We’re not advocates for heavy drinking, but the famous phrase from an even more famous Bavarian drinking song that encourages beer drinkers to pause for two beats before knocking back a stein of local brew feels apropos considering the energetic shift in the air of late. The Bay Area is bursting with beer gardens, which make wonderful places to while away an afternoon in the outdoors with friends and family. Here are a few with fun food to match the brews.
A perennial favorite for brunch (like chicken and waffles), the kitchen also turns out dishes infused with Asian flavors like a spicy ahi poke bowl, handmade dumplings and firecracker green beans. Sip a Patriot pilsner, Inglorious pale ale or even a Glutenberg (it’s gluten-free) at a small table out front or inside the brew pub.
1132 Fourth St, San Rafael; 415.295.7929
The see-and-be-seen patio enlivens the outdoor eating scene at Corte Madera Town Center, one of seven NorCal locations for this brewery. The draft list includes everything from Belgian dubbel-style to lighter Czech-style lagers and hoppier double IPAs. The pizzas have a dedicated following and roasted Brussels sprouts and a chopped kale salad round out the menu.
107 Corte Madera Town Center, Corte Madera; 415.891.8273
The big tanks out front are a sign of the beer to come at this long-running brewery in Novato. Grab a seat one of the picnic tables in the backyard patio before sinking into a bowl of beef and bean chili or the restaurant’s famous corned beef and cabbage. The beer menu is similarly Irish-American in flavor with Irish stouts and NorCal IPAs available in equal measure.
15 Rowland Way, Novato; 415.898.4677
The tables shaded by umbrellas and live music pumping from the stage set a lively scene for this beer garden at Novato’s Vintage Oaks Shopping Center. While many come to savor a Pliny the Younger (when in season), the restaurant is known for its killer Reuben and fish and chips with Caribbean slaw.
224 Vintage Way, Novato; 415.892.6200
Barbecue gets all the love at a former mechanic’s shop turned beer garden in Fairfax. We are big fans of the fried pickles and totchos (tater tots with the full nachos treatment) with a West Coast-style IPA from Novato’s Adobe Creek Brewing. Go full ‘cue with the Way Station ribs. Pitmaster Max Hill starts with house made rub, then seasons them with local craft beer and smokes them for over five hours. Owner Brian Back recommends them with a cherry cider is from Humboldt Cider Co.”It’s a well-balanced marriage of tart cherry and Humboldt’s house apple blend,” says Back. 2001 Sir Francis Drake, Fairfax; 415.300.3099
An expansive (350 seats) outdoor beer garden in Petaluma’s historic district is well-known for its South Carolina-inflected barbecue. When the day’s yen calls for something lighter, try the ahi tuna poke. Served with wonton chips, the fish pairs well with the Mikkeller ‘passion pool’ gose style ale brewed with fresh passion fruit and sea salt. “The tart passion fruit notes pair really well with the fatty tuna,” says owner Mike Goebel. 229 Water Street North, Petaluma; 707.981.8330
A legit beerhall, complete with gnomes hiding amidst the barrels and soaring ceilings, Radhaus exalts in its Bavarian heritage. Beer here skews German, from draft König pilsner and a hopfenweisser from Schneider Brewery to bottles of Curator Doppelbock brewed by Klosterbrauerei Ettal. Or, try a German whiskey or schnapps. All can be paired with döner kebab, chicken schnitzel sandwich, or a brunch of spätzle and eggs. Singing of “Eins, Zwei, G’suffa” is entirely optional.
A long bar runs the length of a blue-walled, high-ceilinged room lit by the glow of a red neon sign. Taps are evenly split between Fort Point’s pilsners, IPAs and session beers. We recommend the simply dressed crab roll. It boasts a quarter pound of fresh Dungeness crab and pairs nicely with with sfizio, the house’s Italian style pilsner.
742 Valencia St, San Francisco; 415.361.7001
Part of the Transbay Temporary Terminal between Beale and Main Streets in downtown San Francisco has been transformed into a beer garden complete with food trucks (Phat Thai, Little Green Cyclo, etc.) and a drinks menu, including the East Cut, a blend of gin, grapefruit and elderflower. On the beer side, look for a Belgian blonde from Black Hammer Brewery and a hazy IPA from South San Francisco’s 47 Hills Brewing. 200 Folsom St, San Francisco; 415.937.0123
A rebrand of an expansive beer hall and restaurant just inside the Lyon Gate at the Presidio means a more inclusive menu of cocktails and wine for those days when draft beer is not the thing. When it is, though, revel in a Mexican lager or Henhouse saison and enjoy the expansive patio with views of the Golden Gate Bridge. This is one of the few locations with beef from Marin’s Skywalker Ranch – we highly recommend the Sessions burger or steak frites baseball cut with the ranch’s Wagyu though at brunch, you can’t go wrong with warm beignets or salmon Benedict. 1 Letterman Dr, San Francisco; 415.655.9413
The neighboring nature preserve to Richmond’s, indoor-outdoor taproom means you can enjoy a pint and a birria torta from La Santa Torta food truck while serenaded by frogs, crickets, and other creatures. We recommend one with a 5th Anniversary dunkel or red lager, each crisp and refreshing yet able to temper the spice levels of the meaty dish. Work off a meal with a round of bocce ball or ping pong or settle in to an old-fashioned arcade game or even more old-fashioned board game. 1001 Canal Blvd, Richmond; 510.230.4081
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- Dining for Justice: A New Bay Area Food-Justice Program Ensuring No One Goes Hungry
- Where to Go for Brunch This Spring: Discover the Bay Area’s Best Pancakes, Waffles, French Toast and More
- Joanne Weir’s ‘Plates & Places’ at the Sonoma International Film Festival, Plus a Dinner With Jacques Pépin: Culinary Events Not to Miss
Christina Mueller is a long-time Bay Area food writer. She hails from the East Coast and has spent way too much time inSouth America and Europe. She discovered her talent as a wordsmith in college and her love of all things epicurean in grad school. She has written for Condé Nast Contract Publishing, Sunset, and the Marin Independent Journal, among others. She volunteers with California State Parks and at her childrens’ schools, and supports the Marin Audubon Society, PEN America, and Planned Parenthood. When she is not drinking wine by a fire, she is known to spend time with her extended family.