Beer has long been associated with places like Germany’s Bavaria region, where Oktoberfest began, but when it comes to ale, New York City more than holds its own. The five boroughs offer fine breweries, assorted suds celebrations and, best of all, lots of festive beer gardens in which to drink. These hops havens are reliable spots for soft pretzels, communal wooden tables and a large selection of brews. Lederhosen is optional; gemütlichkeit is not. Read on for a few of our favorites.
Best Place to See and Be Seen: The Standard Biergarten
The Biergarten at the ground level of the Meatpacking District’s Standard hotel is a popular Manhattan drinkery. Groups are either done up for a night out in the Meatpacking District or dressed down for a chill day of drinking large Bitburgers and munching on pretzels and sausages. Those with a competitive side might gravitate toward the Ping-Pong tables.
Drink this: German beers Benediktiner Weisse or Bitburger ($9 a ticket, which you exchange for a pint; for two tickets, your beer will come in a liter-size specialty stein).
Best Place for Live Music: Radegast Hall & Biergarten
Radegast is a down-home, lively Austro-Hungarian bar in Williamsburg that’s perfect for large parties or anyone who loves late-night sausages and wursts (order right from the grill in the back of the bar). There are plenty of German beers too. See nightly performances by jazz and folk bands under the skylight windows and gable roof.
Drink this: Light wheat Weihenstephaner Vitus ($10), a favorite among patrons, which has hints of fruit and clove.
Best Place to Wear Lederhosen: Zum Schneider
Even though Zum Schneider has around 15 Bavarian beers on tap and a German-speaking staff, expat owner Sylvester Schneider imported 100-year-old beer hall chairs from Munich and employed his German father to hand build the tables in order to ramp up its authenticity. The Avenue C space, though indoors, resembles an outdoor garden thanks to design details like brick archways; it’s known for its Oktoberfest events—traditional foods, outfits and music on site, plus a big Oktoberfest party over by the East River.
Drink this: Traunsteiner 1612er Zwickel ($8), which the menu describes as an “old fashioned” lager with “lots of vitamins”—that ought to help assuage any guilt over drinking a very large beer.
Best Place for an Outdoor Setting: Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden
The City’s classic beer hall, Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden, was opened in Astoria in 1919 by Czech and Slovak immigrants to honor their traditions. The venue hosts live music, comedy nights and happy hours—though there’s reasonably priced mugs ($6) and pitchers ($16) at all hours. Dishes like roast pork with sauerkraut and beef goulash give the menu an authentic flair.
Drink this: Schofferhofer ($6), a refreshing grapefruit beer that mixes Hefeweizen and grapefruit juice.
Best Place to Make New Friends: Studio Square NYC
Studio Square, Astoria’s newer beer hall (it debuted in 2009), caters to a young crowd. The massive outdoor area features long picnic tables, surrounding greenery and an assortment of German beers. The space also houses two indoor bars, a stage for performances, flat-screen TVs playing sporting events and twice-monthly dance nights for "quiet clubbing"—during which patrons boogie to music that they hear through headphones.
Drink this: Coney Island Mermaid Pilsner ($7).
Best Place to Try Local Ale: Bronx Beer Hall
Bronx Beer Hall is not technically a garden, but it’s a fine spot to drink a few pints nonetheless. The hall is situated in the busy Arthur Avenue Retail Market and serves a slew of New York ales, including those from the local Bronx Brewery as well as Gun Hill Brewing Company. Pro tip: bring tasty Italian fare from the market into the bar to nosh on.
Drink this: Bronx Brewery’s Bronx Banner Easy Golden Ale ($6.50) is a light beer good for washing down mozzarella and salumi.
Best Place for Groups: Loreley
Loreley owner Michael Momm grew up in Cologne and wanted to bring the spirited traditions of Germany to the Lower East Side. His modern version of a classic beer house reflects the present while paying tribute to the past. (In other words, come for the tasty brews served in traditional steins, not for lederhosen and cuckoo clocks.) There are around a dozen German beers on tap, a happy hour that lasts until 7pm on weeknights and a heated outdoor garden in the cooler months.
Drink this: Loreley’s specialty, Gaffel Kölsch ($7), a fermented ale from Cologne.
Best Place to Be a Hipster: Greenwood Park
Housed in a converted gas station/mechanic shop in Brooklyn’s South Slope, Greenwood Park Beer Garden is a massive space decked out with recycled decor—a old shipping container converted into a bar; a wall made of wooden pallets—plenty of seating and a baby-friendly policy. There are 60 tap lines serving 24 craft beers, three bocce ball courts and, of course, pig roasts. We think that covers all the basics.
Drink this: Two Roads Roadsmary’s Baby Pumpkin ($6) or Southern Tier Pumking ($7), in keeping with the spirit of the season.
Best Place for Nostalgic Cuisine: Nurnberger Bierhaus
This Staten Island beer hall and garden resembles an old-timey German parlor stuffed with Teutonic tchotchkes: a coat of arms, old advertisements, pastoral paintings and decorative beer steins among them. Try a German ale from a rotating tap selection and old-country fare like pretzels, bratwurst, schnitzel and spaetzle. In addition to the main taproom, there’s an outdoor garden and an adjacent large beer hall.
Drink this: Weihenstephaner Hefeweissebeer ($6), which is like liquid history. (The Weihenstephan Monastery Brewery is the oldest known brewery in the world, having opened in 1040 AD.)
Best Place to Drink with a View: Birreria
This rooftop microbrewery is the cherry on top of Eataly. Patrons can choose from seven beers on tap plus three more house brews on cask lines (those who want to stray from the suds might look to the strong list of wines) and relish the views of the Flatiron and Empire State Buildings. The menu changes seasonally and highlights different regions of Italy; it’s definitely a cut above typical brewpub fare. You might find house-made sausages, as well as pork shoulder stuffed with rosemary and caciocavallo cheese.
Drink this: Italian draft beers, like Baladin ($10) from Piozzo, Birra del Borgo ($10) from Borgorose and Peroni ($7) from Rome.
We couldn’t write about beer without giving a shout-out to its sweeter sister drink, cider. Here’s the lowdown on where to find some of the City’s finest apple-based quaffs.
Where can I drink hard cider?
Wassail is the City’s first cider bar, which makes it our go-to spot for the boozy apple drink. There are around 90 ciders on tap and in bottles as well as a few apple-based cocktails, giving you lots of options to pair with the veggie-centric dishes on the dinner menu.
What about cider for the kids?
In the Union Square Greenmarket, you can get fresh apple cider—hot or cold—from local farms. Look out for the Breezy Hill Orchards and the Locust Grove Farms tents, or check the Greenmarket’s website to see who will be selling that day.
And if I get hungry?
Carpe Donut serves hot-out-of-the-oven apple cider doughnuts made from natural ingredients, including locally made cider. Follow the food truck’s Twitter to see where they’ll be parked that day.