They date back to the 19th century in Germany and they’re not new in America. Manhattan’s Bohemian National Hall alone dates back to 1895. Nevertheless, beer gardens have enjoyed renewed fanfare in the states recently. As the calendar moves towards late summer, their is an influx of fall varieties that begin making their way into beer pubs, while the summer seasonals continue to hold on to their tap handles. And with the mercury still in the 80’s (if not 90’s) in most parts of the country, it is ideal weather for a craft beer outside.
Chicago: Sheffield’s Beer and Wine Garden
3258 N. Sheffield Ave.
Chicago, Ill. 60657
The Second City is best known for its Polish dogs and deep-dish pizza, but there’s at least one place in town with its head buried in the ample bosom of Bavaria. Much like La Birreria, NYC’s entry on this list, Sheffield’s mixes its passion for Deutschland with another cultural keystone. Here, echoes from Munich’s beer halls mix with southern-style barbecue. This may seem like an odd match but not so much when you consider that the Bavarian region is widely considered to be the Ozarks of Germany.
Located three blocks south of Wrigley Field, Sheffields has been pouring craft beers and pulling baby-back ribs out of its wood-powered smokers since 1980. This tavern/beer garden landed on Esquire’s 2009 list of America’s Best Bars for a good reason. Locals swear by the pulled-pork sandwiches, served up with tangy coleslaw and a vinegary mustard-based sauce that packs a bit of a punch.
The beer menu is extensive, offering everything from German Porters to locally-crafted Pilsners. You’ll find somewhat obscure European selections like Delirium listed alongside area microbrews. Sheffield’s definitely takes suds seriously and hosts events including beer dinners and release parties. The tavern’s “Brewery of the Month” celebrates craft brewers and offers their wares on special.
The beer garden itself is lined with trees, flowers and planters, making it a lush sanctuary perfect for whiling away a lazy Sunday afternoon. Vines crawl up the walls and the green canopy offers plenty of shade on sweltering summer days. After nightfall, lines of white
light twinkle under the stars. The vibe here definitely swings casual but Sheffield’s draws a diverse crowd ranging from local politicos to college kids. One bit of advice: check the Cubs’ schedule before heading over. Sheffield’s gets packed to the gills with fans after games.
Austin: Banger’s Beer Garden
79 Rainy St
Austin, TX 78701
104 beers on tap, about 30 house-made sausages, an off-leash dog park and a great music venue located in the heart of Austin TX.
Denver: Lowry’s Beer Garden
7577 E Academy Blvd
Denver, CO 80230
Celebrating Colorado’s craft beer culture, the Lowry Beer Garden is nestled in its very own park with more than 4,500 square feet of outdoor garden area, vast open-air seating, and an inviting covered pavilion. The communal Oktoberfest-style picnic tables that collectively can accommodate up to 350 guests, foster an environment of community and conviviality. The Garden offers a thoughtful draft and bottled beer selection with a focus on Colorado and handcrafted brews.
Miami: Lou’s Beer Garden
7337 Harding Ave.
Miami Beach, Fla. 33141
The Magic City. It’s a burg that immediately brings to mind speedboats, bikinis and Tony Montana. Believe it or not, hidden among the speedy glitz of this tropical metropolis is one of the country’s best beer gardens. Alas, its name will probably do little to erase your skepticism.
Lou’s Beer Garden is a Deutschland diamond that has somehow snuck its way into the hearts of both locals and Miami Beach itself. Look no further than the signage, which features a Bavarian temptress in a slinky dress, to get an idea of the zest flowing through this gastropub’s veins. Like a wayward fraulien who has ditched murky Munich for warmer digs, this is a beer garden whose soul craves a hearty dose of Latin spice.
On the menu you’ll find Scorpios, jumbo shrimp served with Morita sauce, and Organic Churrasco Steak Sani but nary a spatzl or anything resembling schnitzel. You’re more likely to hear salsa music in the bamboo-lined garden than “Die Lustigen Holzhackerbaum.” It’s also probably the only one in the entire world with a swimming pool. The beer selections rotate, offering a mix of Old World favorites from Timmermans and Lefebvre alongside American microbrews like Dead Guy Ale and Gonzo Imperial Porter.
Despite a decidedly international vibe, locals come to Lou’s seeking shelter from the throngs on Collins Avenue. The atmosphere is relaxed, sophisticated and cool, just like its spiritual matriarch.
New York City: La Birreria
200 5th Ave.
New York, N.Y. 10010
In “Die Riesigen Apfel” as of late, beer gardens have grown in popularity faster than a hops plant on a sunny day in the Hallertau region of Germany. If you’re looking for history, head to the rooftop terrace at the aforementioned Bohemian National Hall. But are you in the mood for atmosphere that’s more Audi than Volkswagen? Then give the Standard Beer Hall a shot. On the prowl for authenticity? There’s always Hallo Berlin.
But La Birreria has them all beat. While it was concocted by Mario Batali, a name that has become synonymous with Italian-American cooking, this hotspot makes up for its lack of cultural legitimacy with its attentive staff, exceptional brews and quality eats. Located at the crest of Eataly building on Fifth Avenue, this rooftop garden has a retractable cover, making it a great place to head to on a nice weeknight or a rainy afternoon. Naysayers will quibble over the prices ($11 for a cheese plate but, hey, you’re in Manhattan). Plus, there’s the fact that anyone who has set foot in Munich’s infamous Hofbräuhaus am Platzl will take issue with the establishment being referred to as a “beer garden.”
Nevertheless, there’s something to be said for quality over quantity. At La Birreria you’ll find rustic Italian fare sprinkled with a heavy Bavarian influence, along with naturally carbonated cask ales. The beers are hand pumped and served at exactly the right temperature. While the experience can’t be described as “truly Bavarian,” you won’t care once you taste the housemade sausages.
Washington DC: Garden District
1801 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
According to proprietors Tad Curtz and David Rosner, “Garden District is a celebration of the backyard barbecue traditions we grew up with and a tip of our hats to the biergartens of Bavaria. We want Garden District to be a friendly, fun, and affordable neighborhood place where folks can relax outside in the heart of the city.”
Los Angeles: The Red Lion Tavern and Beer Garden
2366 Glendale Blvd.
Los Angeles, Calif. 90039
Who says that German lager doesn’t go well with palm trees, convertibles and Botox? Los Angeles is a far cry from Augsburg, in terms of both climate and spirit. Still, that isn’t to say that a little bit of Bavaria hasn’t snuck into the City of Angels.
The Red Lion first opened its doors in 1959 as Hollywood struggled to shake off the cobwebs of its Golden Age and competition on the Boob Tube. Not only is it an L.A. landmark, it’s the oldest continually operating German restaurant and bar in the city. This “gasthaus,” located in the Silver Lake neighborhood, is the establishment to hit for a hearty dose of staples like schnitzle, spaetzle, sourbraten and goulash. Musicians stroll through the interior and lofty beer garden, rolling out the hottest hits of early 20th-century Deutschland.
Fortunately, unlike in Munich, it’s unlikely that anyone here will pressure you into a sing-along or a rendition of “The Chicken Dance.” This will leave you with plenty of time to take in the decor, which includes Bavarian flags and a fountain in the garden, and peruse the beer menu.
Popular selections abound, like the sweet, golden Spaten Lager and the full-flavored Hofbrau Lager. The Red Lion selects a “Beer of the Month” from the Old World. The current selection is the refreshing Stiegl Goldbrau — “unrivalled in its well-rounded, balanced and wonderfully thirst-quenching taste…mildly hopped, with a typical refreshing nose, golden color, a magnificent fine head and pleasant finish,” according to management. Try it in a pint or in one of the Red Lion’s colossal “boot” glasses.
Redwood City, CA: Gourmet Haus Staudt
2615 Broadway St.
Redwood City, CA 94063
There’s no escaping the fact that beer gardens can be hard to come by on the West Coast. While there’s plenty to choose from in New York, the phenomenon still has yet to take hold in places like San Francisco and Seattle. Nevertheless, that isn’t to say that there aren’t a few scattered up and down the Interstate 5 corridor.
The most well-known in the Bay Area is San Francisco’s Zeitgeist. It leaves a lot to be desired and is better known for the misspelled German brands on its menu than for any degree of authenticity. Suppenkuche, in Hayes Valley, has its heart in the right spot and a fantastic beer menu, but there’s just one little problem: no outdoor seating. Fortunately, there’s also theGourmet Haus Staudt, a short drive from downtown San Francisco in Redwood City.
In addition to a beer garden, the Staudt is also a one-stop emporium for German beer. There are over a hundred brews to pick from in their bottle shop. Meanwhile, on tap, you’ll find eleven German beers and two guest selections from local microbreweries. The weekday menu in the garden is, admittedly, limited but offers six different wursts, soft pretzels, leberkase with egg and a few other options. On Saturdays, however, the proprietors roll out a special menu that includes a rotating melange of Deutschland favorites like Jaegerschnitzel, Schweineshaxen and Kassler Ripchen.
The ambiance definitely swings Bavarian but stops short of oompah music and bartenders dressed in lederhosen. The garden gets packed on Friday nights and on the weekend, so if you’re thinking of giving it a go, be sure to arrive early to snag a spot.