The original Gordon Biersch brewpub opened at 640 Emerson St. in Palo Alto in 1998 and closed in 2015. After a complete redesign of the physical space and menu, the new Dan Gordon’s Beer BBQ & Whiskey debuted in March.
The food menu features traditional barbecued meats such as 18-hour brisket, Coleman Ranch smoked pork shoulder and St. Louis ribs, as well as numerous fresh and inventive share plates and starters like grilled Happy Boy Farms baby gems and kale, smoked brisket poutine and smoked salmon rillettes.
The beer menu includes seven classic Gordon Biersch brews, Wildcide Cider and four new beers brewed on site. Each of the brews is very well balanced, and each is very true to the classic style it represents.
Gordon Biersch brews
• Jagov Light is a bright, light golden lager with a dense, long-lasting white head. Forgoing the corn and rice adjuncts favored by big American lager brewers, Jagov Light is brewed with 100 percent malted barley. The aroma highlights moderate herbal noble hops and just a touch of sweet grainy malt. Delicate hop bitterness leads to a crisp, dry, refreshing finish, and the beer exhibits far more flavor and complexity than one might expect from a light lager of only 4 percent ABV.
• Dan Gordon’s Pale Ale pours a bright orange-copper color with a moussy ecru head and features bright grapefruit zest and white-pepper Cascade hop aromas with hints of toffee and caramel malt. Lightly bitter, with a clean malt flavor and a spicy hop bitterness that lingers into the dry, crisp finish, the Pale Ale is also quite refreshing.
• The IPA is a light golden color, with a long-lasting foamy white head and classic West Coast hop aromas of citrus rind and pine. Although the beer has a slightly fuller body than expected, it remains crisp, with malt sweetness that is quite subdued and far less prominent than many other full-bodied IPAs. The flavor is well balanced but definitely focused on the pine and citrus hops, and a moderately high, long-lasting piney bitterness remains through the finish.
• Translucent reddish-brown with ruby highlights and a dense, long-lasting beige head, the Brown Ale features aromas of toasted malt and subtle cocoa, with a malt-focused flavor similarly focused on toast and cocoa. Earthy hops come into play in the long, slightly bitter finish.
While all of the beers are enjoyable, I found the Brown Ale to be the runaway favorite when it comes to food pairing. The toasted malts and dark richness complemented the rich, deeply smoky flavor of the ribs, which had absorbed the goodness of the oak smoker all the way down to the bone. The meat was firm and extremely tender, with a thin crust of delicately spicy dry rub emphasizing black pepper. It was served with just a drizzle of the classic house-made barbecue sauce that perfectly balanced honey sweetness with tomato and vinegar acidity.
Garnished by zesty, quick-pickled carrots, onions and jalapenos and a soft, fresh roll, all of the meats I tried were excellent, including spicy hot-link sausage, savory pulled pork and flavorful brisket burnt ends – but the ribs were the star of the show. I didn’t even try the house-made Carolina mustard or habanero barbecue sauces because the meats were so enjoyable on their own.
If you happen to save room (and you should), the light cocoa notes of the Brown Ale also enhance both of the regular dessert choices: Oreo Cookie & Peanut Butter Pie Jar and banana pudding.
Derek Wolfgram is a Certified Beer Judge through the Beer Judge Certification Program and an officer of the Silicon Valley Sudzers homebrew club. For more information, visit sudzers.org.