In the southern German state of Bavaria, home to Oktoberfest and indisputably one of the beery-est places on Earth, Biergärten, or beer gardens, are a way of life. Munich, the region’s capital, has around 200 of them, some of which date all the way back to 1812, when the first king of Bavaria, Maximilian I, signed an official decree permitting brewers to sell beer and bread in green spaces over their beer cellars. Today, the city’s beer gardens are a focal point of community life, a welcoming space for children and adults.
It’s not hard to see the appeal, or why the concept so quickly spread all over the world. Nowadays, even if you can’t afford a plane ticket to the birthplace of the beer garden, you can choose from dozens of equally gemütlich options all around the United States. The following are some of our favorites. Some steer as close to authentically German as possible, while others ditch the lederhosen and opt for a draft list of exceptional American craft beers. Either way, they’re the perfect places to nurse a pint (or liter-sized Maß, if you prefer) during lazy summer afternoons.
Banger’s: Austin, Texas
Two-hundred beers on tap and 50 more bottles—need we say more? While we’d happily visit this Austin hotspot for the craft beer alone, it also serves 30 types of handmade sausages like a Texas antelope riff on merguez and a duck sausage studded with port-plumped figs and bacon. As if that weren’t enough, Banger’s also features live music and throws bombshell barbecues on Saturdays, in which they roast whole animals including goats, alligators, lambs and deer. The beer garden behind a century-old house is popping just about any day of the week, but it’s especially slammed during their Sunday Big Band Brunch.
Lowry Beer Garden: Denver, Colorado
With a whopping 9,000 feet of outdoor space and picnic tables that can comfortably seat 500, this mammoth beer garden is where the Mile High City goes to party. Lowry Beer Garden is the site of all sorts of events, but it’s also a solid choice for catching up with friends on a mellow Tuesday evening. The 16-beer draft list has everything from a dry-hopped French saison to a Mexican chocolate stout and is guaranteed to satisfy just about any craving.
Rhein Haus: Seattle, Washington
“Bocce, Beer, Brats”—the tagline tells you everything you need to know about this popular Seattle watering hole. When the area’s famously rainy skies clear, Rhein Haus is consistently mobbed and the beer garden turns into something of an impromptu party. With bartenders pouring liters of 16 different draft beers, many of them German, it’s easy to get into the festive spirit. After you’ve worked up an appetite playing bocce ball, order one of their monstrous plates of house-made sausages, which includes classic bratwursts as well as funkier additions like a smoked habanero cheddarwurst. Whatever else you get, don’t miss the warm pretzels served with Emmental-beer fondue or obatzda, a cheesy Bavarian spread.
Sheffield’s Beer and Wine Garden: Chicago, Illinois
Come to Sheffield’s Beer and Wine Garden for the heaping platters of 18-hour-smoked brisket and Carolina-style pulled pork with a tangy house-made vinegar sauce; stay for the killer beer selection. The bottle list is extensive and the well-curated selection on tap runs the gamut from milk stouts and double IPAs to goses and more classic lagers. Best of all, the tree-shaded picnic tables are just about unbeatable when it comes to hosting larger groups. Consider your summer Sundays solved.
Radegast Hall & Biergarten: Brooklyn, New York
Don’t be surprised if you run into a group of homesick German expats nursing liters of helles and hefeweizen here. With more than a dozen German beers on draft, this Williamsburg beer hall and garden is about as close as you’ll get to Munich’s Hofbräuhaus this side of the Atlantic. The menu sticks close to the theme with giant Bavarian pretzels, buttery veal schnitzel, and Käsespätzle, a mound of toothsome dumplings smothered in molten cheese. It’s good fun all year long, but Radegast Hall & Biergarten really comes into its own during Oktoberfest when it hosts a weekly celebration with live bands and a whole pig roast.