Sure, you could guzzle a beer on almost every block in any of the boroughs. But for a truly sudsy time, why not head for a spot where you can get a chaser of ambience with your pint? Pour yourself into any of the old- and new-school beer gardens listed here—they’re the cream (ale) of the crop.
Good for: Harlemites and Columbia Grad Students
One of the nicest surprises hiding underneath the Henry Hudson Parkway, this beer garden’s 4,000-square-foot patio—dotted with rustic, shaded picnic tables and equipped with its own bar—is a great place to spend a sunny afternoon or warm evening. When the weather’s less cooperative, head indoors, where an old-fashioned bar awaits within the two-story, painted-brick building. (The second floor boasts a beautiful events space as well.) In addition to the chill setting, this place is a great deal. A half-liter of German beer will set you back just $7—and the food servings are enormous. The sausage platter features three brats, bacon-studded cabbage, and bier cheese, each portion large enough to feed a small family.
2346 Twelfth Avenue (at West 133rd Street), Harlem
Radegast Hall & Beer Garden
Good for: A Munich Staycation
Hipsters and hops? Sure! This modernist Williamsburg mecca makes the combo work, serving up more than a dozen beers on tap (the vast majority German), along with on-trend dishes like roasted bone marrow and lentil soup topped with a poached egg. Take a seat at one of the communal tables and you’ll have a chance to make friends with local beer fanatics. Alternatively, you can opt for the horseshoe-shaped bar. That is, if you can find a seat—it’s often packed. Live music is frequently on offer here, including during brunch, everything from swing music to bluesy ballads. You may even see some kinder dancing, too: Radegast is surprisingly and pleasantly family friendly, with minors permitted until 8 p.m. On Saturday night, there’s a DJ spinning tunes until 2 a.m., making this a lively place to hang out till the wee hours. But early birds will appreciate the $20 beer-and-entrée special, available Tuesday through Friday, 4 to 7 p.m.
113 North 3rd Street, Williamsburg
Good for: Families Craving Pierogi and a Slavic Dance Party
If you dig history with your hops, this is the place for you. First founded as a Czech/Slavic social club in 1910, Bohemian Hall is one of the oldest establishments in Queens. The leafy patio features communal tables where the pace of dining and drinking is leisurely, so kick back and settle in for a couple of hours. You’ll be glad for the time, since there’s so much to try, including a variety of Czech specialties. The pierogi taste as if your babicka made them, and there’s schnitzel and goulash, too. But even if you just want to wet your whistle, you’ll be dazzled: There are nearly 18 beers and hard ciders on tap, all at reasonable prices ($7 per mug; $18 for a pitcher), not to mention a respectable selection of wines. Friday and Saturday nights boast live music, attracting a young and energetic crowd.
29-19 24th Avenue, Astoria
Good for: Hedonist Hops Heads
The decor of this establishment—its named for an area of the Bronx and translates from Dutch to “spinning devil”—has a distinctly reddish cast, starting with the ironwork over the windows and door. But if you’re a fan of microbrews, you’ll think you’ve landed in heaven here: There’s a gobsmacking selection of obscure imports, especially Belgian brews, as well as offerings from nine other countries, for about 100 choices in all. The mahogany bar is the ideal place to scan all the chalkboard listings, chat with the aficionado owners, or, for that matter, meet some true beer hounds—those in the know trek from as far away as Connecticut and beyond to join the bohemian crowd and sample the latest beers. You’ll have fun aplenty, but don’t expect an upscale experience; the homey furniture is sourced from thrift shops, and the music comes from a well-stocked jukebox. In the back, there’s a charming garden—a rare bucolic gem along Metropolitan that’s a must-see in nice weather.
359 Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg
Good for: Celebrating Oktoberfest All Year
German pride is always on tap at this lively East Village Bavarian beerhouse and German restaurant. Scene-wise, it’s pretty much the way you’ve always imagined a biergarten to be; think of good-natured parties rolling out onto the streets and oompah bands with plenty of oomph. While the crowd here can seem young and a bit touristy, it’s the traditionalist touches that dominate. The 100-year-old chairs were brought over from Munich, and the owner’s father built the long communal tables by hand. The proprietor also nurtured his own trees, since finding garden space in Manhattan is even harder than locating a rent-controlled classic six on Park Avenue. The menu features über authentic dishes you’ve never heard of before but will love instantly, including pfannkuchensuppe (German pancake soup) and O’Batzda (a traditional Bavarian cheese spread). While special events such as pig roasts and DJ nights pop up throughout the year, nothing tops Zum Schneider’s version of Oktoberfest, called Munich on the East River; mark your calendar for September 29 to October 8.
107 Avenue C (at East 7th Street), Alphabet City
Black Forest Brooklyn
Good for: Lovebirds With a Taste for Wurst and Jerk Chicken
This trendy spot began with a love story: The co-owners both grew up in the rural Black Forest region of Germany, but only met when they moved to Fort Greene. And the love clearly shows in the cozy, rustic setting. The exposed brick front yields way to an interior decorated with an assortment of cuckoo clocks. Expect to mingle in a diverse crowd, all gathered to sample 14 German beers on tap and the house specialties, which include flammkuchen (Germany’s answer to thin-crust pizza) and some of the best wursts you will find on this side of the pond. But there are also less traditional selections on offer, like Jamaican jerk chicken wings and grilled branzino. An enormous HD screen means periodic viewing parties—locals clustered to watch last year’s presidential race—and you can also occasionally stumble onto photography exhibitions. Of course, Oktoberfest is big here as well, culminating in a huge party complete with a keg-tapping ceremony and mug-holding contest.
733 Fulton Street, Fort Greene
Good for: Beer Connoisseurs With Experimental Taste
Definitely falling on the new-school side of the fence, this Gowanus watering hole serves up suds along with a heaping side of hipster funk. The home brews on tap tend to have fanciful names like Words Have No Meaning or I Hate Myself (you’d think that was a dark beer, but it’s actually an IPA). The crowd here is varied, featuring everyone from 20-somethings to young families with small kids in tow. As for the menu, expect the unexpected, as guest restaurants periodically take turns in the kitchen—you’re as likely to get Korean ribs as a knockwurst. Inside, there’s lots of wood and painted brick, plus plants and fun signs (like “Kisses”) for a bright overall effect. The garden in back is an absolute delight, blanketed with countless seashells and strung up with lights. And while one side of the narrow space consists of a graffiti-marred wall, the other features climbing vines in good weather for a refreshing bit of greenery.
333 Douglass Street, Gowanus
The Standard Biergarten
Good for: Those Looking to Pregame Before Taking On the Meatpacking Clubs
It’s refreshing to find something so down-home in the Meatpacking District. Nestled beneath the High Line’s trestles, this street-level treasure is always busy. In warm weather, the space is open-air and surrounded by plants; otherwise it’s enclosed in glass so you can stay warm while knocking back a cold one. No matter what time of year you visit, you’ll find ping-pong tables at the ready for an impromptu game or two with your pals (or some new ones you meet during your visit). How cool is this beer garden? Cool enough to have its very own beer, Standard Brauhaus, that’s crafted in the Bavarian Alps. Also cool enough to have special tables called stammtisch that have a trio of built-in taps, so you can simply serve yourself if you’d prefer to skip the lines. And not surprisingly, the crowd here is cool, too—think: chic professionals unwinding after a long day, enjoying some charcuterie or giant pretzels big enough to serve at least two.
848 Washington Street (between Little West 12th and West 13th Streets), Meatpacking District
Clinton Hall BX
Good for: In-the-know Families and Fordham Kids Who Don’t Want to Catch the Ram Van
A funky geometric wall mural on the facade beckons you to this beer garden beloved by nearby Fordham University students. But Clinton Hall also attracts young families, along with visitors who drive from as far as three hours away just to sample what’s on tap. That’s because the selection features rare, small-batch, and non-mainstream beers from around the country. It’s a reflection of this hot spot’s popularity, as well as its commitment to maintaining beer at its finest, that picky brewers decide to distribute their batches here. While this place is serious about beer, fun otherwise rules. It’s evident from the menu, which in the past has included a “Breaking Bad” white-powdered doughnut, and currently has a fondue burger stuffed with pimento and french fries. It’s also clear from the many games that are available to play as you drink and dine—there are regular and giant-size board games including Scrabble, Connect Four, Jenga, and Cards Against Humanity.
601 East 189th Street, Bronx
Good for: Local Libation Lovers
Formerly a tire shop, this beer garden’s interior proudly embraces its gritty past, from its hammered-tin ceiling and spare, garage-style overhead lighting to its weathered brick walls enlivened with murals and mug shots. Out back is a patio studded with communal tables, while inside, the tables are made from reclaimed firewood. You’ll also find a pinball machine cozied up in a corner. Beyond the garden lies the actual bar, which has a glass ceiling lined with wooden beams. Don’t sidle up and ask what they’ve got in bottles—you’ll only find draft beers here, about 20 in all, most sourced locally. There aren’t any nibbles to wash it all down with (order delivery from local places), but there’s a full selection of liquors and also an ever-changing, naturally carbonated cask-pulled ale if you’re looking for a change from beer. You’d be hard-pressed to find a kid in sight, making this a great place to escape for a little grown-up time mingling with hops snobs.
249 Fourth Avenue, Gowanus
West End Hall
Good for: Laid-Back Upper West Siders Looking for an Escape From the Norm
Ever had a friend who seemed really quiet and buttoned up but was actually always ready to party? That’s what it’s like stepping off staid upper Broadway and finding yourself in this 250-seat beer emporium. The servers wear flannel, setting a laid-back tone that lets you truly relax and enjoy. Twenty draft selections are on hand, all tapped through a flux capacitor—think: Beer to the Freshest, not Back to the Future—for just the correct levels of compression and gas. Take a look at the gauges and gadgets on the wall to get a good idea of how carefully beer is kept and served here. The menu covers all the basics—pretzel, check; schnitzel, ja—but branches far beyond it to include pressed Cubano dogs, Maya shrimp tacos, and zeppoles for dessert. So settle into a seat inside, next to the graffiti and Rosie the Riveter mural, or head to the back garden, with its shrubbery and ivy-covered brick walls. There’s plenty to sample, and no one will rush you or the rest of the eclectic crowd.
2756 Broadway (at West 106th Street), Upper West Side