And Has a Good Time to Boot…
by Melissa LaScaleia
There are Gordon Biersch restaurants located all across the U.S. and as far away as Taiwan. Each restaurant has an extended community that all the others are a part of— and they extend that reach beyond their walls, creating a community-oriented presence in each neighborhood they inhabit.
Gordon Biersch releases new beers seasonally throughout the year, all brewed in-house by the brewmaster at their on-site brewery. Each release is cause for a celebration called a tapping party; the proceeds from which benefit a designated charity. Every party is unique in its theme; and it’s up to the management team to decide who receives the proceeds, as there are countless patrons and groups who would like to be selected for the honor.
Jessi Leeson-McClure, Gordon Biersch’s general manager for the Market Common location, wanted to focus on supporting smaller, and if possible, local charities for her parties.
“We get together as a management group and speak about the options, and figure out what the best one is in that moment,” she says.
This year, they divided donations amongst Grand Strand Miracle Leagues, Red Cross, Children’s Recovery Center, Making Strides, Military Officers Association of America, and Neighbor to Neighbor.
Major tapping parties occur predictably throughout the year, when they showcase what’s on-tap for the season— but they also host various minor ones that can change year- to-year.
That’s the case for this past October’s minor tapping party, in which the restaurant is teaming up with eight other Gordon Biersch locations along the east coast to support Making Strides, in Washington, D.C., a charity which funds breast cancer research.
“This is our first time having a tapping party in October,” Jessi says. “And as soon as we heard it was an option, we all felt strongly that we wanted to do something to be a part of this cause.”
Some of their regular tapping parties pay homage to ancient festivals from around the world. Oktoberfest, held in September, is a German-themed party, complete with those who dress up in traditional German outfits. Maibock is held in April, and the theme varies every year— sometimes it’s a summer theme, and sometimes a take-me-out-to-the-ball-game theme. Summerbrau, in June, is always the same— a luau and pig roast, which Jessi describes in one word— “awesome.” And in December, they host Winterbock, which has a winter white-out theme bedecking the restaurant.
“When we have a tapping party, each person’s donation goes directly to the charity, we don’t take any proceeds,” Jessi says. “We donate the food and the beer for the event, and patrons get the new beer on tap and access to the buffet. People come to support a great cause and to be a part of our culture and the community.”
Halfway through the party, the managers and the brewmaster all get together and stand on top of the bar to announce the new brew release, the charity being benefitted, and whatever other conviviality is most befitting the moment. In keeping with German tradition, the brewmaster takes the first drink of the season’s beer from a big glass boot, and passes it around until it’s empty. Surprisingly, no one has ever dropped the boot.
“Although, it was stolen once,” Jessi says. “But amazingly, we found it without a scratch behind a bush, around the corner from here.”
Good news for all.
Several years ago, a group of regular patrons, who live in the Highland Meadow Community off of Farrow Parkway, decided to add their own celebration to the December mix. They took the initiative to collect toys for underprivileged children and fill the mostly empty box that Toys for Tots dropped off to the restaurant. One day, they surprised Gordon Biersch staff by descending upon them like Santa Claus and his elves, their festively decorated golf carts filled to over-brimming with toys as they paraded from their community to the Market Common.
Dressed as carolers and passing out candy canes, they delivered their gifts to Gordon Biersch and filled twelve giant Toys for Tots boxes for them. Last year they increased the amount; and this year, they want to make it even bigger.
Come out to the Market Common to see the parade this year on Saturday, December 3— they usually arrive in the morning before noon, bedecked in holiday attire and full of merriment.
“They are a great group of people who wanted to do a great thing,” says Jessi. “It just snowballed from there.”
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