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A traditional German beer garden is little more than a shaded grove with picnic tables, but US chefs and restaurateurs are enhancing the concept with spectacular food and design innovations that range from whiskey-barrel tables to a multimillion-dollar retractable roof. Here, the best beer gardens in the U.S.
Biergarten, San Francisco, CA
This asphalt garden from the owners of the German restaurant Suppenkuche has a minimalist focus on quality, serving just a handful of excellent pilsners, wheat beers and schwarzbiers in huge one-liter steins. Snacks include flavorful bratwurst and fluffy pretzels.
Sheffield's, Chicago, IL
This popular Lakeview garden concentrates on the beer, offering a strong selection of American craft brews and a number of spectacular bottles from Belgium, like Brouwerij Verhaeghe’s Duchesse de Bourgogne, a complex fruity-and-sour blend of oak-aged ales. Cottonwood trees shade the picnic tables on its comfy patio.
Birreria, New York City, NY
This retracting-roof bar is an airy escape above the bustle of Mario Batali’s maximalist Italian market complex, Eataly. The draw for beer lovers, however, is the brewing program. Two top Italian brewmasters and Dogfish Head’s iconoclastic Sam Calagione collaborated with on-site brewer Peter Hepp, Jr., to make a series of remarkable cask-conditioned ales, like one brewed with fragrant Italian thyme.
Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden, Queens, NY
Established in 1910 by a Czech community group, Astoria’s Bohemian Hall is today one of New York City’s quintessential summer hangouts. Patrons eat Slovenian kielbasa sausages with $16 pitchers of refreshing beers like Krusovice pilsener.
Easy Tiger, Austin, TX
This beer garden-bakery is the newest project from Top Chef Season 9 competitor Andrew Curren, and the chef’s enthusiasm for well-done comfort food comes through in thick sandwiches piled with house-made corned beef and pastrami. The upstairs bakery, headed by expert baker David Norman, also turns out chewy pretzels and flaky pastries, including the signature Tiger Claw with its spiced pecan filling. The garden offers 30 tap beers, like North Coast Brewing Co.’s lauded Old Rasputin Imperial Stout.
Der Biergarten, Atlanta, GA
This über-traditional German-style beer garden goes all-out during Oktoberfest, then gears up for Christmas with 26 trees and, it claims, more than 10,000 ornaments. The bar boasts that it was the first in America to serve Germany’s ubiquitous Krombacher pilsner on draft, and the list also includes one of the country’s most refreshing wheat beers, Weihenstephaner.
Sweet Cheeks Q, Boston, MA
Top Chef competitor Tiffani Faison has added a homey outdoor space to her excellent barbecue joint near Fenway Park. Whiskey barrels serve as standing-room tables, and patrons can order from four rotating drafts and the full Sweet Cheeks menu. Faison’s fatty Berkshire pulled pork is a favorite.
Drury Beer Garden, Philadelphia, PA
Philadelphia’s hip Midtown Village now has an excellent urban beer garden. Greek restaurant Opa converted its backyard (a former parking lot) into a hangout with ping-pong tables and a short food menu that includes pretzels and mustard made with Dale’s Pale Ale. Four drafts include the spiced Allagash White, and bottles include the excellent Saison Dupont farmhouse ale from Belgium.
Lowry Beer Garden, Denver, CO
Colorado’s legendary craft beer industry is on display at this new 8,000-square-foot space, which offers draft beers and bottles from the state’s top breweries, such as Avery, Odell and Left Hand. Located next to the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, the bar is the latest addition to a converted 1939 Air Force hangar that currently hosts offices and a farmers’ market.
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, San Diego, CA
Known for producing some of America’s most intensely hopped, bracingly bitter ales (like the flagship Arrogant Bastard), Stone’s namesake venue is one of the country’s most pleasant and beautiful. A 12,000-square-foot restaurant adjoins a verdant one-acre organic garden with olive trees, a koi pond and a fire pit along its paths—which are excellent for wandering with one of the bar’s 30-plus draft beers in hand.
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