Upon walking into Buchner’s Bierhalle you are immediately transported back in time. A time of bootleggers roaming the streets on horseback and speakeasies that require a secret password or have a hidden back-alley entrance. Buchner’s, is easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it (or even if you are!). Located in the back of Blackhat Vapor Company in Murray Hill, this is quite literally a hidden gem. Once inside, it’s all too easy to forget that you are in Jacksonville. From the exposed brick walls to the uniquely retro wallpaper, this place is one of a kind.
Jason Grimes, the owner of Buchner’s Bierhalle, named his bierhalle after his great-great-grandmother Franziska Buchner. From the 1880s to the 1920s, Mrs. Buchner owned a bierhalle named The Lichtenhofer with her husband in Nürnberg. After his passing, she mostly ran the bierhalle by herself while also raising her son, Jason’s great-grandfather, George Buchner. You can find many of George’s photos adorning the walls at Buchner’s Bierhalle. Another interesting design aspect is the quirky wallpaper along the entrance wall. “I’ve always been a fan of the designer William Morris. All his stuff is great,” explains Jason. “That one is called Strawberry Thief. He was in his kitchen and he looked out of his garden window and there was a wood thrush stealing strawberries. That gave him the inspiration for the design. It was the first commercial use of indigo in wallpaper. It was a big risk since it was a more expensive process.”
Jason searched three and a half years for a space and had eight leases fall through, so when he found this location he felt like it was meant to be. Buchner’s Bierhalle took seven months to build, during which time his nephew and Chef, Nicholas Benedict, tested out many different recipes in the test kitchen. While there are many traditional German items on the menu, like their würst selections, you will also find many different cheese and charcuterie boards. These were meant as a socializing element. As Jason explains, “It’s nice when you get the big board with 4 or 5 people all sharing and talking. It adds to the bierhalle atmosphere of conviviality. People meeting strangers, sharing, like try this, try that.” There are also some off-menu items that you can get if you know to ask for them. One of these items is the Schmalz, which is bacon pork fat that has been rendered for 14 hours. While it might sound odd to some, this is a traditional Bavarian breakfast item. (Excuse me while I look up how to move to Germany!) “We keep it in a special Italian jar in the wine cooler so it’s ceremonial every time,” Jason says, “because Nicolas stays in his kitchen where he’s supposed to, but then he makes the walk to the wine cooler when there’s a schmalz order and takes out the ceremonial jar. It’s really beautiful. We can’t do everything in our little kitchen, but everything that we do, we want to do the best of our potential.”
When it comes to their beer and wine selections, Buchner Bierhalle’s focuses on Bavarian and Franconian items. However, since only a limited number are imported to the US, Jason has to work with 8 different distributors. This can be challenging for him because the kegs are not available on a consistent basis. “So it might be available for 2 weeks, then it’s available again a month from then. So I’m constantly looking through the portfolios to find something from the smaller breweries that isn’t as well known usually, but still is high quality.”
Buchner’s Bierhalle might be the new kid on the block, but that won’t stop them from throwing a 3 week Oktoberfest celebration this year. To coincide with Oktoberfest in Munich, the festivities will kick off on September 21st at noon with the tapping of the first Oktoberfest keg and ceremonial toast by the guest mayor, a longtime friend of Jason’s, Christian Dechert. “I was with him in Nürnberg when I was 20. We were drinking beer and that was the first time I said that I was going to have my own biergarten one day. So when he heard that I had opened up he said, I have to come to see it, to see the dream visualized” Jason recalled.
There will also be a great unveiling of the specialized fest beers brought in specifically for this event, many of the same that will appear in Munich. While this will be the first Oktoberfest for Buchner’s Bierhalle, it definitely is not the first for Jason. He has thrown them every year for the past 10 years; first at his old bar, then it became a “moving party.” This year will be the 10th year and the first time it will be held at a “real Franconian, Bavarian, 24/7 style bierhalle”. The menu will consist of a few specialty items alongside a few of their regular offerings. For those more concerned with the beer, I’m happy to report that they will have three different sized beer boots; half-liter, 1 liter, & 2 liters. Jason has a well-trained, seasoned team that runs Oktoberfest every year. “I’ve always had to set it all up and break it all down in one day, so this time I can set it all up and leave it for 3 weeks. It’s going to be great, I can’t wait!” Well, we can’t either!
OKTOBERFEST | BIERFEST
Enter through Blackhat Vapor Shop off Edgewood Ave. or through biergarten off Plymouth St.
SEP 21-22, 28-29, OKT 5-6 • 12PM-12AM
Gentle guests, Herzlich Willkommen to a very special Marzen season. Ten years ago this September 21st our Buchner’s Bierhalle‘s humble owner threw his first Oktoberfest. This year marks our creative teams tenth annual event and its first in a true, year round Bavarian/Franconian Bier Hall and Garten. Our event is 100% independently produced, curated, funded, DJ’d, and emceed with love and passion from a private group of like-minded brethren. Before bar folk wore suspenders, donned beards, and bemoaned old fashions… they drank competitively, threw and rolled kegs, and imbibed their first three liters of beer for the day without purging. Jason Grimes threw his first Oktoberfest at Club TSI Discotheque back in 2009 when the only other events in town were mild E Street and Schnitzelhouse respectively. Today, Jacksonville’s fandom of Munich’s Wiesen culture goes 25+ venues deep in Oktober alone, so amongst those in the know, this is the event of the season not to miss. Our kleine Biergarten is an intimate setting with only authentic Bavarian Bier and Cuisine. Year in and year out we pride ourselves on bringing our edgy brand of riotous beer games paired with our exemplary service and dining atmosphere. Happy Oktoberfest und PROST!
-Your humble host, master of ceremonies and mayor-minister-president
J. Thomas Buchner Grimes