When Mike Finley considered opening German-style drinking hall Bierhaus in Oakland, he thought it would be a second location and not a relocation for the family business. Finley first opened a restaurant called Steak Out seven years ago with father Richard Finley and sister Terri Guichet at 383 Castro Street, Mountain View, a spot “that people called cursed,” he joked. In 2014, the restaurant changed its name to Bierhaus.
“We turned it into a really good business,” he said. “We were well-loved, we were very popular, one of the most popular places in Mountain View.”
But a long-running feud with the landlord forced Finley to close the Mountain View business at the end of September. Almost immediately after it closed, property owner Khoe Tran filed paperwork to open his own beer hall called Drafthaus in the same location. Plans for the doppelganger gastropub have stalled, at least temporarily, according to Finley, who is currently pursuing litigation against his former landlord.
“They evicted us when the lease states they will renegotiate with us at market rate if they build a new building,” Finley said via text. “Since they have submitted plans to the city to tear down and rebuild we are alleging they broke the terms of the lease.”
Mountain View’s loss is Oakland’s gain. Temescal may be rich in California craft-style brewpubs, but the German-style gastropub is a first for the neighborhood. Bierhaus has a heavy emphasis on imported beers, many of which have brewing pedigrees stretching back centuries. Bierhaus offers a vollbier made by the Benedictine monks at the Andechs monastery brewery, founded in 1455, and a marzen and a doppelbock from the Weltenburg Abbey brewery in Bavaria, founded in 1050.
“You can taste the history and complexity in those beers,” said Finley.
With a menu filled with words like vollbier, marzen and doppelbock (the three are all styles of lager), the beer selection at Bierhaus may send many reaching for a German-English dictionary. Finley did that deliberately. “We’re focusing on the style of the beer, and then bringing in a brewer that makes that style,” he said.
Finley sees his role as not just to get people to enjoy good beer but to enjoy good beer culture and history. “I think you can shake a stick at all the places offering the same beers,” he said. “We’d like to introduce people to more European-style beers.” (But for those who root for the home team, Finley does make space for a few local brews, including an IPA from Oakland’s Ghost Town, another from Almanac in Alameda, and a cider from Ace in Sebastopol).
Although the emphasis is on beer, Bierhaus does offer a substantial menu of food. Just note, on Mondays, the menu is limited to beer and pretzels only. But during the rest of the week, the offerings expand. You’ll find both Teutonic fare, including sausage sandwiches, schnitzel plates with spaetzle, currywurst and fries, flammkuchen (German pizza), as well some non-Germanic bar bites, like a Bierhaus burger, a green goddess salad and a variety of flatbreads. Bierhaus offers brunch, 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays.
The flagship may have closed, but Finley believes Oakland is a good new home for the business, and hopes to eventually expand Bierhaus to other cities. “I believe that all communities can use quite a few of these,” he said.
“I want Bierhaus to be a community destination,” said Finley. “Your beer drinking home away from home.”
That said, Bierhaus may face stiff competition in its new location amid Temescal’s thriving beer scene. The property is across the street from Hog’s Apothecary and next to Clove & Hoof, both of which offer draft beer and food. “I think those are both high quality establishments,” said Finley. “And I’d be happy if everybody hung out at all three.”
Aside from those immediate neighbors, Bierhaus is around the corner from Bar 41, and within shouting distance of Temescal Brewing, Rose’s Taproom and Arthur Mac’s Tap & Snack. Finley believes that opening another beer garden in a neighborhood already full of great beer might benefit all.
“To me, it’s a rising tide,” he said. “It lifts all boats.”
Bierhaus is open 5-10 p.m., Monday (beer and pretzels only); 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday to Thursday; 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday; and 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday.