Beer Gardens And The Art Of Boozing Outdoors

April 2, 2010

Clare Goggin

While I can’t speak for the rest of the country, I know for sure that today is a beautiful day in the Northeast. The kind of day that makes you want to sip beer outdoors and a pretty big hint that beer garden season is well on its way.

Beer gardens appear to be gaining popularity of late. Perhaps the craft brew movement has something to do with it? With all these fantastic local brews at hand, beer lovers want to get out of their usual dark bar corners and sit in the sun with a pitcher full of tasty hefeweizen or pilsner or IPA or whathaveyou.

In New York City, the beer garden has long been a phenomenon that could only really be enjoyed in an outer borough. Manhattan is far too crammed to offer the necessary amount of space to accommodate a high quality outdoor patio let alone a beer garden.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped bars on the island from trying. But what a Manhattan beer garden generally amounts to is a small square of space for a few benches and tables cut out from a series of high rises and apartment buildings.

In this city, the true beer garden has only succeeded in Queens — Astoria to be exact. The Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden, which we’ve discussed in the past (they have a great happy hour in the winter months — sadly, it’s over now), has endured years of boozing visitors and attracted those from all boroughs and even Long Island but they still manage to maintain some semblance of tradition, hosting live Bavarian music and serving up Eastern European fare. They still serve mainly imported brews but have recently adopted some locals, like Sixpoint, Captain Lawrence, and Ommegang.

Several newbies come along every year. Last year, Studio Square opened to much fanfare a few subway stops from Bohemian Hall. They’ve done quite well for themselves, serving mainly American dishes and domestic craft brews. Their prices are higher but the space is bigger and more modern.

Brooklyn also acts as home to several beer gardens. Radegast, which serves only imported German beer in Williamsburg, is less an outdoor space and more a warehouse without a roof. Park Slope recently welcomed Mission Dolores, a beer garden that only opened yesterday. We have not had the honor of visiting yet but I look forward to it — I’d really like to see what they’ve got on tap.

Other cities seem to have it easier when it comes to beer gardening — they’ve got more space. Even Nebraska has Zum Biergarten just outside of Omaha. Although, this German spot appears to put more emphasis on the food than on the beer … but they only just opened so give them some time.

Philly has quite a few to offer although the most recent beer garden plan seems to be struggling through lots of red tape: Stephen Starr’s Fistown Bier Garten has the locals up in arms. Didn’t anyone tell these people that Philly is a beer city?

Even breweries have embraced the beer garden atmosphere. Stone’s World Bistro sits on a very large outdoor space in one of the most beautiful places in the country. There’s no better place to go if you’re looking to sip Ruination IPA and get some sun at the same time.

Where is your favorite beer garden? Tell us — we always love checking out new spots if we can get there!

Studio Square by Clare Goggin

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