It’s a Biergarten…It’s Complicated

By Glenn DeLuca


We haven’t seen our friend down in Ocean for a while so give him a buzz and agree
on a Thursday afternoon. He’s been waiting for us to come down to check out the
new (opened this past February) Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten. Cool I’m up for
something new and I love brats so there’s great potential for some good food with
some good brews.  

I check them out online. They have about six US beers and about 25 imports;
sounds good to me.  It’s an old store/factory/warehouse right on Lake Wesley (which
looks more like a canal) that they remodeled but left a lot of the “character”.  There’
s a large first floor with mostly long wooden tables where, during peak hours, they
will sit groups with others they don’t know to encourage a communal atmosphere.  
There’s also an even larger roof area with tables and another bar, so in the nice
weather you can enjoy the outdoors, look out on the Lake and further down to the
shoreline, not to mention gaze across the Lake at the dry town of Ocean Grove on
the other side; which as I read further is similar to our neighbor Mt Tabor, where you
don’t own your land, okay why do I want to live in a town like this…sorry off topic.

It’s a beautiful and hot afternoon, we get there about 2:00; not a lot of people, hey it’
s Thursday afternoon, look around and grab a table by the window. There don’t
appear to be any servers, so I head up to the bar.  I want to try a few different crafts,
so order the Capt. Lawrence Kolsch. Bartender tells me there out of the CL Kolsch,
but have a great German Kolsch, so fine we’ll take that. Glasses are Radebeger
Pilsner, so I look at the chalkboard and I don’t see a German kolsch, but definitely
the Radeberger pilsner. After I’m home I see online they have a German kolsch
listed, maybe I missed it or they’re out, but if no kolsch just tell me that or maybe pay
more attention to the customer than the girl that you’re flirting with at the bar.  Okay
four beers, I can either pay up or leave my credit card, not thrilled about that but we
plan on having more than one, so here’s my card. Beer is good, but we’re thinking
we want something to eat, but there’s no table service (also meaning no food)
downstairs till 4:00, so we have to go upstairs, but I can’t transfer my bill, I have to
close it. Okay fine close it.

So we go upstairs, definitely spacious, lots of tables with Radeberger umbrellas, it’s
sunny and warm, but a little windy so umbrellas aren’t open.  We grab a table and
check out the menu on a small chalkboard, about ten items, a few wursts, corn on
the cob, salad and a Bavarian Bretzel.  Waitress finally shows up and tells us all
items but the pretzel, er Bretzel are $5. You have to buy a token from her and go up
and get it yourself, except the Bretzel which is $11 and she brings. So I’m scratching
my head  thinking why do I need to buy a token from you, why not just bring it, so I
ask “Why so complicated?” to which my tattooed server immediately replies “It’s not,
you’re making it complicated”. OKAY well not expecting that. I have never and will
never espouse the thought that the “customer is always right” as in many cases they’
re not or being a jerk or trying to get something for nothing, but I also don’t think
servers s/b rude to customers. So fine we buy some tokens and one Bretzel. You
take the tokens up to the counter, get what you want and bring it back. So maybe
the thought process is to keep the servers out of this and they have less to do;
maybe that’s how it was done years ago, maybe she could have just explained it to
me, maybe she doesn’t know why they do it that way either…

Food is delicious; wurst is great; the Bavarian Bretzel is hot out of the oven, huge
and tastes like fresh baked bread out of an oven, WOW! As I think about it the
token idea isn’t that crazy; you can go up and get what you want when you want and
if you take home a token or two, good luck remembering it next time you’re in.
Ready for another beer I want the Troeg’s Pale Ale and I’m informed that ran out;
okay how about the Oskar Blues Pinner Throwback, that also ran out; but we have
the blah blah. So I ask well you ran out of Capt. Lawrence, Troeg’s and Oskar Blues
so there s/b three other beers on line, right…wrong, we have blah blah and the
explanation I get is they change beers every month. Okay so if you run out of
something before the end of the month, that line remains empty…really. They do
carry approximately thirty on draft so maybe waiting for a delivery; I could
understand that explanation. Well I want a beer so the Sixpoint Bengali Tiger IPA s/b
a fine choice.

The sky is starting to change and we’re feeling a few drops. It starts to come down
so the others head down, while I head to the cash register to get the check from our
waitress, because you can’t transfer it down. I’m getting used to this and I won’t melt
in the rain.

We grab the same table. It’s more crowded, since the upstairs folks came down and
it’s after 4:00 so there are servers around. I need a beer so I decide to go up to the
bar. Bartender informs me they have table service, but I’m empty and he’s standing
in front of me so why wait. I go through the same routine I did upstairs, so the CL
and Troeg’s and Oskar Blues ran out so what’s replaced them and I get the same
one beer…seriously. So I ask him what the deal is, since I’m still having trouble
understanding why you would leave lines empty and he looks at me and says “it’s
complicated”. There’s that word again. So I look at him and tell him, “I came out to
drink some beer this afternoon, I’m really not interested in complicated.” So I
ordered something; can’t even remember what, leave my credit card and head back
to the table.

While I was at the bar a tattooed, spiked red hair server brings menus and informs
my group in a somewhat surly tone that they have table service. Not sure if that’s
the standard greeting or she saw me head up to the bar. So we check out the
menus; lots of interesting choices. I had a wurst upstairs, so not inclined to have a
dinner at this point, but I see beer steamed mussels, which sounds delicious. Oh
right, I need to go up and cash out my credit card at the bar as we’ll be on table

There are a bunch of servers around and other tables are getting served and no
one has come up to us; not even to introduce and/or check to see if we want
anything. (I know I may get forgetful as I get older…hum did I shower this morning…)
We go up to the server who gave us menus, assuming we’re her table, and let her
know we’d like to order. The server from the next table, who’s been there probably
five times already, comes over. Really, you’ve been right next to us that often but
hadn’t stopped by.  We order food and some imports, as I really don’t want to go
through the complicated routine again. Everyone agrees the food is delicious.

No question it’s a great location, although you do need to be lucky and find a
metered spot on the street. There is a pay station right outside the front entrance so
if you need to add more time that’s convenient. The food we had was delicious! Not
sure what’s going on with the beers on tap. I’ve been online a few times since and
the CL, Troeg’s and Oskar Blues are still listed so if I go down today will they have
them? Again if you’re waiting for a delivery just tell me that, it’s pretty simple to
understand. Now let’s also be clear about something; I don’t care if servers have
tats or colored hair or spiked hair or nose rings; they need to follow the two C’s; they
need to be CLEAN and COURTEOUS, because that is what a customer deserves
and expects.

I did get a flashback to Durgin-Park in Faneuil Hall Boston, a landmark restaurant
with long communal tables, where, at least years ago when I went, the wait staff were
encouraged to be surly with the customers. That was part of their shtick and back
then sometimes the really surly ones got the better tip as we were there for the
entertainment as well as the food.

With great location, food and beer there will be plenty of late summer and fall days
to enjoy the Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten, I hope your visit is a little less

Glenn DeLuca writes about beer and culture of drinking. He may
be reached by writing

***   ***   ***
Glenn DeLuca
Outtakes from a life of beer. presents
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