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Park Chalet
Photograph: Courtesy Park Chalet

The best beer gardens in the San Francisco Bay Area

It’s not always beer garden weather in the Bay Area but when it is, head to these al fresco beer bars

By Lauren Sheber

California is a craft beer paradise, and it has the beer gardens to back it up. The Bay Area is awash in German biergartens, raucous patios, open-air breweries, and parking lot drinking hubs (trust us). Some, like Almanac and Southern Pacific, serve their own brews on tap; others curate an assortment of bottles ranging from the Bay Area to Belgium. Whatever your taste, there’s a beer-centric garden beckoning.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best bars in San Francisco

Bay Area beer gardens

Photograph: Courtesy Spark Social SF

1. SPARK Social SF

Restaurants Trucks Mission Bay

This food truck hub feels like a lively backyard party every night of the week. The crowd is diverse—scientists from UCSF’s Mission Bay campus, tech workers from SoMA, Dogpatch artists—as are the dishes and brews available. Up to a dozen trucks converge on the light-strung space each night, offering everything from pizza and poke to ramen and crepes, plus a rotating selection beer from California breweries like Mendocino Brewing, Petaluma Hills Brewing, Headlands Brewing Co., and High Water Brewery. It’s a great place for large groups, thanks to the affordable pitchers and ample seating. Reserve one of the fire pit areas in advance, or snag a picnic table on the spot. Happy hour runs from Monday to Friday, 4pm to 7pm, and Saturdays, 8pm to 10pm.  

A beer at Almanac Taproom
Photograph: Flickr/ San Francsico Brewers Guild

2. Almanac Taproom

4 out of 5 stars
Bars Breweries Mission

Alamanac’s year-round beer garden is small but inviting, bordered by succulents and lit by string lights. The mushroom heaters get cranked up on chilly nights, but you can also warm up with a game of bags. (That’s cornhole, to you transplants.) Sample a wide selection of fresh and barrel-aged beers—or make it a flight—including 15 Almanac brews on tap. The rotating brews are unique, including IPAs brewed with citrus peel and dry-hopped with citra, simcoe, or mosaic. The range spans imperial stouts to sour beers flavored with passionfruit, rose hips, raspberry and more. (Ask about the taproom only releases.) The food menu is specifically designed to pair with beer, including sandwiches, burgers and shareable plates like house-made charcuterie. Beers are available in in 4-ounce pours, 16-ounce pints, and 64-ounce pitchers, and happy hour gets you $2 off all full pours every Wednesday to Friday, 3 to 6pm.

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Douglas Burnham

3. Biergarten

Bars Beer bars Hayes Valley

This parking lot beer garden is a 20-something hub in the center of Hayes Valley. What it lacks in ambiance, it makes up for in hefty steins of beer, available by the half- or full-liter. You’ll find seven rotating German and Austrian styles on tap, including Stiegel Pils, Franziskaner, HofBräu Oktoberfest, and Weihenstephaner lager. The brews are best paired with traditional fare whipped up by Suppenkuche down the street, including bratwurst (plus currywurst and frankfurters), Bavarian cheese plates, and pretzel knot sandwiches. On Wednesday nights, the cooks make half-pound burgers with various toppings. The garden’s long wooden tables fill up fast on sunny days, but the crowds tend to thin out around dusk. Grab one of the complementary wool blankets and take another slug of beer.

Photograph: Noelle Chun

4. Zeitgeist

4 out of 5 stars
Bars Beer bars Mission

The staff is surly, the metal is blasting, and the skunky scent of weed wafts through the air. Still, this is one of the best day-drinking patios in the city, in spite of—or maybe because of—its lack of frills. Bikers and hipsters mingle at the banquet-style picnic tables, surrounded by wacky murals. Everyone’s here for the extensive beer list, which sprawls over more than 4 dozen varieties. The beer list is broken down into types, from pilsners and lagers to saisons and barrel-aged stouts. The selection typically includes a generous smattering of Belgian and German offerings, plus a wide array of beers from local breweries like Lost Coast, Henhouse, Anderson Valley Brewing, Bear Republic, Lagunitas, and Russian River Brewing Company.

Fort Point Beer Company
Photograph: Fort Point Beer Company

5. Fort Point Beer

Bars Breweries SoMa

This Presidio-based brewery is instantly recognizable for its colorful cans, which are sold throughout the city, so it’s fitting that its mini-beer-garden is backed by a giant aluminum wall of them. Founded in 2014 by brothers Tyler and Justin Catalana, the indie brewery now makes nearly 20 varieties of craft beer, from a smoked altbier with charred manzanita to a tropical fruit-infused IPA. This Ferry Building kiosk, which opened in early 2016, is its first brick and mortar presence in SF. You’ll find six taps with rotating beer picks, plus growlers and chilled six-packs to-go. The handful of long tables can be claimed on a first-come, first-served basis—a scenic spot for people watching or escaping the Ferry Building tourist throngs. In addition to brews, the spot serves hot dogs from Golden Gate Meat Company and Firebrand Bread pretzels.

The Yard
Photograph: Courtesy The Yard

6. The Yard at Mission Rock

Restaurants Mission Bay

This pop-up village made entirely of shipping containers is the ideal place to tailgate before (or celebrate after) a Giants game. With views of AT&T Park and the San Francisco Bay, the space is spacious and the crowd is spirited. There are ample picnic tables for lounging and a fleet of Off the Grid food trucks nearby (including The Whole Beast for smoked brisket, ribs, and pulled pork). The 12 to 15 beers on tap come courtesy of Anchor Brewing Company, a San Francisco standby since 1896. The beers are all handmade in a traditional copper brewhouse from an alt-malt mash. The seasonal assortment might include a summer wheat, porter, stout, saison, or Meyer lemon lager.

Lost & Found Beer Garden
Photograph: Yelp/Adam S.

7. Lost & Found Beer Garden

Bars Beer bars Oakland

Situated in sunny Oakland, Lost & Found quickly adopted a slogan: “Outdoor drinking without the fog!” Indeed, the lively backyard often provides a welcome reprieve from Karl on the other side of the bay. The space features a small lawn, a generous smattering of tables and benches, a ping-pong table, and a cornhole set. There are 21 beers on tap, most from local, independent breweries like Half Moon Bay Brewery, Bare Bottle Brewing, Berrynessa, Henhouse, and Faction. The rotating assortment features IPAs, pilsners, lagers, altbiers, hefeweizens, kolsches, stouts, and ciders. Pair your beer with an order of nachos or beer-battered cheese curds.

Westbrae Biergarten
Photograph: Yelp/ Koko M.

8. Westbrae Biergarten

Restaurants Berkeley

Owners Linda and Carl Lasagna are also the duo behind Westbrae Nursery; in 2014, they turned from horticulture to hops and opened Westbrae Biergarten next door. The well-appointed space is filled with long picnic tables and chairs clustered around fire pits for cooler nights. The spot specializes in craft ales and lagers served in German-style steins. There are eight beers on tap at any given time sourced from over two dozen breweries, including Fieldwork, Altamont, Iron Springs, Mad River, and Knee Deep. (They’re also available as flights, for those who prefer sampling.) Happy hour runs from 3 to 6pm on weekdays ($2 off steins), while food trucks pop up on Fridays, Saturdays, and most Sundays.

Photograph: Tiffani S.

9. Jupiter

Bars Berkeley

Jupiter is known for two things: pizza and beer. Founded by John Martin—also the guy behind Triple Rock Brewery—the Berkeley mainstay has been slinging beers since 1992. The spacious back garden is one of the most atmospheric around, lit by string lights and bordered by trumpet vines. There are 12 house beers on tap (which might include a red ale, honey wheat, IPA, and a dry stout), as well as 22 guest taps from purveyors like Laughing Monk, Alvarado Street, Bruery Terreux, and Morgan Territory. Ask about seasonal offerings: Jupiter’s head brewer makes limited-edition small-batch beers on site. Live bands play on the patio up to six nights a week.

Southern Pacific
Photograph: Courtesy Southern Pacific

10. Southern Pacific

Bars Mission

A former machine shop-turned-brewery, this indoor-outdoor bar covers 10,000 square feet. The patio out front is an ideal spot for nursing beers friends, lined with umbrella-topped communal tables and dotted with heat lamps. The vibe is low-key and casual, with ‘90s hits on the soundtrack, dogs milling about, and gussied-up comfort food on the menu. (Don’t miss the sage fries.) The real draw is the in-house beer, which spans pale ales and kolsches to porters and IPAs.

Woods Island Club
Photograph: Yelp/Fermin R

11. Woods Island Club

Bars San Francisco

Does it still count as a beer garden if you’re sprawled out on sand? This Treasure Island “beer beach” is complete with picnic tables, palm trees, and complementary beach chairs. (You can also BYO your own chairs.) The sandy scene is dog- and kid-friendly, and outside food is welcome, through the spot also serves Woods’ signature empanadas. The beer list includes anywhere from four to six varieties, from the Smooch, a raspberry blonde ale to an Astral rye. The brews are more eclectic than your usual IPAs and lagers, infused with yerba mate, hibiscus, eucalyptus, lavender, and more.  


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