May 10, 2017

Bier Garten: Not much of Germany, but a brick from a break-in, a burger with olives and a bell with a past

Bier Garten
The hairy guy’s report:

The hairy guy, who lived in Germany for a time, once walked into a biergarten with an American friend. We sat at a long table filled with people and laughter amid a buzz of friendly, animated conversation. It was truly like being in a movie scene. But neither of us could figure out how to get a beer (or bier, in this case) and we eventually left.

Heading to the Bier Garten, on State Park Drive just north of Wilder, Harry tried to curtail his anticipation. After all, it was a Monday afternoon, not the likeliest time to find a boisterous crowd even at an Oktoberfest. And inside, the place was deserted, except for a couple of employees.

But we did find a healthy dose of gem├╝tlichkeit in the form of the owner’s mother, a delightful woman who lit the place up all by herself, even as she was polishing brass handrails.

Joan Schultz is her name (though she pronounces it like Joanne). “I like being around people,” she says, though that was obvious before she mentioned it. For years, Joan had been a saleswoman at Jacobson’s, a job that must have perfectly fit her personality.

Schultz is part of the Revette family, whose members have operated local bars and restaurants for years. And she explains how the Bier Garten got its name, despite having no resemblance to
Joan Schultz
an actual biergarten or much of a German atmosphere.

It seems that a son used to say, when heading to a bar, that he was going to the beer garden. So when this place (which had long been known as Hunter’s Inn) was purchased, it was only natural to use that as the name. And Joan’s late husband, Bill, who was of German heritage, insisted the German spelling was only proper. So there it is.

A traditional biergarten is an outdoor space with a bunch of long tables. The Bier Garten does have a good patio space with upscale metal beer signs and fine views of a gas station next door and a couple of busy roads. Inside, a lone stein and a couple other German items are on display behind the bar. But a visiting Berliner or Frankfurter would be excused from thinking “Mein Gott!” after expecting an actual biergarten.

But that’s all OK. The Bier Garten is an inviting place.

It has a big selection of bottled beers, along with nine drafts, including the not-so-German Guinness and Stella Artois. Prices get complicated. For instance, a 16-oz. can of Bud Light is $2;
Day bartender Heather
a pint (which is the same amount) on draft is $2.75. A larger, fancier glass is $3.75.

For happy hour, 5-7 p.m., all drinks are 50 cents off. There is a fully-stocked bar, but a request for a Manhattan got nowhere because there was no sweet vermouth. Maybe next time.

The house hamburger, dubbed the Bier Garten Burger, comes with green olives, lettuce, tomato and mayo for $6.99. It’s a good one (though you can get essentially the same burger, minus the olives, for $4.99). The menu also includes other assorted burgers (including one with buffalo meat for $8.99), nachos, burritos, tacos, various salads, deep fried stuff and sandwiches (but no frankfurter).

There are no pool tables or other games to play (including no state lottery games), except for trivia night on Wednesdays. A bunch of TVs show sports. The men’s restroom features ice in the
Sign on patio wall
urinals and walls that show alluring women on beer posters.

Behind the bar are assorted books, including a dictionary and a cookbook, and a piece of brick, on which is written: “The great heist of 1-30-10.” It seems that on that night, someone broke in by smashing the window on the side door. The brick, which was left behind, enshrines the incident with a smile.

But more significantly, along the rear wall is a prominent brass bell, which comes with a family story.     

The bell comes from the former Revette’s bar and restaurant (now Latitude 43 Grill & Bar) on North Henry. During World War II, it was rung five times on New Year’s Eve -- once for each of
The Revette family bell
the five Revette brothers who were in the military. The story is that on Dec. 31, 1944, the bell stopped after four rings and that it later turned out that one of the brothers had died in service.

When the bar was later sold, the bell was left behind. It eventually was rediscovered during a remodeling of the building for its reopening as Latitude 43, and returned to the family. The bell now sits in the Bier Garten, along with a framed photo of the five Revette brothers. It’s worth a look.

The Bier Garten is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday and closed Sunday.

See Doc’s report: An evening at the Bier Garten, the latest stop on the city's bar trivia circuit: Foiled (again) by millennials

  The particulars:
  Bier Garten
  8 State Park Drive

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