Friday, November 06, 2009

Greater than the sum of its parts

"Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness: on the happiness of others, on the improvement of mankind, even on some art or pursuit followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end. Aiming at something else, they find happiness by the way.

Ask yourself whether you are happy and you cease to be so."
- John Stuart Mill

Bookshelves are put to second best use at the new Gestalt Haus.

For the better part of the year, Fairfax locals had been teased with the promise of the impending opening of an outpost of San Francisco's Gestalt Haus, a venue that's but a smudge on the map in the SF beer scene but one that had the potential for making a big mark in our little burg. For months, the little ex-furniture shop on Bolinas Avenue sat unchanged, wrapped in the same secretive butcher paper and adorned with a coming soon sign that indicated, curiously, that despite the name, our local version of this popular little bike-friendly sausage-and-a-pint shack was, for better or worse, entirely unaffiliated with the SF joint of the same name.

Hofbräu dunkel is as dark as it gets here.

Then, back in September, thanks to messages out of the blue posted both on the mtbr.com forums and Twitter, we discovered they'd be hosting a quick and dirty open house. Turns out they'd gotten their liquor license squared away, yet were still tied up in logistical wrangling with the health department, so they'd planned on pouring a fresh keg of Hofbräu lager for suggested donations of $2 a cup while showing off their nearly completed digs. A ton of obvious work had gone into the place, most notably the 14' redwood bar at the center of the action, adorned with two gleaming towers promising some fine German draught choices and some equally fine local selections. The jukebox was loaded with the appropriate amount of Fugazi, the tables were set, the bike racks were loaded in, and things looked ready to go, simply waiting for the green light to finish the kitchen, and they'd be open in two weeks.

Two weeks passed quickly, without any news, and then it was October, and the still unchanged storefront facade caused me to wonder if I'd imagined the whole thing, riding down the hill through the late summer's breeze on that fine September evening, filling up on an honest pint of Munich's finest while gamely chatting up the obviously excited, if not slightly terrified, proprietors of our town's newest watering hole. And with the annual hubs n' hops Biketoberfest fast approaching, it was starting to become a bit of a concern, how the place would survive having missed, in its construction phase, all the year's big crowd draws, all the events that actually get folks to take that wrong, long left turn and wind up here on the dark side of Mt. Tamalpais, before the winter sets in and the rain cloud obscures our existence from the rest of the world until May.

And so, then, the day before the festival, something very strange happened.

They moved.

Apparently, things with the health department weren't progressing as quickly as the Haus folks would've liked, so when a nearby bookstore that happened to already have both a liquor license and a fully functioning kitchen abruptly closed its doors, Gestalt Haus just as abruptly moved in and made themselves at home. And with untold back-breaking hours building a plywood bar from scratch and moving the keg coolers and draught towers and picnic tables and glassware, they opened their doors just in time to see the largest parade of pedal-pushing beer drinkers of the season ride past, and stop in.

Half liter, liter, or keg: you choose.

And it may just be the "how much weight will this support?" feeling one experiences when bellying up to grab another Maß from the bar that lends the place's name such appropriateness. While the original's tagline - beer, brats, and bikes - was supposed to convey its gestalt, whole experience being greater than the sum of its parts, the gestalt at our own, potentially short-term bar (because they do still hold the lease up the street, and aren't pinning themselves down just yet) is quite different, and pretty endearing. The parts here - communal seating with a real Stammtisch feel, excellent, simple beers in proper glassware, great natural lighting and a quiet, relaxed vibe - add up to a gestalt that virtually defines "session". Not much worth commenting on by themselves, but put together, it adds up to something of real worth, and in a place that's better for it.

And did I mention they have bacon potato chips?

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3 Comments:

Blogger Good Burp said...

That looks like a place after my own heart. How lucky are you to be able to enjoy it.
Have fun.

9:43 PM  
Blogger Shawn, the Beer Philosopher said...

Session beer? No, utilitarian beer!

This post makes me happy. Well, not happy so much as producing a relative degree of pleasure.

7:38 AM  
Blogger Leigh said...

now that looks like my kind of place.

3:43 AM  

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