginia Beach, VA. If you’re headed there for dinner, we recommend making reservations; call them, (757) 481-2319.