Warm weather has finally (mostly) returned to Philly, and with it marks the annual reopening of the area’s beer gardens. These can exist through a quirk in the PA liquor laws, allowing local entrepreneurs to operate outdoor bars during the summer months. Now that's a loophole we can get behind.
With the start of beer garden season, here's a breakdown of the area’s best outdoor drinking in a garden that is not actually a garden (regular ol' patios not included). Drink up before the taps are kicked for another year.
Going on five years strong, Morgan’s Pier re-opened on the Delaware this past month with a new menu from chef-in-residence Jim Burke. Each year, some of the area’s top chefs take over the Morgan’s Pier kitchen for a four-month “experiment.” New food options include a gnocchi gratin with summer truffle, fisherman’s stew, and last year’s favorite, the lobster roll. Drinks will continue to be liberally poured, with special events Wednesday nights, live music on Thursdays, and DJs on the weekends.
Often unfairly overlooked -- it is, after all, smack dab between Morgan’s Pier and Spruce Street Harbor -- the beer garden at La Peg returns again this year with even more seating and a seafood shack, serving New England summertime classics like lobster rolls and fried clams. La Peg will also be hosting an outdoor film festival during the summer.
It’s a little unfair to characterize Spruce Street Harbor as just a beer garden. After all, the waterfront park has everything from hammocks to an outpost of Federal Donuts (Port FedNuts). So it should be no surprise that Spruce Street Harbor is one of our favorite places to knock back a few cold ones during the summer months. This year, there will be more than 15 taps serving local craft beer, as well as wine and cocktails, along with new restaurant collaborations from the Fat Hen (Sbraga Dining) and Chickie’s & Pete’s.
Taking full advantage of the oversight in the law that defines what constitutes a "beer garden" in Philly, Fergie’s version of one can be found in the parking lot next to the pub. It’s pretty simple: a few picnic tables, cornhole, and cold beer. But that’s exactly what makes it so great; during the summer, no one wants to drink inside. Fergie’s gets it.
Despite some permit issues last year, Uptown is back for a second go-round in Penn Center. The beer garden, from the team behind Brü and U-Bahn, is one of the city's largest, with more than 9,000sqft of outdoor drinking space. Uptown is generally more crowded during the week, thanks in part to Sips specials on Wednesdays, so expect the crowds to thin considerably during the weekend.
We’re assuming that the founding fathers would be pretty proud of IDG, the only beer garden with a direct view of Independence Hall -- after all, that Ben Franklin did love beer. Independence Beer Garden has food, too, in addition to its 40 taps of regional and domestic craft beers. The communal tables, complete with Jenga sets, are perfect for making some new friends over the warmer months.
If you want your beer garden with a side of nightclub, Silk City’s beer garden is your spot. To be fair, though, it's a wonderful place to grab Sunday brunch too. At Silk City, enjoy beers, cocktails, and even dinner at one of the outdoor, umbrella covered tables before heading inside to dance the night away to whatever DJ is spinning that night.
The only year-round beer garden on the list, Frankford Hall is also the most traditional German biergarten. The menu features German classics like spätzle, schnitzel, and six different types of sausages, while the draft list has over 10 different German beer selections, all available in large, liter steins. Expect it to be 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.
Callowhill and South Street
Since 2011, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has been running pop-up gardens in under-utilized spaces throughout the city. This year, the PHS will have two of them, with locations in Callowhill (10th & Hamilton) and South Street (15th & South). Expect all the good things you’ve seen in previous years, with more specific details to come in the coming weeks.
While not officially open yet -- construction should wrap by early June -- the new beer garden at Top of the Tower is something we have a good feeling about. First of all, the team behind Brauhaus Schmitz will be running the bar, so expect good beer and food options. Oh, and it'll be 51 stories above ground, so it’s got that going for it. We’re not really going out on a limb in predicting that it'll be a popular spot this summer.
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Dan’s hoping that Philly’s beer garden movement will lead to full on New Orleans-style drinking in the streets. We already have the Mummers Parade. Follow him @dannypageviews.
At this extensive waterfront beer garden, Morgan’s Pier, some of the area’s top chefs take over the Morgan’s Pier kitchen for a four-month “experiment" every year. With outdoor seating for up to 500 people, it's one of the best spots to enjoy a casual bite to eat, craft beer, wine, and cocktails.
2. La Peg 140 N Columbus Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19106 (Old City)
Set in a historic pumphouse, La Peg in Penn's Landing reflects its history with salvaged tanks, shelves and maps. The space, with 45-foot-tall ceilings and large windows, also houses the FringeArts 230-seat theater, and the two are separated by a soundproof door that can open to blend the arts and the restaurant experience for certain events. La Peg itself is a contemporary American brasserie serving humanely raised meats and seasonal vegetables in many of their dishes. Their fully stocked bar features both well known brands and less-recognized offerings. Outside is a large patio and beer garden that serves drinks and casual food, with a fire pit in the winter.
Depending on the time of year, the Waterfront boasts dozens of activities thanks to the Spruce Street Harbor Park. Beer gardens pop up in the summer, and the views of nature impress regardless of the season. The waterfront park has everything from hammocks to an outpost of Federal Donuts (Port FedNuts).
Fergie's is the ultimate Irish pub. They have everything that you want from a friendly neighborhood dive bar, like Irish pub fare, local beers, live music, and quiz nights. In the parking lot next to the pub, you'll find the simple beer garden with a few picnic tables. You can also get some vegan food options here, so there is something for everyone at Fergie's.
Uptown Beer Garden located in the courtyard of the BNY Mellon Building, is brought to you by the team behind Brü and U-Bahn, is one of the city's largest, with more than 9,000sqft of outdoor drinking space. Apart from offering craft beers, the bar at this rustic hangout spot also serves cocktails, wine, food.
Located outdoors under a rope light canopy not far from the Liberty Bell and Independence Mall in Market East, Independence Beer Garden's vast 20,000sqft open space and long group picnic tables lead to the ultimate summer city escape. Regardless of how long you may be waiting at the packed bar for a drink, you'll enjoy the victory of sipping a local beer or housemade cocktail from the broad selection.
If you want your beer garden with a side of nightclub, Silk City’s beer garden is your spot. To be fair, though, it's a wonderful place to grab a classic all-American meal too. At Silk City, enjoy beers, cocktails, and even dinner at one of the outdoor, umbrella covered tables before heading inside to dance the night away to whatever DJ is spinning that night.
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.