As recently as this past weekend I was talking about the Gordon Biersch and Rock Bottom brewpub chains, how they have been successful in combining at least decent, sometimes very good beer with above average cuisine in an attractive environment. No, they’re not representative of the best in brewpubs, but they are safe and sure bets for a tasty lunch and a pretty good pint.
And now they are one.
In a deal that had been rumoured for a little while, Centerbridge Capital announced that the company has purchased both brands, including Rock Bottom’s Old Chicago chain, and will combine them into CraftWorks Restaurants & Breweries Inc. The combined company will boast almost 200 owned and franchised restaurants.
(As usual, Jay Brooks beat me to the punch on this story, so you can check out his blog for all the details of the deal.)
This is, to me, a pivotal deal because of the way each of these companies pushed the “brewery restaurant” concept over the usual “brewpub” designation, taking exquisite care in offering inventive, upscale casual fare over the normal brewpub regime of deep-fried and grilled. In this fashion, they elevated the dining with beer experience to something beyond the burger and nachos level. (Not that there’s anything wrong with burgers and nachos – I enjoy both greatly – but bar food is not what I want to eat every day and both Rock Bottom and Gordon Biersch offer attractive alternatives.)
Together, I think we can expect these operations to continue to expand the reach of craft beer, furthering the notion of combining fine beer with equally fine food. At least, that’s what they’ll do if they’re smart about it.