The beer garden is the new coffee shop. So gather your friends for craft brews and a casual vibe.
Founded in 1865, Mecklenburg Gardens is the oldest continually running restaurant and beer garden in this very German city. Co-owner Annamarie Harten says that it was also initially a learning institution: “When Mecklenburg Gardens was first opened, German immigrants would assemble in the garden and learn about the American political processes and hold mock elections.” There’s no more voting—just lots of beer imbibing in the garden underneath lovely 100-year-old grape vines.
Suds: Fifteen German and American craft beers on tap and 80 by bottle. Beer from $4.50.
Standard Biergarten,New York City
The crowd at this beer garden is trendier than usual thanks to its Meatpacking District location below the High Line and adjacent to the Standard Hotel. But the setup is traditionally Teutonic: buy beer and food tickets at the entry, order from the bar, and squeeze in at one of the communal tables (within range of the ping pong tables). Michelin-starred Austrian chef Kurt Gutenbrunner designed the menu of plump grilled sausages, currywurst, and oversize pretzels.
Suds: The few beers on tap are great German selections. The dark, caramel-like Köstritzer pairs well with classic Bavarian weisswurst sausage. Beer from $7.
This South Beach beer garden may go by the famous Hofbrau moniker—named after the granddaddy of all beer-centric drinking spots in Munich—but the scene here has as much beach in it as it does Bavaria. Opened in 2007, Hofbrau is known as a beer hall, but the 92-seat garden is where to go. Long wooden tables with the classic blue-and-white-checked tablecloths and umbrellas shading the South Beach sun are great for people-watching.
Suds: Five Hofbrau-brand brews on tap, including dark, potent Maibock and a fruity hefeweizen. Beer from $5
Zeitgeist, San Francisco
This spacious beer garden was a hit with Mission District denizens long before the neighborhood was anointed cool. “It used to be more of a biker crowd,” says manager Mimi Pajo. “Now, though, there are blue-collar and white-collar types. Some of the old locals complain about it but they keep coming back anyway,” she adds with a smile. Those crowds at the long wooden tables mean you’re certain to make new friends by the end of the night.
Suds: An excellent selection of 49 tap beers that includes many California craft brews: beloved Berkeley brew Trumer Pils and others from San Diego, Humboldt County, Paso Robles, and Santa Rosa. Beer from $4.
Bayou Beer Garden,New Orleans
There’s hardly anything German about the two-year-old Bayou Beer Garden, and that’s perfectly okay—especially when the garden is bedecked with flowers and plants and a waterfall. Reggae and other popular music seeps from the speakers as Mid-City neighborhood folks (especially of the local sports-crazed variety) congregate to discuss the Saints while nursing beers and picking over burgers, sandwiches, and sweet potato fries.
Suds: There are only a small handful of brews on tap—including the local Abita Amber and NOLA Hopitoulas—but the 75 different bottled varieties of beer, from Belgium to Mexico to Estonia, certainly make up for it. Beer from $3.50.
Standard, Washington, D.C.
Two native New Englanders with a love of backyard barbecue founded this beer garden, which has won over D.C. locals with its easygoing vibe and aroma of grilling meats. While the most popular item on the menu is the pulled pork sandwich, co-owner Tad Curtz says, “Customers seem to be really loving our sidewalk donut stand where we cook buttermilk donuts right out in the garden.” The garden holds 100 people (there are communal and smaller tables), but look for an expansion very soon.
Suds: Six beers on tap range from the German Hofbrau to the craft North Coast Scrimshaw Pils. Beer from $5.
The Village Tap,Chicago
This 1,000-square-foot, 100-capacity beer garden in Chicago’s Roscoe Village is a homey place to knock back a couple brews year round. Heat lamps, an outdoor fireplace, and a retractable roof make sure beer-imbibers stay warm in the winter—as do big portions of Tex-Mex, salads, and burgers.
Suds: Twenty-six beers on tap with an emphasis on American craft brews, such as Baltimore’s Stillwater Brewery, as well as Prague’s hoppy Staropramen and a small selection of Belgian-style ales. Beer from $5.
Brought to you by prolific restaurateur Stephen Starr (Buddakan, Morimoto), Frankford Hall and its 240-seat beer garden were constructed largely from the materials of an abandoned warehouse in the Fishtown neighborhood. After opening so many fine-dining restaurants, Starr explains why he was inspired to open a beer garden: “The beauty of a beer garden is that it’s a social, fun place for people to gather, have a bite and a drink, and enjoy themselves.”
Suds: The nine beers on tap lean toward Germany with a few choice American craft beers, Dogfish Head and Great Lakes rounding out the list. Beer from $6.
Red Lion Tavern, Los Angeles
A fixture of the Silverlake section of Los Angeles since 1959, this divey German beer garden and tavern is an ever-popular spot for taking in Teutonic eating and drinking culture in southern California. The 40-seat beer garden, formerly the Red Lion’s parking lot, isn’t the biggest garden in the country, but its raucous atmosphere inspires bibulous bursts of good times.
Suds: Ten German beers on tap from Spaten, Warsteiner, Bitburger, Köstritzer, and Hofbrau, plus one monthly featured beer (which is usually of German origins). Beer from $5.
Stone Brewing World Bistro and Garde
The people at Stone Brewing Co. took the term beer garden quite lins,San Diegoterally, planting pine, elm, and olive trees and creating a koi pond and large swaths of grass. CEO and co-founder Greg Koch calls the 205-seat garden a “one-acre Shangri-la.” When paired with a pint of beer and dishes like barbecued duck tacos or wild boar baby back ribs, it’s not hard to see why.
Suds: Thirty-six craft beers on tap, including Stone Brewing Co. and other small California brewers, and 80 different bottles, mostly North American and Belgian. Beer from $5.
- Hey Beer lovers… Go to Munich’s Oktoberfest! (explorewithpayal.wordpress.com)
- The Beer Garden (thebigchilicookoffevergreen.wordpress.com)
- Do You Beer Garden? (restrow.wordpress.com)
- Fremont Oktoberfest By The Numbers (fremontuniverse.com)