Importing old tradition

European-style pub plants roots in Boulder

An interior wall of the Bohemian Biergarten
Photo by Erica Lindberg

Boulder loves beer — we get it. With more than 20 microbreweries putting down roots in Boulder County, where general attitude favors local products, Boulderites seem to love their hoppy, heavy, high-in-alcohol-content brews.

But have we forgotten about something in the hype of hops? Not all good beer comes from Colorado microbreweries, says Zdenek Srom, owner of the new Bohemian Biergarten on 13th Street between Pearl and Spruce.

“The Bohemian Biergarten will be the traditional European drinking establishment,” says Srom.

The Bohemian Biergarten is not a restaurant, it’s a pub, says Srom, and traditional pilsners will dominate the taps. Long community tables made from recycled 100-year-old barn wood line the inside; the back room will be the biergarten, complete with an open grill serving sausages and homemade pretzels. The biergarten will also offer two local brews, one of which will come from neighboring brewery Shine Restaurant and Gathering Place.

The Bohemian Biergarten, expected to open by April 1 at 2017 13th St., pending approval of its permits, is tapping into a not-so-known niche in Boulder. High-quality import beers are not as easy to come by in Boulder as they were 10 years ago, according to Wendy Ingram, manager at Conor O’Neill’s.

“The craft beer thing is a huge interest, and we do support our local breweries, but there are very few places that pour Guinness or Boddingtons,” says Ingram. “We do really well with those beers because we’re the only ones that have them, and now you can go to the biergarten for the imported Czech, German and Austrian beers.”

Juxtaposed to typical mountain beer culture, the Bohemian Biergarten is going back in time to the Austrian- Hungarian monarchy that ruled Germany, Czech Republic, Austria and Hungary following the end of World War I. Hand-painted images of Bohemian crests and antique tiles craft the atmosphere, and a map of the region hangs on the wall as an ode to the history Srom says he hopes to revive.

“Biergarten means that you have big tables, community tables, you are drinking beer in steins with pretzels and sausages, and that is what we’re going to do,” says Srom. “We’re going back in time to the era when beer gardens started; this is how beer is supposed to be drank.”

In the Czech Republic, where Srom was born and raised, the pub is where community happens.

“All the business is done in the pub. You want to sign a deal, buy a house, it’s done in the pub,” he says.

Extending beyond the pub, Srom hopes to help revive the 13th Street community by teaming up with Shine Restaurant and Gathering Place and Conor O’Neill’s to host a 13th Street party the 13th day of every month. Cultivating a community on 13th Street was inevitable, since Srom and his staff have been regulars at Conor O’Neill’s for nearly a decade, says Ingram.

“We’ve known these guys for years, so there is already a cooperative spirit between us,” she says. “We’re always looking to bring more people down to 13th Street. … It’s really great for us to have another place with a similar sort of idea and similar customers.”

Conor O’Neill’s, Shine and the Bohemian Biergarten all have small- to medium-sized venue spaces to facilitate a pub crawl with entertainment.

“I’ve approached Conor O’Neill’s and Shine and want to do a pub crawl with music,” says Srom. “Hopefully even the coffee shops and other businesses will want to pitch in.”

None of the three establishments seem to be worried about competition from one another, and they have high hopes that the biergarten will help bring more traffic to the area.

“We’re thrilled that they’re opening there. We found that the more stuff there is to do on 13th Street, the better we do. Once someone crosses Broadway and heads towards the west end of Pearl, they don’t come back. Hopefully people will want to be on 13th Street more,” says Ingram.

The building the biergarten now calls home has had a tumultuous history. It was previously home to Shug’s Low Country Cuisine, b.side Lounge and Trilogy Wine Bar. Its revolvingdoor past is of no concern to Srom, he says. The back room, now being used predominantly as the biergarten, was more commonly used as a venue space and is what other businesses did wrong, according to Srom.

“I think it was always unfortunately a failure for this space. They couldn’t really fill it up and make money off the back only using it as a venue,” says Srom.

The biergarten will offer live entertainment in the back, but patrons will still be able to sit at the community tables, which can fold up and be stored in the wall during larger shows.

“We are definitely going to have music, but maybe not the whole fivepiece band with electric guitar, rehearsing since 5 [p.m.] set-up. The back will function as biergarten, at least in the beginning,” says Srom.

Saying goodbye to the past failures of the space, Srom and his crew completely gutted the inside of the building to start over. Crafting an authentic atmosphere directed most of the design, and many of the materials used to rebuild the inside were reclaimed, he says; the wood-paneled floors were made from tree trunks destroyed by pine beetles. Srom compares his design to “steampunk,” but with his own industrial twist.

“It’s a 100-year-old building and we wanted to bring that history back,” Srom says. “It’s such a cool place, but the way they had it before, it just didn’t really go. The idea was to gut this place and bring a new life to it.”