Buffalo Chicken Beer Cheese Fondue Fries Are Like an Edible Sports Bar
You don't necessarily expect to pair a trip to a top-flight beer garden with a trip to Legoland and maybe some sensibly priced khakis from J. Crew, but such is the existence of American Fresh, the cool kid in Somerville's otherwise somewhat corporate-feeling Assembly Row development. Run by Somerville Brewing Company, it augments plentiful craft drafts with a funky, colorful space flanked by shipping containers supplying merch and sustenance (don't miss the pretzel). Also, this beer garden's equipped with a heated tent, and thus impervious to Nor'easters.
With over 100 beers on tap and 30+ house-made sausages, the sprawling, perpetually thronged Banger's isn't just one of Austin's best beer gardens. It's also one of its best beer bars. And one of its best booze-soaking sausage parties. And its best dog-friendly drinkery. And a great brunch spot. And… look, this is is a must-visit spot no matter how you slice it. But you should be slicing it with a couple hundred other thirsty revelers on a patio lit by hanging lights on a cool Austin night. Oh, it's also one of the best places to hang out on a cool Austin night. Did we mention that this place rules? Or that they have a fantastic brunch. Or firkin tappings? Or...
A fairly recent addition to the ranks of America's finest beer gardens, having just opened in April 2017, Barleygarden's made what could have been a fairly stale suburban outdoor shopping plaza/ mixed use development... legitimately cool? Part of that legitimacy comes from owner Kraig Torres, whose Hop City has been making Atlanta beer drinking craftier for years now, and having big-time local chef/butcher Kevin Ouzts in the kitchen turning out charcuterie-centric grilled cheeses doesn't hurt, either. Throw in a two-tiered open-air patio and the fact that you can take to-go drinks throughout the development and... maybe the suburbs aren't so bad?
Frankenmuth is one of those weird wormholes of a town where most of the city is emulating a place halfway around the globe. But holy shit do they do it right. This is, in fact, a place sandwiched between Lakes Huron and Michigan where the men don lederhosen and the women squeeze into dirndls while carrying enough liters of beer to make a CrossFit enthusiast buckle at the knees... and that's before they bring out an all-you-can-eat fried-chicken spread. Excessive? You betcha. But when you're sitting on the humid patio of the massive property's Schnitzelbank Bier Garten among hundreds of contented people with bellies full of beer and over-salted chicken, nothing else really matters... especially when the live polka band makes the rounds like a lederhosen-clad mariachi band.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Surrounded with palm trees and rocking multiple flat-screens, the sprawling Bayou Beer Garden is like a glorious melding of beachside bar, sports-centric drive-in theater, and raucous New Orleans beer bar all rolled into one. The place rocks 180 global beers to choose from -- including 24 rotating taps -- that you can pair with everything from amped-up crab-cake bites to Disco Fries loaded with roast beef debris. And if for some reason you wandered into a beer garden with somebody who hates beer, the nearly identical adjoining Bayou Wine Garden helps you split the difference.
San Francisco, California
After six years in business, Biergarten has established itself as a big dog in a city that isn't exactly hurting for great spots to drink beer outside. The extremely limited beer selection (don't fix what ain't broken) leans Bavarian, and comes by the liter or half liter. Food's less traditional, with brats and currywurst holding court next to burgers and pretzel dumplings. And everything here is served up on a massive patio with a lone centerpiece tree holding court over everything from Friday movie nights to raucous happy-hour drinking.
Queens, New York
Established in 1910, this Astoria institution has seen more beer-soaked nights than 35 frat houses combined. The place is owned and managed by a Czech and Slovak community group, and those influences are apparent in dishes like the fried muenster and drafts like Staropramen. Oh, and in the absolutely massive beer garden -- the Czechs and Slovaks like beer, in case you haven't heard.
Opened back in 2013 by a couple of Russians with an affinity for German beer (you know, before "Russian" appeared in every fifth news headline), Dacha has become a DC day-drinking must thanks to an airy mural-backed beer garden where you can rest easy knowing you're in equally good hands if you're feeling like downing a crisp lager from das boot or helping yourself to something hop heavy. In a similar vein, the menu blends beer garden musts like pretzels that are equal parts large, soft, and delicious with less expected fair like rabbit croquettes and beer-braised goat poutine.
If you want to visit a quite literal beer garden, we direct you to Estabrook, a spot located in Estabrook Park along the Milwaukee River that's so legit, it's out of the public transit's reach. (The official site recommends arriving by "foot, bicycle, automobile, kayak, or canoe.") Estabrook prides itself on being a truly public beer garden, so patrons are encouraged to bring their own picnics or even steins. And if you're not into providing your own food supply, complete the full-on Wisconsin picture and hit up the Friday fish fry.
Stephen Starr's contemporary German beer haven is perpetually humming in the summer months, but unlike many entries on this list, they refuse to bow to inclement weather, employing fire pits and space heaters to keep the action going even in the months when the Eagles are causing crippling disappointment (oh don't worry, last year won't repeat itself). But you didn't come here to argue about sports (hopefully), you came here to consume fine German brews by the liter, tear into various wursts, and vanquish a rival in shuffleboard. Okay that's KINDA sports arguing adjacent, but we'll allow it.
The folks behind beloved Chicago beer bar Paddy Long's built a devoted following on the strength of their boundless devotion to beer and bacon, so when they opened the larger, glitzier Kaiser Tiger a few years back, they continued said devotion on a much larger scale and applied it to one of Chicago's most sprawling yet welcoming beer gardens. This means while you're enjoying some of the Midwest's finest craft beers on tap you can also tear through an order of bacon grenades (those would be bacon-wrapped pork meatballs with Three Floyds Alpha King BBQ Sauce) and wait for your turn on the bocce courts. Important note: come winter, those bocce courts become an opportunity to try your hand at curling, so bundle (and drink) up!
Sure, this beer garden is situated on the grounds of a former Air Force Base, but that doesn't mean you won't get sweeping views of an old B-52 bomber (courtesy of the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum next door) from any of the 225 seats outside. Colorado cools off when the sun goes down, but two outdoor fire pits, 16 taps of Colorado's finest suds – Avery, Odell, and Left Hand among them -- and a panoply of "creatively topped" brats and burgers -- like the B-52 Bomber with double bacon, mushrooms, onions, and blue cheese -- will keep you plenty warm if the beer doesn't during one of the venue's many outdoor concerts on a cool summer night.
Even tougher than Angela Merkel's shoulder pads, this historic spot has survived for nearly 150 years -- and not without a fight. When Prohibition came a-knockin', Mecklenburg employed the services of a bootlegging boat to keep its customers hydrated. When it entered a '60s slump, the management turned the place around into a Mobil (now Forbes) four-star restaurant and got the building on the National Register of Historic Places. And when debt closed its doors in 1982, it patiently waited for the current managers to come along and restore the place to its Bavarian glory. A story like that deserves a liter of Spaten. Lucky you, they're happy to accommodate.
When Park & Field in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood in winter 2016, it was abundantly clear that the colder months would just be a prelude to the real debut for the vintage-channeling sports bar, thanks to a simultaneously sprawling and cozy 6,000 square foot patio. OK fine, they didn't necessarily wait entirely to use that outdoor space, thanks to some fire pits and Adirondack chairs, but beer-garden life is inarguably better when the sun is shining and you're clutching a cold Half Acre and maybe some s'mores (yes, they still use those fire pits in the summer).
Slinging some of Nashville's best burgers along with a murderers' row of some of the finest German and Belgian beers available in Nashville, the Pharmacy would be a great bar even before you stumble onto the beer garden. This is a place that takes the "garden" part of that word mighty seriously, with tons of crowded tables shaded by overhanging trees and rows and rows of greenery. And at night, the place takes on an almost ethereal glow under the hanging lights. It's kind of like The Secret Garden, though considering it's always crowded, we're guessing that the secret got blown long ago.
Portland's blessed with tons of great beer served at picnic tables. But Prost! has long been the king of local biergartens. It's not just the fact that the dog-friendly outdoor deck is equipped with its own bar that serves up a wide array of German beers in its proper glassware, though that's a huge plus. It's also situated next to a food cart cluster where you're welcome to go grab a sushi burrito or vegan BBQ if the excellent schnitzel from Prost! doesn't do the trick. The joint -- located on the wildly popular Mississippi drag of Portland hipness -- also hosts a glorious Oktoberfest party, and the owners recently bought the entire property and the adjoining cart pod. If you don't live in Portland, that just sounds like good business. In a neighborhood where beloved businesses are razed daily to make room for condos, it means that the carts -- and the biergarten -- represent a longtime anchor in a neighborhood whose identity changes with more regularity than this institution's taps.
Brooklyn, New York
Now pushing a decade of ably providing Williamsburg residents (and guests) with all the liters of beer, beer-absorbing brats, similarly functioning pretzels and time-passing card games they can possibly handle, Radegast remains a favorite of the neighborhood and, more (or less?) importantly, Thrillist editors. There's live music daily (which may or may not include an accordion player jovially foot-tapping on your table). There's a retractable roof ensuring that your biergartening plans remain steadfastly weather-proof. There's a good time to be had, every time.
"Rathskeller" translates to "basement beer hall," but you’ll just have to overlook that as you resist the taxidermied charm of the moose heads lining the interior walls. The real attraction here's the outdoor area, loaded with picnic tables and featuring a band shell for live music and plenty of thirsty Hoosiers. The beers are large, the people drinking them are friendly, and heat lamps stand guard to ensure the drinking continues deep into the night, even when the weather’s not ideal... weather seldom keeps a Midwesterner from a beer.
Now that lawn darts have been outlawed, bocce ball has become the de facto sport for launching potentially injurious projectiles toward competitors, and it's the game of choice at this Seattle institution. That mostly goes down at the courts inside this 420-seat beer hall, while the massive outdoor biergarten lets you cool off/calm your pulse after almost being beaned by a wayward ball over German-centric pints in the packed, sunny (well, it's Seattle, so that's relative) biergarten. Indoor or out, it's the perfect collision between German food/drink and Italian sports that you never knew you needed.
The grand beer garden tradition gets a healthy dose of 'Murican influences at this 15,000 square foot space, styled with the finest trailer-park decor touches like crappy lawn chairs, spare tires, and scrap metal art. Even better? Food trucks slinging tacos and pizza are parked there every day, so you can go ahead and have another Shiner. Or another Community Mosaic IPA. Or another frozen trash can punch -- beer gardens don't have to be ALL about beer, you guys.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Being located adjacent to the NC Music Factory makes VBGB an essential Charlotte stop if you're headed to a concert. But even if it was located next to a ferret-breeding center (good lord, no!), this sprawling beer garden would be a must-visit. Beers flow from 30+ local-centric taps into 12-, 18-, and 34-ounce glasses, the latter of which could seriously hinder or help your abilities to play giant Jenga, Connect Four, and chess. But if you really want to channel your inner Maverick, there's also a five-court volleyball sandbox where you'll be too busy executing wayward spikes to lament the fact that there's no Goose (Island) around to help you out.