Charleston: The Ultimate Local's Guide
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. 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, especially since they added a whopping 15,000 extra feet of space last year. 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.
A massive list of beers that runs the gamut from Reinheitsgebot-compliant German classics to pucker-inducing sours and old-school Trappist ales? Check. A Bavarian-centric menu rocking currywurst and pretzels big enough to double as lifeboats? Double check. Patio games like Jenga, garden chess, and mega Connect Four? Yup. Short of lederhosen-clad accordion players, Biergarten has all the ingredients of a stellar, well, biergarten. But the thing that sets it over the top is the view: This sucker’s perched on the ninth floor of Pittsburgh’s Hotel Monaco, offering epic views of the city of yinzers that take this to the next level. That’s a literal statement if you’re staying on the eighth floor.
San Francisco, California
During the course of less than a decade, 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.
The Twin Cities' beloved Butcher & the Boar is a paragon of the city's high-end hunger for all things meaty, the kind of place that has garnered a Beard nomination and endless accolades for its aged steaks, charcuterie, and in-house sausages. But it's also the kind of place that knows how to let its hair down. Case in point, the informal beer garden, which might just be the best damn outdoor drinking venue in the whole of Minneapolis, partially due to the fact that it stays open even in the miserable Minnesota winters. Somehow, every day it feels like you're attending a stellar BBQ hosted by a top-tier chef, and, well, you kind of are -- the pared-down menu includes tons of beer, bourbon, scotch, and, of course, meat, here in the form of a famous house-packed footlong, a pimento cheese-topped brisket sandwich, and a sausage sampler. Don't leave without the beer/shot/brat combo, which, at $12, is the best way to get a literal taste of what makes this place so fantastic while still saving some funds to splurge at the actual restaurant another day.
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 döner, fried pickles, 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.
Great Lakes is already one of America's must-visit breweries: Not only is the historic building that houses it a labyrinthine living museum that covers everything from Ohio beer history to Prohibition and modern brewing innovations, it's also the centerpiece of the Ohio City neighborhood's reinvention as a straight-up craft beer powerhouse. And among its many treasures is Cleveland's sleekest beer garden. During the warmer months, it's a place to sip pub-exclusive bars under the blue skies, with bus service to Cavs and Indian games all but rendering parking-lot tailgating obsolete. But in the brutally cold winter months, it transforms into something near magical as the eco-friendly garden extends a retractable roof, tosses logs in the fireplace, and switches on the radiant heat floor, giving it the feel of a very, very sleek winter cabin refuge. There is no better place to enjoy Great Lakes' legendary Christmas Ale. Or any of their great beers, really.
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.
There are small, unstuck-in-time Bavarian-themed towns scattered all over the US (and on this list), but there's something that really separates Leavenworth from the rest: It's actually tucked away amid the snowy peaks of northern Washington's mountains. The village has a wealth of beer gardens to go along with all the lederhosen-clad musicians and super-powered waitresses who can carry 50 mugs of beer without spilling a drop on their dirndls. But München Haus gets the gold in our book due to its simplicity. The outdoor bar is constantly packed but never uncomfortable, with tourists and dogs alike populating the flower-lined patio, where the constant smell of locally made sausages washes over patrons and local and imported beers flow nigh endlessly. It's the real deal: a pitch-perfect biergarten tucked into an idyllic Bavarian fantasia that will leave you feeling like you were transported to another continent. Or at least to a really nice community theater production of The Sound of Music.
Based in Atlanta’s burgeoning Historic Old Fourth Ward is 9 Mile Station, which literally takes the beer garden concept to the next level. Set on the rooftop of the chic mixed-use Ponce City Market, guests are initially met by a vibe reminiscent of Coney Island’s boardwalk of yesteryear. Nestled in the far corner, 9 Mile greets the city’s who’s who with a 200-seat venue that houses an open kitchen dishing out charcuterie and European-inspired shareables. While the interior is intimate and swanky, it’s the beer garden’s Adirondack chairs, picnic benches, and “igloos” during the cold months coupled with a backdrop boasting a majestic skyline connecting downtown, Midtown, and Buckhead claiming the fame. Mixologists happily pour the most current hard-to-find craft ales and lagers the season has to offer from nine taps, plus expert-selected cans and bottles. Ultimately, this outdoor experience leaves virtually nothing for a beer advocate to desire inside Georgia’s capital.
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. And it's not just the excellent German food, though the schnitzel is fantastic. 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 food cart pod, which houses Matt's BBQ, home of some of the best brisket in the entire country (you heard us, Texas). 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 an area whose identity changes with more regularity than Prost!'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.
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Escondido
Stone is one of America's most formidable (and influential) breweries, but it's also one of its most destination-worthy spots thanks to its stunning World Bistro & Beer Gardens. Enter through a semi-hidden pathway amid the warehouses of Escondido and you'll feel like you fell down a rabbit hole and landed in a massive puddle of Arrogant Bastard. The highlight of the operation -- moreso than the gorgeous interior whose crags and indoor trees looks like it was designed by a particularly boozy Ansel Adams -- is the beer garden, which stretches out into a one-acre wonderland complete with koi ponds, creekside seating, and access to both greatest hits and one-offs from one of the country's most reliable and playful breweries. It's a must visit for beer nerds and casual drinkers alike, the holy grail of brewery-adjacent beer gardens.
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.