Gardens plentiful of beer — or are they? | @ Large

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gardens plentiful of beer — or are they?

Posted By on Tue, Jun 14, 2011 at 2:04 PM

With the warmer months fully upon us, outdoor drinking is in full swing across the city. Porches, patios and backyards are once again key in late night and weekend revelry. But now there’s another option, as not one but two beer gardens have opened in Charlotte this spring.

I stopped by both one night to see what they had to offer and how they compared to one another.

The first stop was The Biergarten at Pavilion at EpiCentre. The Biergarten is most notable for its rooftop location, offering a decent view of the city. The bar itself is situated in the center of the patio and is closed off by large glass partitions that open up like garage doors, offering the traditional open air beer garden experience.

Those patrons who don’t wish to belly up to the bar can enjoy a game of ping-pong or cornhole, or have a seat at one of the many picnic tables – another beer garden staple. A large tent offers protection from the elements for nights when the weather decides not to cooperate.

The Biergarten is also the new home for Alive After Five, so there’s also an impressive stage set up on the patio to house the bands and performers for that weekly Uptown after-work event.

Unfortunately, the beer selection leaves something to be desired. It’s almost as if they thought of everything you need to make a good beer garden except the most crucial ingredient: lots of good beer. Instead you get about a half dozen imports and a half dozen domestics on tap, none of which are particularly difficult to find at your average bar or club.

The overall atmosphere makes The Biergarten worth checking out, though, and it’s a nice change of pace from the average EpiCentre spot. But hard-core beer lovers may want to look elsewhere.

One place they may want to look is at VBGB, the other newly opened beer garden at the NC Music Factory. They offer a much wider variety, with dozens of craft beers, each poured into a mug, stein or glass appropriate to the beverage and set down before you on a frost rail to keep it cold.

The shots were less impressive. They were a bit on the small side and seemed haphazardly made. Bar food is also available, although the kitchen was closed by the time I got there.

While VBGB got the beer part down, the garden part seemed to be missing. They have a large patio, but it’s sectioned off from the inside, which looks like a standard bar. They do have large metal sliding doors but they were kept closed, unlike at The Biergarten.

The patio features picnic tables, cornhole and a projector utilizing the side of the building as its screen. What will surely catch your eye first, however, is the famous JFG Coffee sign, which now sits proudly atop the VBGB roof. It’s a bit strange to see a coffee sign on a beer garden’s roof, but it does offer this new establishment a tie into a piece of Charlotte history. It also makes VBGB hard to miss.

While neither The Biergarten nor VBGB is doing everything right, they are both just starting out and there’s still a chance for them to work the kinks out.

If nothing else, they have provided a couple of new options for the beer-loving Charlottean to indulge their taste buds in the open air. Perhaps as time goes by, they will push one another to greater heights.

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