Food & Drink

The Greatest German Beer Halls in America

Published On 09/21/2016 Published On 09/21/2016
Andrew Zimmer/Thrillist

Scholz Garten

Austin, TX

Opened by a German immigrant and Civil War vet in 1866, Austin's go-to biergarten is also the oldest operating business in the great state of Texas -- but don't worry, this ain't just your pawpaw's saloon. There's plenty of cold German lagers and weizens -- plus American craft selections from the likes of Live Oak and 512 -- on tap to combat those muggy nights and hungry drinkers choose from an Ăźber-Texas mix of stuff like BBQ nachos and chicken-fried steak, as well as a smattering of Bavarian staples such as bratwurst, giant pretzels, and schnitzel. A healthy mix of students, locals, and old-timers roam around the sprawling, Christmas light-strewn indoor-outdoor space or take shelter in the warm, wood-paneled interior, every one of them ready to drop the pint and bust out a mean two-step once that live music gets pumping.

Flickr/Carlos Sara

Bavarian Inn

Frankenmuth, MI

Is this monolithic, block-long German restaurant and beer hall corny? Well, yes… that should be expected from a gigantic Bavarian-style building plopped in the middle of a German-themed town where a 365-days-a-year Christmas store is the star attraction. And while the all-you-can-eat fried chicken is only the second best in the city, it's still pretty great. The resort/beer hall is an icon, where buxom servers in traditional garb hoist armfuls of steins and polka never stops. In the summer the outdoor action is like a never-ending Oktoberfest: you can put down German beers to a soundtrack of live music, then take to the dance floor to burn it all off. Or just spill beer everywhere. It's like being in Germany, but with Midwestern accents.

Flickr/Jun Seita

Biergarten

San Francisco, CA

With its trendier-than-thou boutique shops and $15 mixologist-engineered cocktails, Hayes Valley might not seem like the ideal neighborhood for a chilled-out, no-frills German biergarten, but somehow this charming little corner of the world manages to fit right in. Maybe it's Biergarten's excellent 25-draft-long tap list, dotted with West Coast favorites like Green Flash and Stone as well as European classics like Spaten and Reissdorf, each available by the liter and sold out of an effortlessly cool refashioned shipping container. Or maybe it's the unpretentious, cozy, open-air ambience, softly lit by crisscrossing lines of lightbulbs glowing overhead. Or maybe, just maybe, it's that regardless of tax bracket, all anyone really wants is a hot pretzel, an inviting crowd, and a giant mug of cold, cold lager.

Der Biergarten

Atlanta, GA

Authenticity is the name of the game at this O-ist-of-G beer hall, owned by a German expat dedicated to bringing the taste of Bavaria to the A. Kick back and enjoy a juicy wurstsplatte, a frosty German import beer -- served in a heavy-bottomed, wide-mouth stein, of course -- and take in the kitschy, ode-to-Deutschland decor (think: pastoral murals straight out of "Hansel and Gretel," long wooden tables, stone walls, a model train choo-chooing overhead). It might be 90 degrees outside, but inside it's as pleasant and cool as the Alps in April.

Flickr/Marc Flores

Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden

New York, NY

No list of great American beer halls would ever be complete without a nod to New York’s oldest, and arguably finest, lager-guzzling, sausage-scarfing institution. The tap list runs the gamut from Krombacher and Hofbrau to Blue Point and Lagunitas and the menu is loaded with all the Euro comfort dishes you know and love (homemade pierogies, anyone?). The real star of the show, though, is the space itself -- the tree-lined garden is one of the city's largest outdoor drinking spots and for shoebox-dwelling New Yorkers, it doesn't get much better than that. And though the century-old beer mecca is not actually German -- it's owned and managed by a Czech and Slovak community group -- it does throw a mean Oktoberfest party, complete with epic stein-hoisting contests (seriously, look it up), crazy-cheap draft specials, and lots and lots of live polka.

Paulaner Brauhaus

New York, NY

A relative newcomer to the deep-rolling NYC bierhall scene, this Bowery outpost sets itself apart by brewing all its draft brews tableside, piping it directly from the tanks to your stein. That means every pour is ultra-fresh, a crucial factor when it comes to delicate, subtle German lagers. The bar is long and inviting, the dining room is in full view of the gorgeous, state-of-the-art copper brauhaus, and the food tastes as good as it smells (get the bratwurst burger, stacked with briny sauerkraut and nestled in a pillowy pretzel bun). Paulaner is obviously a well-established international operation, but its first American location bucks tradition by incorporating modern-day hops and IPA-influenced brews into the ever-growing repertoire.

Flickr/bg5000

Resi's Bierstube

Chicago, IL

Who's Resi? Who cares! All we care about are 12+ rotating German taps plus a massive bottle selection focusing on specialty Weiss beers, delicious and super-filling Eastern European standbys like rahmschnitzel and belly-warming beef goulash, floor-to-ceiling vintage decor (think: yellowing coasters, lederhosen-clad bobbleheads, Alps-inspired woodcuts, steins, steins, and more steins), and an adorable stay-all-day back patio. If you're a beer-loving, sausage-craving Chicagoan (i.e., any Chicagoan), you've probably already been there, done that, and are currently sporting the T-shirt to prove it.

Munchen Haus

Leavenworth, WA

Driving into the village of Leavenworth feels like you've somehow hit a wormhole and gone from the Pacific Northwest into the German countryside, and that's kind of the point: Leavenworth prides itself on being an authentic representation of Alpine livin' slapped into the Pacific Northwest. And no German village is complete without a great bierhall, a mantle Munchen Haus has gamely taken up. This is a place that gets very literal with the concept of the beer garden: an enormous display of vibrant flowers, lovingly manicured by the owners' parents, serves as the border for the raucous outdoor drinking area, where steins swing freely year-round amid gorgeous mountain views from the balcony. The joint also recently started up its own brewery, Icicle, with the solid crosscut Pilsner holding its own with the German offerings rotating on tap. It also makes a great IPA, in case you need reminding that you haven't discovered Germany's answer to Brigadoon.

Flickr/Paul Sableman

Urban Chestnut

St. Louis, MO

Anheuser-Busch alum and real-life German person Florian Kuplent is the brewmaster behind this 7,000sqft, LEED-certified Forest Park production brewery and beer hall, and boy does he know his Bavarian beer. House brews reflect Urban Chestnut's core "new world meets old world" philosophy -- an expertly crafted mix of IPAs, Belgian-style farmhouse ales, and age-old German standards. The space, a former paper factory, has it all: streamlined, post-industrial vibes, an unobstructed brewhouse view, and schnitzel fried so crispy, served so hot, and piled high with so much tangy 'kraut you'll be breaking out the lederhosen in no time.

Drew Tyson/Thrillist

Stammtisch

Portland, OR

Portland was recently blessed with Zoiglhaus, a 7,500sqft, family-friendly German-themed brewery in the underserved Lents neighborhood that capped off a slight boom in German drinking culture. But Stammtisch -- a sister bar to the also-great biergarten Prost -- is the whole shebang. The smell of currywurst hangs thick in the air here, among other farm-fresh takes on German classics (there's also a damn fine burger). Then, of course, there's the beer, served as God intended: by the liter, with a huge selection of German imports poured into proper glassware and best enjoyed as a substitute for doing biceps curls. On rainy days (aka "a day" in Portland), they're best enjoyed boisterously at the thick, authentic wooden tables. But come Oktoberfest, the party spills into the streets. Also as God intended.

Frankford Hall

Philadelphia, PA

Philly has always prided itself on its indulgent, greasy eats and laid-back drinking culture, so it's easy to see how this red brick, garage-like year-round outdoor jawn serving up liters of thirst-quenching German drafts and six (!) different types of sausages makes a killing in the city of bruder-ly love. Ice-cold helles lager and Pils keep revelers chilling on sticky summer nights while malty Oktoberfests and smoky schwarzbiers -- not to mention a cluster of space heaters and a real-deal fire pit -- keep 'em going straight through the spring. Stake out a spot under a shady tree, grab a seat at one of the many communal picnic tables, and raise a stein to Philly.

Lacey Muszynski/Thrillist

Estabrook Beer Garden

Milwaukee, WI

Perched on the far edge of Milwaukee's Estabrook Park, this serene watering hole might be tough to find, but it's definitely worth the hike. It's arguably the garden-iest of biergartens, littered with long tables, bicycles, and picnicking families taking in beautiful river views, tipping back frothy steins of Hofbrau Munchen, and basking in the midday sun. It's the kind of place where an entire Sunday can pass in what feels like a matter of minutes, so make sure to pack that sunscreen.

Red Lion Tavern

Los Angeles, CA

Back in 1959, Silver Lake was nowhere near the hipster mecca it is today -- meaning it was the perfect place to open one of Los Angeles' most charmingly kitschy biergartens. And through the years, Red Lion has prevailed, hanging fast to its commitment to Disneyland-level European immersion. Of course, it's got all the usual suspects: German beer on tap (Warsteiner, Spaten, Bitburger, and more) and a schnitzel-and-wurst-dominated menu, plus a backyard garden so laden with flags and old-school flair you'll swear you've slipped into some sudsy German fairytale. Be sure to peep the rooftop -- it's one of the most laid-back and least pretentious in the 'hood, by far (and totally lacking in skinny jeans and oversized sunglasses).

Flickr/Bill Stanley

The Rathskeller

Indianapolis, IN

In the market for a nice outdoor beer hall where you and about 100 of your closest drinking buddies can comfortably kick back for an afternoon? The Rathskeller is here for you. This palatial, castle-like bar has everything you want and more -- a central Indianapolis location, a backyard and ornate corner stage fit for a music festival, and heat lamps a'plenty for optimal late-night fun. Inside, you'll find a long, narrow restaurant space, chock-full of taxidermy and eerily reminiscent of Harry Potter's dining hall, as well as with enough space for an entire wedding (if you're feeling frisky). Try to get there early on the weekends, as this can place fill up faster than the Hoosiers can blow a 14-point lead.

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1. Scholz Garten 1607 San Jacinto Blvd, Austin, TX 78701 (Downtown)

Scholz Garten is not only a kitschy pregame location for BBQ and beer -- it’s the oldest operating business in Texas. It was founded in 1866 by Civil War veteran and German immigrant, August Scholz, and originally catered only to thirsty Bavarians and Prussians looking for a taste of home and served traditional German food and beer, both of which can still be found here today. Order the giant Bavarian pretzel, the bratwurst, and potato salad, and wash it down with an ice-cold draft “bier” (our favorite is the Spaten Optimator).

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2. Bavarian Inn of Frankenmuth 1 Covered Bridge Ln, Frankenmuth, MI 48734

The Bavarian Inn Lodge is probably the closest you can get to Bavaria without actually going to Bavaria itself. The Chalet-style campus is sprawling, boasting authentic Bavarian architecture (intricate hand-painted murals, tile roofs, and an actual glockenspiel, to name a few), and not only will your server be decked out in traditional German attire -- there's a good chance you'll be serenaded by a merry accordion player while dining. While you don't want to miss out on standout light fare like buttered spaetzle and Hofbräu beer cheese dip, make sure to save room for the legendary, massive family-style platter of fried chicken. Just don't forget your lederhosen. The star attraction of a town whose entire aesthetic replicates a German Village, Bavarian Inn takes its German influences very, very seriously, from the constant presence of lederhosen to the buxom servers in frilly blouses delivering gigantic platters of fried chicken.

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3. Biergarten 424 Octavia St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (Hayes Valley)

With quintessential large mugs, sausages and sauerkraut, long picnic tables in the sun (hopefully), and a rotating selection of impressive German beers, Biergarten everything you want in, well, a beer garden. It’s owned by the masterminds behind Suppenküche, so you know you can bank on them having a way with Teutonic suds and snacks. With no roof, it’s not the ideal spot for a rainy day pint, but you’ll be clamoring for a space come summertime.

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4. Der Biergarten 300 Marietta St NW, Atlanta, GA 30313 (Downtown)

Indulge in all the schnitzel you seek at Der Biergarten, a festive 7,000sqft indoor/outdoor haven for Deutsch-y food & froth fanatics. This place is loaded with 3-D murals of the German countryside, a circular "Stammtisch" (table for regulars) with its own chandelier, and a German-made model train circling the interior's ceiling.

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5. Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden 29-19 24th Ave, Astoria, NY 11105 (Queens)

One of the largest outdoor drinking venues in the city, this Astoria beer garden boasts a huge backyard with communal picnic tables and a stage for live music. The Czech-inspired menu features imported pilsners like Krusovice and Staropramen, and traditional dishes like grilled bratwursts, potato pierogis, and roast pork with sauerkraut and dumplings. Though summer is undoubtedly Bohemian Hall's busiest season, the indoor bar makes for a cozy winter hang spot.

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6. Paulaner Brauhaus & Restaurant 265 Bowery, New York, NY 10002 (Lower East Side)

Paulaner Brauhaus is an exquisite example of German heaven in the Lower East Side. It's gone through one massive revamp from the Paulaner folks (along with the team behind Edi & The Wolf and the Michelin-starred Seasonal), though they obviously kept the brewed-on-premises beer. The wienerschnitzel and bratwurst burger are must-gets, as is the boozy root beer.

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7. Resi Bierstube 2034 W Irving Park Rd, Chicago, IL 60618 (North Center)

Open since 1973, Resi's Bierstube restaurant serves traditional German food and imported beers, complete with a beer garden in the back and wrought iron tables. This spot has over a dozen German beers on tap, over 20 Weiss Biers on tap and in bottles, and features a new brew every week. The authentic homemade German dishes include the likes of frankfurters, a variety of schnitzels, bratwurst sausages, and more.

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8. MĂźnchen Haus 709 Front St, Leavenworth, WA 98826

Munchen Haus gets very literal with the concept of the beer garden: an enormous display of vibrant flowers, lovingly manicured by the owners' parents serves as the border for the raucous outdoor drinking area, where steins swing freely year round amid gorgeous mountain views from the balcony. The joint also has its own brewery, Icicle, with the solid crosscut Pilsner holding its own with the German offerings rotating on tap. They also make a great IPA, in case you need reminding that you haven't discovered Germany's answer to Brigadoon.

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9. Urban Chestnut Brewing Company 4465 Manchester Ave, St Louis, MO 63110

Anheuser-Busch alum Florian Kuplent is the brewmaster behind this 7,000sqft, LEED-certified Forest Park production brewery and beer hall. House brews reflect Urban Chestnut’s core “new world meets old world” philosophy -- an expertly crafted mix of IPAs, Belgian-style farmhouse ales, and age-old German standards. The space, a former paper factory, has it all: streamlined, post-industrial vibes, an unobstructed brewhouse view, and schnitzel fried so crispy, served so hot, and piled high with so much tangy ‘kraut you’ll be breaking out the Lederhosen in no time.

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10. Stammtisch 401 NE 28th Ave, Portland, OR 97232 (Ne Portland)

A hamburger my not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think German pub, but the one at this Northeast Portland joint comes on a toasty pretzel bun with tomato, red onion, crispy iceberg, and house-made mustard.

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11. Frankford Hall 1210 Frankford Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19125 (Fishtown)

One of the only year-round beer gardens, Frankford Hall is also the most traditional German biergarten. The brick-walled Fishtown spot has a menu that features German classics like spätzle, schnitzel, and six different types of sausages. Additionally, the draft beer list has over 10 different German beer selections, all available in large, liter steins. It's especially popular in the summer months, when an opening at one of the picnic tables is harder to find than a parking spot in Fairmount.

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12. Estabrook Park Beer Garden 4600 Estabrook Dr, Milwaukee, WI 53209 (Whitefish Bay)

Estabrook Beer Garden, modeled after those in Munich, Germany, claims to be one of the first true public beer gardens in America since prohibition. The food menu consists of sausage and Bavarian pretzels, but you can bring your own picnic if you prefer. Beer can be ordered in traditional Munich style, by the liter or half liter, and once you're full you can cruise along the Milwaukee River in Estabrook Park.

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13. Red Lion Tavern 2366 Glendale Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90039 (Silverlake)

Open since 1959 in Silver Lake, the Red Lion Tavern has seen the neighborhood transform into the hipster locale it is today. The German-themed bar will make you feel like you're in the middle of Berlin, thanks to a rotating selection of German beer, a schnitzel- and bratwurst-heavy food menu, and the kitschy, flag-laden beer garden. The rooftop is one of the least pretentious ones in Los Angeles, even if it isn't that high off the ground.

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14. The Rathskeller 401 E Michigan St, Indianapolis, IN 46204

Indianapolis’s oldest restaurant, The Rathskeller has been serving German brews and bites since 1884. The dining room and Kellerbar are housed in the basement of architectural masterpiece the Athenaeum, while the adjoining biergarten is situated just outside. In addition to steak, seafood, chicken, pork, and vegetarian entrees, the restaurant’s award-winning menu features cuisine from the old country, like sauerbraten soaked for five days in currant ginger marinade, Jäegerschnitzel with wild mushrooms, shallots, garlic, red wine, and herbs, and rouladen with homemade gravy. The Kellerbar is stocked with 12 imported draft beers and over 50 imported bottled beers, but the real gem is the biergarten, where you can pair your beer with appetizers like baked Brie chicken cordon bleu fingers, all while taking in the fresh Indy air.