Bethesda’s new Tyber Bierhaus has 21 Belgian, German and Czech beers on draft, communal tables for dining on mussels and plenty of TVs for March Madness. It’s the third restaurant from the team behind St. Arnold’s Mussel Bar, which has locations in Dupont Circle and Cleveland Park.
I took a former Bethesda resident to last night’s opening, and as soon as she saw where we were headed, she announced, "I don’t know why you’re going to even bother reviewing this place. It’s not going to be around long."
She had a point: Tyber Bierhaus occupies an odd space on Old Georgetown Road between Wisconsin and Woodmont avenues. There are office buildings nearby, but not a ton of foot traffic. After decade-long occupant Uncle Jed’s Roadhouse closed in 2006, it’s been Gator Alley Cocktail Bar and Grill (2007-2008), Thimian Thai (2008-2009) and a Hooters wannabe called the Box (opened 2011, closed early 2013).
Can a European beer hall break the curse? Tyber is going for an indoor beer-garden vibe, with rows of picnic-style tables in the dining room and long communal wooden tables near the bar. Twenty gleaming silver taps hang over a curving bar, and chalkboards list the current selections. Beer banners and metal brewery signs hang on the manila-colored walls, and shelves are decorated with bundles of wheat. It looks like it was done on a budget, but it’s just a beer hall, right?
Then you see the prices: Many of the beers cost $11 for a 16.9-ounce glass, or barely more than a pint. And for the most part, we’re talking about Paulaner, Staropramen or Weihenstephaner Hefeweissen – not rare IPAs or super-strong Belgian ales. (The hoppy Belgian Hommel Ale is $8 for one-third of a liter, or around 10 ounces, which is fair, and you’ll pay $10 for a similarly sized glass of Rodenbach sour.) You’re much better off getting Oktoberfest-style liter mugs of most beers: $15 for 33.8 ounces of Paulaner lager or $11 for half of that? It’s bizarre, and a complete no-brainer.
The menu is similar to the other St. Arnold’s locations, with fragrant bowls of mussels cooked in Thai curry sauce or in white wine with leeks, bacon and potato ($18 each). The sandwiches are less European, stuffed with meatloaf ($11), pork schnitzel ($12) or even grilled cheese ($10).
Beer in Montgomery County is expensive, thanks to the county marking-up alcohol. I get that. And bartenders told me last night that a happy hour is in the works soon. I hope some of the St. Arnold’s specials will migrate north -- $10 for a bowl of mussels and frites on a Monday night would be fantastic – but for right now, Oktoberfest-style boozing is the way to go.
Tyber Bierhaus, 7525 Old Georgetown Rd., Bethesda. 240-821-6830.