Normally, I like writing about the fun, happy and positive aspects of beer, booze and bingeing. Adult beverages, be they cocktails, wine, beer or booze are often crafted and created with such care as to impart joy and relaxation. It’s nice to talk about all the sweetness and light that goes with them. But I’m here to tell you, my Brothers and Sisters in Boozery, that an ill-wind blows and chicanery is afoot!
In this era of craft beer and craft cocktails, there are dastardly entities that seek to capitalize on the good name of “craft”. Of course, everyone knows about the mass-marketing monsters that espouse triple-hop additions that you can’t taste, mountain cold filtering, which don’t matter and “top shelf” flavor that is perhaps top shelf in price only. I’ll trust that, if you’re into good drinks and if you’re reading this blog, you’re savvy enough to spot these lies right off the bat.
What put my panties in a knot are the local businesses that are trying to cash in on The Movement. Recently, a friend’s band was playing at Middle Country Beer Garden. Hearing that it was a biergarten got my hopes up. The fact that they didn’t spell it biergarten should have been enough of a clue.
Granted, there are a few respectable beer gardens that don’t spell it that way either (see later) but the plain, generic nature of the sign made a strong prediction for mediocrity. The fact that the place was a former, uh…. I don’t even know what you would call it, but that should have been a clue too. It had a mechanical bull. Know what I mean?
The bar is a cavernous space with a center island bar and smaller bar off the stage. According to my friend, the owner allegedly dumped a bunch of money into the joint but all the guy did was put up a few more flat screen TVs and picnic tables in order to badly emulate the communal feel of a true biergarten. But the whole damned thing is indoors. And it’s dark. As a music venue, it’s probably fine. I can understand wanting to reinvent yourself and draw in a crowd but trying to create a biergarten in a place like this is bound to fail. I’m no Jon Taffer but this place could use some serious Bar Rescue.
There’s no food either. Decent biergartens are supposed to serve traditional Bavarian fare. I’m not expecting Wiener schnitzel or roast duck but at least have some friggin’pretzels! The Bohemian Hall
Beer Garden in Queens, at least, makes some effort and is a decent time. There is outdoor seating and, during World Cup Soccer, several massive outdoor screens that broadcast select matches. I’m sure they’ve got the Olympics playing now. (And they also have a stage; an outdoor one.)
Though the beer selection is somewhat limited for craft beer geeks, the Bohemian Hall has fine choices that include brews from the Czech Republic, Belgium and Germany. Middle Island? Not so much. They have Magic Hat’s Hefe, Pilsner Urquell, Hoegarden and Sam’s Blackberry Wit. What? That’s a lot, you say? Don’t be fooled by their expansive beer menu. Even casual inspection reveals that most of their offerings are simply macro-lagers and a generous handful of locals. But (and here’s another thing!), half of the beers on that menu weren’t even available!
At the center bar, they had Guinness, two Shock Tops (Ooh!), a couple of Blue Point offerings, Stella, and Port Jeff Brewing Black IPA and Long Ireland Celtic. Though I appreciate the local taps, none of these make the distinction that you’re drinking in a beer garden. As many of you know, I have no problems drinking in dive bars, hotel lobbies, airport lounges or in the quiet solitude of my living room. But it really rankles me when a place bills itself as something it’s not.
If they had called themselves “Middle Island Bands and Beer”, it would have been what I was expecting and I would have been totally happy. As it is, I felt like they hit me with the ol’ bait and switch. I feel like they’re trawling, trying to hook the good folks of the craft community in order to make a buck.
If my friend’s band wasn’t playing, I would have just turned around and walked out. It’s fine that you want to make money. It’s cool that you’ve got bands and it’s great that you’re bringing in some decent beer. But don’t tell us you’re something you’re not. If you want to see a band, this place is fine. But if you’re looking for an actual beer garden, try someplace else- any place else. If any of you know of good ones closer than Queens, hit me up. Danke!