Whether the forecast is clear or questionable, Harlem’s first beer garden beckons with its bright, modern interior and a roster of ten impressive drafts and 25 bottled suds ($6–$14). Murky skies call for the rich and toasty Erdinger Dunkel Hefeweizen ($7), while slightly sweet Reissdorf Kölsch ($6) sates palates on days when the floor-to-ceiling glass doors open onto the pavement. Come early May, the venue will roll out a sidewalk café with additional seating.
At first glance, this hybrid taqueria, comedy theater and bar might seem to suffer from an identity crisis, but the multiple personalities only work in its favor—especially in dicey weather. Upstairs you’ll find the Cal-Mex eatery and live entertainment space; downstairs is a cozy hideaway with movie screenings and plenty of beer. Six solid drafts, including the Magic Hat Circus Boy ($5), and ten-plus bottles ($3–$8) compose the beer list, while a few mostly French wines and a full range of spirits round out the well. When the sun is shining, the fenced-in back patio becomes a frenzied union of cool kids and frat folk. Reach for a seasonal cocktail like the fruity Blackberry Bramble ($9) made from gin, fresh lemon juice and blackberry liqueur.
An early champion of the NYC craft-beer scene, this East Village elder provides a comfortable rain-or-shine sipping spot. On mild evenings, convivial drinkers fill the back garden for a light, crisp lager—we like Dogfish Head Golden Era pilsner ($7)—or an effervescent Fantôme Saison (25oz bottle $15). Then there’s the right-for-a-rainy-day interior: a dim, publike affair stocked with some of the city’s best small-batch suds. The rotating list of 20 drafts ($7) and more than 200 bottles ($6–$20) is sure to include a few bad-weather warmers, but for extra heat, peek at the dizzying whiskey selection, which features rarities from now-shuttered distillers.
Oil-stained garage doors and vintage saws repurposed as tables make up the awesomely mechanical digs here. The tipples are curated but unpretentious: The dark and toasty Hofbräu Lager ($5)—one of 12 drafts—offsets a breezy evening, as do the handful of decent whiskeys ($7–$15). Take advantage of mild temps by grabbing one of ten picnic tables on the ample patio and, when the meaty new menu is unveiled (around mid-April), expect plenty of grilling.
Chef Sam Mason’s first foray into the bar biz is refreshingly low-key. The cocktail menu’s salty-sour pickle margarita ($7) seems rightly suited for a sun-drenched afternoon spent on the spacious wooden porch out back. Should the sky threaten rain, you can just as easily hole up inside with a blue-collar beer and a steady stream of Johnny Cash tunes from the country-tinged jukebox. PBR tall boys ($4) and shot-and-a beer combos ($8) are the unofficial house specialty, though craftier taps ($5–$6)—try the Sixpoint Brownstone—will please beer geeks.
Now one of New York’s most respected craft-brew destinations, this former auto-repair shop has a seat and a beer for either end of the thermostat. In the back, there’s a dark bar with an industrial bent—the perfect spot to avoid inclement weather with a sturdy stout like the rare 2009 Goose Island Night Stalker (8oz glass $6). If Mother Nature cooperates, grab a chair in the breezy open-air courtyard and savor a Sehr Crisp Pilsner from Sixpoint ($6). With such seasonal accommodations and 21 constantly rotating drafts ($4–$7), we really can’t see a reason to leave.
Artisanal beers and seasonally influenced cocktails form the core offerings at this artsy den, one of Bushwick’s trailblazing watering holes. The interior is Art Deco–inspired and the crowd hip. When it’s gusty outside, a Sol-and-tequila-shot combo ($6) quells doldrums. If the weather’s right, a peaceful, foliage-heavy back patio provides a verdant backdrop for quaffing the warm-weather favorite Que Bonita, a blend of house-infused jalapeño tequila, lime juice and muddled cucumber.
Ring the bell of this unmarked speakeasy and avoid the elements with an impeccable cocktail. While the air is still nippy, you can snag an ornate Victorian-inspired seat and sample something whiskey-based like the Ragtime ($13), a warming herbal blend of rye, absinthe and bitters. In a few weeks, the bespoke mood will spill out onto Raines’s newly designed patio: an English backyard with vintage outdoor furniture and a revamped herb garden, which will play into the forthcoming spring drink menu.
André Balazs’s open-air drinkery—with its beautiful patrons and clubby disposition—is a swanky place to hedge your atmospheric bets. Lead your crew outside to one of 30 communal tables and order one of three Teutonic drafts, like the dark yet quenching Köstritzer Schwarzbier ($8). A handful of German and Austrian bottles ($7) round out the list, and appropriately, eats consist of beer-sopping pretzels ($8) and Schaller & Weber sausages ($8). While there’s still a chill in the air, temporary plastic walls and a roof help ensure well-heated revelry.
Encompassing 30,000 square feet of outdoor space and a capacity well above 1,200, Studio Square is more beer city than beer garden. Patrons pack the sprawling yard, all guzzling half liters ($7), liters ($13) and pitchers ($18) of mostly German and American brews. The Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA (half-liter $7, pitcher $18) is a solid all-season refresher. The industrial interior, decked out with worn whiskey barrels, serves as a perfect boozy layover until full-fledged sunshine arrives. Clouds or not, brats, burgers and other bites ($4–$8) are in order.