Landmark Biergarten

Landmark Biergarten's bier-braised brats. (photo courtesy station eats / May 8, 2013)

Landmark Biergarten at Station Eats

3 Landmark Square, Stamford,

The Beer Garden @ Harbor Point

15 Harbor Point Road, Stamford, (203) 316-9044,

The Old Heidelberg

55 Stony Hill Road, Bethel, (203) 797-1860,


The beer garden trend of New York City has landed in Stamford, CT. Two, new big beer gardens are opening. Meanwhile, Fairfield County's original Bavarian beer garden at the Old Heidelberg in Bethel, refreshed under new ownership, celebrates its 10th anniversary May 17-19.

While the Old Heidelberg is a traditional cozy German country inn, with a beer garden that draws families and expatriates, the newest breweries are contemporary, urban, casual places sure to draw young professionals of Stamford's glass towers. The Beer Garden @ Harbor Point, opening May 8, will have 300 seats on the waterfront, across the creek from Crab Shack and Dolche Cubano. A free water taxi service will run customers back and forth. The property also has 30 boat slips.

The Beer Garden will serve 24 beers on tap, including seasonal specials from Connecticut breweries like Thomas Hooker, Two Roads and Half Full, and regional brews from Dogfish Head, Captain Lawrence and Curious Traveler. "We'll get some very special stuff on tap," says co-owner Johnny Heil.

Heil was inspired by the beer gardens of Germany when he opened Local, a large beer garden in New York City. "Craft beers are the fastest growing segment of the industry," he says. "I'm a huge fan of brewers like Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head. They're entrepreneurs. And I love the creative side of it." Heil also owns Lucy Cantina Royale in New York City, a Tex-Mex place. Both restaurants have large outdoor roof gardens. "I'm an old hand at that kind of set up," Heil says, "I'm a big fan of al fresco dining and drinking."

The Beer Garden will have two levels. Inside, the look will be industrial-rustic, polished cement floors, walls lined with reclaimed pallets (from the Harbor View site), and copper chairs and bar stools.

The Beer Garden's kitchen will be built next winter. In the meantime, food will be provided by two gourmet food trucks. The rotating schedule will include Maddy's Food Truck (Caribbean), Melt Mobile (grilled cheese), Skinny Pines (pizza baked in a wood-burning oven) and Lobster Craft (Connecticut lobster rolls). The food trucks will be part of the feeling of "creating a community," Heil says.

Downtown Stamford's new beer garden, Landmark Biergarten at Station Eats, opening the week of May 13, is on a terrace overlooking the Palace Theatre. It doubles the size of the 100-seat restaurant. With communal benches, umbrellas, strings of overhead lights and a bar hewn by a local craftsman, it will be a place to unwind while tasting a rotating selection of international and domestic brews. Crisp German lagers and cloudy, clove-scented wheat beer. American craft beers, hoppy Dogfish Head 60-minute Indian Pale Ale (IPA). Stamford-brewed Half Full Bright Ale. (Tall boys of PBR and Coors Lite won't be forgotten here.)

Station Eat's specialty is organic fast-food that doesn't cost too much. "It's fast, casual, for under $10," says co-owner Seth Leifer. The burgers and hot dogs are made from grass-fed beef. The potatoes for the fries and vegetables for the salads and fixings are organically raised. Each month, co-owner Nick Type creates a special burger and dog of the month. Leifer says the Korea Burger, topped with kimchi, a spicy sauerkraut-like dish, was the best ever. Station Eat's menu will be supplemented by specials, like Type's contemporary versions of bratwurst braised in sauerkraut and beer.

Leifer, who lives in New York City, was inspired by the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden, a 100-year-old institution in Queens, and contemporary places like the Biergarten at the Standard High Line in New York City's meatpacking district. In Stamford, Landmark's terrace sparked ideas. "We thought it would be great for a beer garden," Leifer says. Despite its downtown location, which is likely to draw professionals from the surrounding offices, he sees Landmark Beirgarten at Station Eats as appealing to "a wide demographic" and plans to include games like coin toss or ping pong.

In Bethel, the Old Heidelberg's beer garden is a quieter scene — even when the three-piece oompah band plays on weekends. The atmosphere in the gravel-lined garden, shaded by a big, old maple, is relaxing and pastoral — there's view of a long field and a tree line in the distance. There's an area for children to play.

The beer menu is strictly German (with a few Austrian) brews, 40 rotating seasonal drafts and bottles. The new owner Alex Tucker bought the restaurant two years ago and has delved further into German beers. During his yearly trips to Bavaria, he has discovered craft brews, like Apostelbräu, to feature at the Old Heidelberg. "In some ways, the American craft beer movement has made German brewers step up their game," he says. "They're brewing in untraditional ways, using different yeast strains and importing hops from other regions, like New Zealand." Germans have traditionally followed the Reinheitsgebot, the 1516 Bavarian act that established ingredients and recipe for beer.

The Old Heidelberg's most lauded dish is roasted pork shank, Bavarian Schweinshaxe, a big, succulent mass of soft meat, encased in golden-brown crackling skin. Tucker has wisely kept it on the menu. And he's added a pork shank appetizer (about a quarter of the size of the entrée). Going in the opposite direction, he's added a veal shank that's so large it's named the Koenig's plat (king's plate). Wrapped in bacon and slowly simmered in dark beer, it's a dish for sharing. The bratwurst plate, with a choice of 12 sausages imported from Germany, is also popular. The Old Heidelberg keeps the celebratory feeling with a schedule of festivals, like the recent Heidelberg Festival, featuring foods and beers of the restaurant's namesake.