When Steins Beer Garden opened at 895 Villa St. in downtown Mountain View in March 2013, it quickly became a destination for craft beer and elevated comfort food. With the recent celebration of its first anniversary, I spoke with owner Ted Kim about the experience so far, and what comes next for Steins.
Q: Tell me about your initial vision for Steins.
Kim: I spent six months traveling Europe, visiting beer halls and gardens and absorbing all I could of European beer culture. The biggest takeaway from Germany was the experience. The communal tables, simple dishes and large, sweeping halls/gardens added a different element to the beer-drinking experience. We brought a bit of that to Steins.
Q: Now that you’ve celebrated your first anniversary, how does Steins compare to that vision?
Kim: It’s surpassed all expectations. We’ve been able to have a more profound impact not just in the Mountain View area, but also in the Bay Area as a whole and even more prominently in the craft beer industry. Customers are constantly coming in to see what new beers we have on tap.
Q: You’re currently working with several distributors to provide a lineup of 30-plus beers on tap. How do you decide what to include?
Kim: It’s definitely a challenge. I’m big on offering variety and different styles. I also like to offer selections the average beer drinker may not see at most places. I’m also very keen on finding fantastic new breweries and showcasing their beer. I need to be proud of what we have on tap at all times, and we do our best to ensure that there is something unique and interesting.
Q: All of your bartenders undergo extensive training on beer ingredients and styles. How does this shape their interactions with customers?
Kim: It’s incredibly important. Our staff needs to know what they’re serving in order to best serve our guests. Offering suggestions and finding that perfect beer for a customer is one of our big goals, and having that knowledge to pull from is important. Currently, all our bartenders are Level 1 Cicerone certified. The bigger goal is to have our entire serving staff Level 1 as well and eventually move on to Level 2.
Q: Chef Colby Reade is attentive to food/beer pairings as well as incorporating beer into his recipes. What’s your favorite beer-inspired dish to come out of the Steins kitchen so far?
Kim: The Chocolate Stout Root Beer Float. We make our own chocolate stout ice cream using High Water Campfire Stout – which tastes like s’mores – and add Devil’s Canyon root beer. It’s been a big customer favorite.
Q: Tell me about the weekend brunch menu you’ve just launched. What’s your favorite beer to enjoy with brunch?
Kim: We’ve always wanted to do a brunch here at Steins. I’ve always thought brunch would be a great thing to enjoy outside in the beer garden. It’s taken us almost a full year to implement it, but I believe we have a very good product. My favorite beer with brunch would have to be the Tap It IPA. It’s light and crisp with just the right amount of bitterness to really cut through the richness in a lot of our dishes.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share about Steins?
Kim: It’s been an amazing first year. We’ve done so much more than we anticipated doing when we set off on this journey. Among the more memorable are hosting Mountain View’s first Oktoberfest, winning the Chamber of Commerce’s Outstanding New Leader award and meeting all the different craft beer enthusiasts and beer groups in the Bay Area. We’re excited about what’s coming in year two.
Derek Wolfgram is chief communications officer for the Silicon Valley Sudzers Homebrew Club, which meets the first Friday of each month at a home in Los Altos Hills and welcomes both new and experienced beer enthusiasts. For more information, visit sudzers.org.