Sure, L.A. may not have grilled fish on sticks as they famously do in Munich, but the spirit of Oktoberfest is in effect year-round at these rowdy beer gardens and beer bars. Stop in for some suds, some pretzels and maybe a wurst or two to embrace the German way of life. From a beer hall in Pasadena to a lively bar in Santa Monica, we're raising our glasses to the best beer gardens in the city.
Drink like a German at these L.A. beer gardens
The Alpine Village is home to Torrance's annual Oktoberfest celebration—one of the oldest and largest in all of L.A.—but for the rest of the year, the Bavarian attraction hosts a European-inspired tavern (Alpine Village Restaurant), a bar, a bakery and a German market. Inside the restaurant, feast on sauerkraut, sausages and more traditional German fare while listening to polka music and watching diners take a break from stuffing their bellies with food and beer to break a sweat polka dancing.
L.A.-raised Neil Kwon took a cue from the biergartens of Berlin and Munich in bringing craft beer to Koreatown in 2010. His beer hall, Biergarten, views Germany through a Korean prism. Platters of brats are dished up alongside Korean fried chicken, kimchi short rib fried rice, kalbi tacos, and burgers both American and international—try the spicy Chosun with kimchi and pickled daikon or a fried chicken sandwich with grilled pineapple and salsa verde. The beer list combines Old World ales like malty Paulaner Oktoberfest with West Coast IPAs like Arts District Brewery's Traction IPA, none of which appear in yard-long glasses served at kitschier neighbors. The space also touts flat screens, which draw UFC and sports fans.
A beer stein-shaped sign greets visitors to the divey street-side bar, but it’s all about the back patio at this Silver Lake institution, a fixture since 1959. Current owner Aidas Mattis and his family still maintain the Bavarian connection with imagery of the Berlin bear and a 3-D mural of old-school, beer-toasting Germans and wall-mounted promotional tins from classic German breweries like Warsteiner and Bitburger, also served on tap. Schnitzel and sausage are series regulars at Red Lion, as are Oktoberfest celebrations.
The original, full name of this Pasadena beer hall doesn't exactly roll off the tongue—"Der Wolfskopf"—so these days, it just goes by "Der Wolf." And besides, conversational German isn't required for entry here. Brought to you by the same folks as The Surly Goat, Little Bear and the neighboring Blind Donkey, Der Wolf has roughly one dozen German beers on tap, and there are German-style beers from Oregon and California, as well. Overwhelmed? The friendly bar staff actually knows their stuff and will guide you in the right direction. Add a food menu with sausages, pretzels and schnitzel, plus regular live music, games, an outdoor beer garden and an annual Oktoberfest party, and this place ticks all the boxes.
There are nearly 20 locations of Rock and Brews around the country, but it all started in El Segundo with the very first rock-centric gastropub opening there in 2012. Diners and drinkers can choose to sit inside or outside—though if you're here strictly for the beer, embrace the beer garden ambience on the patio (especially if you have a pup—it's dog-friendly). The beer menu is a who's-who of California breweries—King Harbor Brewing, Lagunitas, Iron Triangle, Golden Road, the Bruery Terreux and Pizza Port all made the cut—along with stellar international brews. Dishes range from burgers to pizza to creamy mac and cheese: you know, comfort food at its finest.
Though the Dog Haus menu reads like a drunken cookbook of street dogs and Denny’s breakfasts, the plump, flavorful hot dogs show more tact and restraint than their sloppy inspirations, thanks in part to the soft, griddled King's Hawaiian sweet buns. Among the long list of dependably delectable dogs, burgers and brats, the Sooo Cali is the hot dog of choice, with its thick slices of avocado, crispy onions and spicy basil aioli. Out front, the beer garden boasts picnic benches and a communal vibe—a charming alternative to the sports-bar-like interior; in either case the delightfully cheesy '80s touches are inescapable, from the loud soundtrack (think Toto) to the menu (the Chili Idol, Scott Baioli).
Ryan Sweeney, Brandon Bradford, Cherith Spicer and Kyle Bilowitz set L.A. abuzz when they opened Verdugo Bar in Glassell Park, featuring only a sign that reads "Cocktails" to signal their presence—but it's their craft-beer roster that turned Verdugo Bar into a destination. Here, people seek their booths and curved wooden bar. Over the years, they’ve added a back patio, which features communal seating and a wall of craft-brewery tins. Food trucks often take up residence in the parking lot and game nights, DJ sets, comedy shows and board games are in the weekly lineup. If you're looking for some stein time, Verdugo almost always holds an annual Oktoberfest party, complete with boot races, stein-holding competitions and prizes.
Wear your lederhosen to this Mid-City beer garden, where an extensive selection of German brews are served up alongside traditional German fare like schnitzel, sausages and house-made pretzels. Grab a seat at the bar or at a communal table on the dog-friendly patio and sample your way through the 35 beers and hard ciders. (See also: there's even a non-alcoholic beer.) If those aren't your thing, there's wine on hand, as well as a ping-pong table, a flat-screen TV and trivia. And, of course, Oktoberfest festivities are an annual occurrence, and include live music, giveaways, food and drink specials, and a ceremonial first tap.
Generous pours and unabashed comfort food, all a block from the beach? That’s Ashland Hill, a Santa Monica Cheers in the making, anchoring the old Wildflour Pizza space on Main Street with a sprawling, pet-friendly back patio. At picnic tables blanketed in twinkling lights, patrons graze on giant pretzels and shishito mac and cheese between sips of international vino and serious high-alcohol brews. The local-focused tap lineup at this beer garden/wine-bar hybrid includes eight-percent Belgian strong ales, some Mexican lager and even Central Coast wines—plus another 10-or-so options for red, white and bubbly, and a handful of gin-forward cocktails. Ample space, friendly servers and plenty of heat lamps to go around make Ashland Hill no-fuss, al fresco boozing at its best.
Cousins Tyler Wilson and Joseph Pitruzzelli have the uncanny ability to transform a triangular space into a Wurstküche, contemporary "sausage kitchen," each one outfitted in industrial, geometric furniture—crafted by Pitruzzelli himself—and a DJ booth. The cousins' crew will gladly grill sausages like Polish-style kielbasa or more adventurous rattlesnake-and-rabbit to pair with a "groot" worth of skin-on frites (in case you didn't know, that amounts to a lot of fries). Wurstküche primarily pours Belgian and German beers from (surprisingly) brand-free tap handles. Try the notoriously tart Duchesse de Bourgogne or the sweet Aventinus Eisbock, which packs a punch.