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The patio at Almanac
Photograph: Almanac

The best beer gardens in the San Francisco Bay Area

Enjoy fresh air and sunshine at the best beer gardens in the San Francisco Bay Area

Written by
Clara Hogan
Contributor
Lauren Sheber
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California is a craft beer paradise, and the best beer gardens in the San Francisco Bay Area are the ideal place to experience it. They include German biergartens, raucous patios, open-air breweries, and even beer-fueled parking lots (trust us). Some, like Almanac Brewery and Southern Pacific Brewery, serve their own brews on tap; others curate an assortment of bottles ranging in styles from the Bay Area to Belgium. And many also double as convivial restaurants with savory snacks so you can have a little bite with your brew.

There’s nothing much better than hitting up a brewery outside on a perfect sunny day (if cocktails are more your style, SF has plenty of outdoor bars, too). And across the Bay, in the East Bay, you’ll find plenty more beer gardens (and often sunnier weather, too). Whatever your taste, swing by one of the best beer gardens in the San Francisco Bay Area and don’t forget to say cheers.

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Best beer gardens in the San Francisco Bay Area

  • Restaurants
  • Trucks
  • Mission Bay
  • price 2 of 4

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 — while the dishes and brews are abundant. 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 of 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, too, 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.

  • Bars
  • Beer bars
  • Hayes Valley
  • price 2 of 4

This parking lot beer garden is a hub for 20-somethings 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 just down the street; expect hearty staples like bratwurst (plus currywurst and frankfurters), Bavarian cheese plates, and pretzel knot sandwiches. 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, take another slug of beer, and get cozy.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Beer bars
  • Mission
  • price 1 of 4

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 where bikers and hipsters mingle at banquet-style picnic tables surrounded by wacky murals. Everyone’s here for the extensive beer list, of course, which features more than 4 dozen varieties. Luckily, 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.

Park Chalet is located in a historic building on the outskirts of Golden Gate Park just across the street from Ocean Beach. Make it your business to be here on a sunny day — there’s a beer garden on the expansive lawn with stellar views of the Pacific and a solid selection of food and beer. The food is typical American fare (think burgers and fried appetizers), and we recommend ordering the brussels sprouts or pulled pork sandwich to savor while you sip.

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Almanac Beer Co. is situated in the section of Alamada called "Spirits Alley," a former historic naval air base along the water where several other wineries, breweries, and distilleries have set up shop. Almanac is known for its huge space (which includes an expanded patio area built during the pandemic) and its wide range of brews, including a big selection of sours. The brewery started in 2011 by Damian Fagan and Jesse Friedman, and after it really took off years later, they opened its current 30,000 square-foot location in a former airplane hangar.

  • Bars
  • Breweries
  • SoMa
  • price 2 of 4

This Presidio-based brewery is instantly recognizable for its colorful cans, and 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. Their 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 — it’s 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.

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  • Restaurants
  • Berkeley
  • price 2 of 4

Owners Linda and Carl Lasagna, the duo behind Westbrae Nursery, turned from horticulture to hops in 2014 after opening Westbrae Biergarten next door. The well-appointed space is full of long picnic tables and chairs clustered around fire pits for cooler nights, and 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.

Located in Uptown Oakland, Drake’s Dealership is an almost-always busy beer garden and restaurant in a historic Dodge Dealership along what was once Auto Row. The open-air beer garden is lined with vines and heat lamps, plenty of seating, and even fire pits to keep an all-around warm vibe. With 32 beers on tap — not to mention a full menu that includes wood-fired pizzas and burgers — there’s also a growler station if you want to bring home some brew.

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  • Bars
  • Berkeley
  • price 2 of 4

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.

You can't beat the scene at Faction Brewing — and by that, we mean the scenery. Located right on the water in Alameda across the Bay from the city, it’s a bit of a haul to this brewery, but the reward (beyond its well-hopped IPAs) is one of the most superb views of San Francisco’s skyline. Both the outdoor beer garden and indoor warehouse are massive spaces with plenty of seating options, and the brewery usually has a food truck on-site (dogs are welcome too, which is always a plus).

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  • Bars
  • Mission
  • price 2 of 4

A former machine shop-turned-brewery, this indoor-outdoor bar covers 10,000 square feet. The patio out front, lined with umbrella-topped communal tables and dotted with heat lamps, is an ideal spot for nursing beer with friends late into the evening. 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.

  • Bars
  • San Francisco
  • price 2 of 4

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 complimentary beach chairs (you can also BYO chairs if you want to guarantee a good seat). The sandy scene is dog- and kid-friendly, and outside food is welcome even though you can also order Woods’ signature empanadas (and you should). The beer list includes anywhere from four to six varieties like the Smooch, a raspberry blonde ale, to an Astral rye. Take note: the brews are more eclectic than your usual IPAs and lagers, so don’t be surprised if your beer is infused with yerba mate, hibiscus, eucalyptus, or lavender.

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