Brewers, as the old joke goes, are actually glorified janitors.
About 95% of the process of making a good batch of beer involves cleaning. But there are even more roles wrapped up in the job: It's part chemist, part chef and even part celebrity.
Up until recently, though, landscape architect was typically not on the list of responsibilities. But as the pandemic keeps tossing curveballs, brewers—like bar and restaurant owners—continue to adapt.
Baerlic Brewing was among that inspired group of entrepreneurs that looked at the cracked, gray parking lot behind its building and somehow saw a socially distanced party. Although it took several days of cleanup and construction, the crew managed to turn the 6,000-square-foot space into the Bavarian-inspired drinking lawn the owners envisioned—despite the fact that the only original vegetation were weeds filling in the cracks in the pavement.
"We really wanted to create a beer garden," says Baerlic's co-founder, Ben Parsons, "so we had to bring in the green."
The verdant accent they were searching for came in the form of a 700-square-foot faux foliage backdrop affixed with the words "Super Secret Beer Club." The pine- and chartreuse-hued teardrop leaves were scored online and carpet one entire side of the patio.
From a distance, the shrub—meant to conceal a decidedly less attractive chain-link fence—looks like the real deal. It's only when you get up close and rub one of the leaves between your thumb and forefinger that the toughness of the plastic gives away its identity as a counterfeit. You'll still use the big green wall as the setting for a selfie shoot, and if you happen to snag a table next to the artificial topiary, it's easy to imagine you're drinking in an opulent estate's hedge maze.
The only circuitous routes you actually navigate lead to and from the ordering counter and are marked by rope. From the rolled-up garage door, a service table decorated in potted plants and a hand sanitizer pump are where you can purchase classics like Baerlic's pre-Prohibition lager Dad Beer or, while in season, a fresh hop version of the IPA Punk Rock Time. That space, now equipped with a cooler filled with cans to go and wallpapered in empty Weyermann Malt bags, is a new addition to the brewery, meant to house new tanks and cold storage. Parsons acquired the extra room during what initially seemed to be unfortunate timing, but he later discovered that it put Baerlic in position to launch the patio.
"We signed the lease in a whopping 10 days or so before getting shut down," he says. "So we are literally in the middle of an expansion that we'll turn back on at some point, hopefully. For now, it's a bar."
From that bar, you walk your pint to one of the 16 picnic tables borrowed from the brewery's Barely Pod location on Northeast Halsey Street. String lights continue to suggest a garden setting, and a soundtrack that's heavy on instrumental funk lends a laid-back vibe.
Once seated and sipping, consider yourself a member of that Super Secret Beer Club that Baerlic shouts about on the foliage. And it's OK to share those selfies on social media—unlike another well-known club, this one encourages you to talk about it.
Number of tables: 16
Space between tables: At least 8 feet
Additional safety measures: "Red Light" and "Green Light" laminated cards at each table so customers know what has been sanitized and where to sit; contactless ordering, with a 20% automatic gratuity added to all orders to avoid the need to touch a screen for tipping; roped lanes to and from the service stand with floor markers; compostable cups.
Peak hours: 3-7 pm
GO: Baerlic Brewing Super Secret Beer Club, 1020 SE Grant St., 503-477-9418, baerlicbrewing.com. 2-8 pm daily.