Beer gardens became popular in Bavaria in the 1700s for much the same reason people like them now. They provide a comfortable space for city dwellers to socialize and enjoy beer and food away from the noise and clutter of urban life. Here are some of our favorites in the East Bay.
Temescal Brewing, 4115 Telegraph Ave.
Temescal Brewing owner and head brewer Sam Gilbert has loftier ambitions than just making great beer. “As a company, we’re trying to attract people to craft beer who haven’t felt welcome in the past,” Gilbert said. “Once we opened, we discovered that women and people of color — a lot of people who you don’t normally think of as a craft beer drinker — started showing up and becoming part of our community.”
Gilbert excels at brewing easy-drinking but nonetheless captivating lagers (some of the best pilsners around) and hazy IPAs. Rotating trucks serve food that complements the beer.
To keep pace with demand, Temescal opened a new brewery in Jack London Square called The Outpost in November. No taproom yet, but special events are being held there.
Temescal’s philosophy is reflected in the events it’s hosting at the taproom and The Outpost during Beer Week, including a “Beer Talk by Womxn,” a “Vegan Flight Night,” “Hella Halftones: Black community in craft beer discussion and after-party,” and a “Queer Brunch Club: A Patio Dance Party featuring Mimosa Brut IPA.”
Drake’s Dealership, 2325 Broadway
Parked in a former Dodge dealership on Oakland’s Auto Row, Drake’s Dealership is an offshoot of Drake’s Brewing. Unlike the San Leandro brewery and barrelhouse, however, Drake’s Dealership is also a restaurant/sports bar/beer garden. The highlight food-wise is the thin-crust New Haven-style pizza. (Sadly, the wood-fire pizza oven is currently out of commission due to a fire on the roof.) Virtually all of the beers on tap are from Drake’s Brewing, with a few collaborations thrown in for variety. The sports bar can get crowded during Warriors’ games, and even though the beer garden seems vast, it can fill up on weekends, too. Brick walls, wood everywhere, and fireplaces indoors and out suggest an urban/rustic feel. Live music throughout the weekend with DJs and a jazz brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.
Lost & Found, 2040 Telegraph Ave.
Situated minutes from 19th St. BART and right behind the Paramount Theatre in what had been a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration application support center, Lost and Found is a convenient and inviting brewpub and beer garden to visit for a beer and nosh after work or before a show. The lush beer garden is an oasis of well-tended flora, with ping-pong and corn hole facilities available for the less sedentary.
The tap list isn’t huge, but it’s thoughtfully curated. There’s also wine, cider, and probiotics for nonbeer drinkers. “Rations” like poutine, sliders, and panini complement the beer.
Faction, 2501 Monarch St.
If there’s a more striking, postcard-worthy panorama from any beer garden, I’d like to see it. Faction is at the old Alameda Naval Air Station, and its spacious, sun-drenched patio offers a breathtaking vista of the Bay Bridge and the downtown San Francisco skyline. The beer garden ends where the bird sanctuary begins. Don’t miss the giant murals inside the brewery, which are nearly as captivating as the view from the beer garden.
Co-owner and head brewer Rodger Davies brews some of the best West Coast-style hoppy ales in the Bay Area. Rotating food trucks help keep body and soul together.
Speisekammer, 2424 Lincoln Ave.
Visiting Speisekammer is like taking a trip to Germany, but without the airfare. Traditional German entrees like schweinbraten, weiner schnitzel, Jagerschnitzel, currywurst, and bratwurst dominate the menu, complemented by an excellent selection of tasty German lagers on tap. Beers range from light and refreshing, like Andeches Helles, Flensburger Pilsner, and Früh Kolsch, to dark and robust: a roasty Haufbrau Dunkel and a smoky Schlenkerla oak-smoked Dopplebock. Nonbeer drinkers can choose from a nice selection of rieslings, gruners, and gewurtztraminers. The patio in front is modest, but the overall ambience gives it a German vibe. There’s music on Friday and Saturday nights, but instead of traditional polka, it’s jazz, blues, Americana, and bluegrass.
Jupiter, 2181 Shattuck Ave.
It’s hard to imagine Jupiter anywhere other than downtown Berkeley. The atmosphere in the 1890s converted stable and the eclectic beer garden in the back is chill and inviting. Service is relaxed and professional, the food is tasty — wood-fired pizza highlights the beer-friendly menu — and the beer list more than holds its own. In addition to the house beers from Drake’s are another 15 guest taps that you might not find elsewhere, like Woodfour’s hoppy saison, Bohemian Nectar. Jupiter has been at this since 1992 and shows no signs of slowing down.
Hot take: Sour beer lovers shouldn’t miss Sour Sunday on Feb 3. As always, the list is outstanding.
Schmidt’s Pub, 1492 Solano Ave.
For those who enjoy smoking tobacco while they quaff a beer, there’s no place quite like Schmidt’s Pub. The small tobacconist in what appears to be a converted residence also has a handful of interesting beers on tap. Enjoy a pipe or cigar on the street-side patio while sipping a Guinness or a Fieldwork IPA.