America’s Coolest Beer Gardens Slideshow
America’s Coolest Beer Gardens
Sitting out on the back patio with a cold beer in your hand is one of summer’s true delights. Outdoor beer gardens bring together the magic trifecta of beer, fresh air, and good friends. After all, a bucket of ice-cold beer and a plate of disco fries are all you really need in life, right? Luckily, there are ample choices for where to park it when you want to get down to some serious day (and night) drinking.
We’ve searched all over the country for some of the very best beer gardens, and, not surprisingly, many of them have a decidedly German influence, re-creating the celebratory beer halls of Munich. Other beer gardens on our list veer into junkyard-chic territory, some have taken the biker path, while others are an oasis in the industrial desert. We love them all, because they open their backyards and welcome new friends with a cold brew and possibly a pretzel. Work up a thirst as we take a tour of the coolest beer gardens across the country.
Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten, Asbury Park, N.J.
Instantly be transported from the Jersey shore to Germany the moment you walk into this 6,000-square-foot beer hall with a 9,000-square-foot rooftop biergarten. Enjoy 31 draft and over 60 bottled beers while chowing down on schnitzels, wursts, and live music. According to these folks, the German word festhalle is “best translated as ‘Festival Hall.’”
Bay Street Biergarten, Charleston, S.C.
Bay Street Biergarten proudly dubs itself “Bavarian Inspired, Southern Made.” You won’t be lacking in access to incredible craft brews, with 70 taps throughout the entire beer garden, including communal tap tables, special tap table booths, and a beer wall — and at each location you’re free to pull your own draft. Stop by this historic, Civil-war era building to get a taste of the latest in beer technology mingled with a communal, authentic German beer garden experience. If craft beer is your thing, check out our list of the 50 best craft breweries in America.
Bayou Beer Garden, New Orleans, La.
Walking in, the BBG (as locals call it), looks like the most welcoming college party house ever. Step up the front porch past the bikes chained to the front gate and head inside to enjoy a cold bucket of beer (they offer 180 different selections). Head out onto the massive back patio to chill and catch a game under one of the umbrellas or tents. Stick around for the Thinkin’ With Lincoln trivia night (every Tuesday) and don’t forget to order the disco fries. If you can’t make it down to the Big Easy, here are 15 over-the-top French fry recipes to make at home.
Biergarten, San Francisco, Calif.
Biergarten believes “the restaurant at the end of the universe is a biergarten.” If so, we’ll happily reach the end. Biergarten is a part of Proxy, a city project that took over the space of a demolished freeway in Hayes Valley and filled it with small businesses run out of shipping containers. It’s just across the street from a two-block-long park, which customers enjoy during sunny weather. For those famous misty San Francisco days, portable tents are erected. The owners will even lend you a Czech army-surplus blanket if it gets a little chilly.
Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden, Queens, N.Y.
This place is the quintessential summer watering hole for beer lovers. The oldest beer garden in New York City (which was once home to over 800 beer gardens!), this year-round standard regularly tops best beer garden lists across the country. The Bohemian Citizens’ Benevolent Society was formed in 1892 to support Czech and Slovak families newly emigrated to New York City. The society began building the foundation of the Bohemian Hall in 1910, and the outdoor bar and park — what is now the outdoor beer garden — in 1919. Not in the mood for beer? Head down to NYC’s South Street Seaport to sip on a 114-ounce mermaid cocktail.
Der Biergarten, Atlanta, Ga.
Der Biergarten is an authentic taste of Germany in downtown Atlanta’s Centennial Park district. With traditional Munich family-style seating, this is the perfect location to watch all American and European football matches while enjoying one of their many Fassbiere (German for draft beers). Just be wary of delighting in one too many Pilsners, or you’ll want to jump on the German-manufactured model railroad that runs around the perimeter of the restaurant’s ceiling. You probably won’t be the first, and definitely not the last.
Easy Tiger, Austin, Tex.
Located in a historic building in downtown Austin, chef Andrew Curren’s Easy Tiger brings a farm-to-table philosophy in an awesome bake shop-cum-beer garden. They serve house-made sausages, breads, and pretzels, perfect washed down by any of the nearly thirty beers on tap. Join the Mug Club for $45 for a lifetime membership — it gives you 21 ounces of draft beer for the price of sixteen and allows you to accumulate points from all beer purchases to be used toward the exclusive Reserve Beer List.
Estabrook Beer Garden, Milwaukee, Wis.
What’s better than sitting on the banks of the Milwaukee River with a liter of beer, listening to polka in the sunshine? Modeled after Munich beer gardens, Estabrook is the first public beer garden in Wisconsin since Prohibition. You can arrive by foot, bicycle, or canoe, but cars are a no-go. Probably a good idea, since you’ll need multiple beers to wash down those pretzels that rival the size of your head. At least you don’t have to worry about where you parked.
Frankford Hall, Philadelphia, Pa.
Get a taste of Germany in Philly’s Fishtown when you walk through the candy-cane-striped doors into the city’s largest beer garden. Swill beer from liter-steins and nosh on pretzels and sausage at sprawling communal picnic tables. Invite your friends, because there’s room for 160 people inside, and 240 more outside at this enormous biergarten. Before you leave, play a little ping-pong and don’t forget to try the Bier Sangria. If you can’t get into Frankford, here’s a list of other bars in Philly that also have ping-pong tables.
Garden District, Washington, D.C.
DC’s thriving food and drink scene includes this friendly, affordable beer garden that reopens every spring after a short winter break. The proprietors of Garden District aim to give a tip of their hats “to the biergartens of Bavaria” in the center of bustling Washington, D.C. Try German and American craft beer by the liter, and their trademark pulled pork and brisket.
Grünauer, Kansas City, Mo.
Peter Grünauer and his son Nicholas, along with their friend and restaurateur Klaus Piber, opened this Viennese Gasthaus, a version of their popular first restaurant in Vienna. Located in the Freight House, a historic railroad building, Grünauer brings Austria to downtown Kansas City, with authentic, delicious Austrian food and beer. Stop by on a Sunday for Frühschoppen, an Austrian gathering that centers on a traditional pork shank dish called stelze, which is meant to be shared among friends with copious amounts of beer.
Hofbräu Beer Hall, Miami, Fla.
Drink away a sunny Miami afternoon at this American version of the famous 400-year-old Hofbräuhaus in Munich, Germany. Enjoy traditional, imported Hofbräu beer and Bavarian food like schnitzel and pretzels, while catching live sporting events from all over the world. Like to dip? Here are four dips that make soft pretzels even more delicious.
Lowry Beer Garden, Denver, Colo.
This is a great place to park it for day drinking. Adjacent to the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, Lowry has over 4,500 square feet of outdoor garden and open-air space, with communal tables to share brats and other sausages. Their beer selection focuses on Colorado brews, with a rotating tap and cask selection from Grimm Brothers, Great Divide, and many more.
Mecklenburg Gardens, Cincinnati, Ohio
This biergarten was established in 1865 and is considered one of Cincinnati’s treasures. During Cincinnati’s booming influx of German immigrants in the late 1800s to early 1900s, beer gardens like Mecklenburg were important meeting places, essentially becoming cultural institutions. It continued to operate as both a legitimate restaurant as well as a speakeasy during Prohibition: The position of a model ship on the bar would indicate to customers when it was considered safe to order alcohol. In 1976, Mecklenburg Gardens was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Sit under the 100-year-old grape vines which grow over the outdoor garden, and enjoy a piece of Cincinnati history with your pint of hefeweizen.
Prost!, Portland, Ore.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing if you get “the boot” at this beer garden named after the German word for cheers. “Das Boot” is a boot-shaped, beer-filled, two-liter glass that is served according to an interesting custom: Once it’s bought, it must be passed between your group and all the beer downed before it’s allowed to touch the table. If you still have room left, try the curry wurst, a pork and veal weisswurst topped with curry ketchup. If you don’t happen to be near Prost, here’s how you can make your own curry ketchup at home.
Rhein Haus, Seattle, Wash.
This German beer hall (which used to be called Von Trapp’s) is located in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, and covers over 10,000 square feet, with two massive fireplaces and five indoor bocce courts. Bocce is the Italian version of boules, a similar game that’s played all over Germany and Austria. Don’t miss stopping by on a Monday, when you can win… meat? For a $1 ticket you can enter the Meat Raffle, and if you win you’ll be free to pick $20 worth of your favorite bratwurst, special sausage, or choice cuts of meat from the deli case. There are two drawings every half hour, so chances are pretty good you won’t be going home alone.
Sheffield's Beer and Wine Garden, Chicago, Ill.
This popular neighborhood joint has a sprawling, tree-shaded patio and serves 100-plus types of beer, with over 40 of them on draft. It’s a great place to stop on your way to or from a Cubs game if you’re hankering for a little barbecue, because what goes better with barbecue than beer? Check out Sheffield’s Beer School BeerPod podcast if you can’t make it in. You may not learn this at Beer School, but a fun little fact to know is that the first barbecue sauce was actually made for shrimp, and not ribs.
Stone Brewing World Bistro Gardens — Liberty Station, San Diego, Calif.
Sitting on the site of the former mess hall of San Diego’s historic Naval Training Center and with an 11,000-square-foot garden that can seat over 200 people, this place certainly ranks among the largest beer gardens on our list. This is fitting, because Stone Brewing is one of the biggest and most respected craft breweries in the United States. You can feel good about downing those barbecue duck tacos and Stone IPA, because Stone is the “largest restaurant purchaser of small-farm organic produce in San Diego County.”
The Pharmacy, Nashville, Tenn.
The Pharmacy boasts they are the “Wurst-Burger joint in Nashville” and they might be right. Music City’s original biergarten serves only 100 percent Tennessee-raised beef burgers, and they grind, stuff, and smoke every single wurst they dish up. Wash it all down with one of their German draft or bottled beers, like the pleasantly strong Andechser Bergbock Hell.
The Rathskeller, Indianapolis, Ind.
The Rathskeller’s massive outdoor garden delivers the goods, with tons of communal tables and a lively stage that hosts bands most nights of the week, ranging from rock to polka. The name “Rathskeller” may call to mind a basement, but this place has enough Bavarian flair and history (it’s been in operation since 1894) to keep it on top.
The Red Lion Tavern, Los Angeles, Calif.
This beloved LA landmark is the oldest German bar and restaurant in the city of Los Angeles that’s still in operation. It was established in 1959 as an “Olde English Pub,” but when ownership changed in 1963, the new owner’s German wife taught the chef the secrets to her home-style cooking and set the Red Lion on a decidedly German path. Though it briefly shut down in 1980 under mysterious circumstances, it was purchased and re-opened in 1981 by Uwe Backen, who expanded the bar and eventually added the beer garden. These days, you’ll find folks enjoying classic German fare (like the “Schlachtplatte” sausage platter), swilling Hofbräu Maibock, and listening to local bands. Dodgers fans will be doing all of the above on home game days, but for 10 percent off.
The Standard Biergarten, New York, N.Y.
Beer gardens have never come more stylish than they do at The Standard Biergarten. Though we’d love to hate on the beautiful people, we can’t help but want to join them as they down beer, pretzels, and sausages while playing ping-pong under the High Line. For the real VIP treatment, reserve a stammtisch, one of their special tables with taps built into the table, and pour Bitburger Pilsner to your heart’s content. Here are some other eats to check out if you happen to be walking along NYC’s High Line.
Truck Yard, Dallas, Tex.
Owner Jason Boso dreamed of opening a bar that combined his love for honky-tonks, beer gardens, and treehouses, and thus Truck Yard was born in 2013. There’s a stage in the yard for live music every weekend, and they’ve got everything trucks: old trucks, pickup trucks, and food trucks... lots of food trucks. It’s like the biggest, best patio in Dallas, complete with mismatched lawn chairs, dogs, and beer.
VBGB, Charlotte, N.C.
Leave your lederhosen at home but bring your gaming skills to this fun, spacious patio that boasts an impressive selection of nearly 30 craft beers on draft. Ponder your next move in a game of life-size Connect Four or giant chess, while a frost rail along the bar keeps your drink ice-cold. This is the perfect stop on your way to or from a show at the nearby NC Music Factory.
Zeitgeist, San Francisco, Calif.
Order a pitcher of beer and relax at a picnic table under the trees on the chill outdoor patio at this punk/biker/dive bar/biergarten combo. Or try one of the Bloody Marys, which locals claim to be the best in the city. Try to not get kicked out by one of the salty bouncers, but don’t worry if you do because you’ll be in good company, as it’s a fairly common occurrence which patrons wear as a badge of honor. Not in the mood for a beer garden (is that possible?), but instead prefer your brew with a side of salt and sand? Here’s our list of the 25 best beach bars in America.