Must-Try

10 Best Beer Gardens in Philadelphia

By Danya Henninger  |  June 23, 2014
Credit: Danya Henninger

The German biergarten was born of a necessity other than just providing a wonderful place to sip outdoors. Hundreds of years ago, Bavarian beer makers discovered a new kind of yeast that made clearer, more refreshing brew, but required lower temperatures to work. They dug caves to store (or “lager”) the fermenting beer, and covered the tops with gravel and Linden trees to keep away the sun’s heat. It worked, and the era of the beer garden began.

For a city swimming in great beer, Philly was long lacking in beer gardens. Happily, our luck is changing, with new brew-centric terraces popping up all over. Here are your 10 best bets for picnic-table drinking in Philadelphia this summer.

Want more warm-weather food and drink tips, events and fun? Head here for all you need to have the Best Summer Ever.

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  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Frankford Hall in Fishtown

    With traditional Linden trees between them and a gravel floor beneath, the picnic tables at Stephen Starr’s open-air courtyard are a perfect place to play hardcore games of Jenga or swig brews between impromptu Ping-Pong tournaments.

    Drink This: A dozen taps pour mostly Bavarian-style beers from the local area and overseas. Try the Frankford Hall Hopster Heffe, a hybrid custom creation from Fegley’s Brew Works ($7 half liter; $14 full).
    Eat This: Skip the giant riesenpretzel flown in from Germany — instead, go for one of the half-dozen sausages, custom-made for the kitchen by Illg Meats in Chalfont, PA ($5.50-$7.50).
    Know This: You’re no longer allowed to roast s’mores over the fire pit, but order a whiskey-spiked s’mores shake and you won’t be sad for long.

    1210 Frankford Ave.; 215-634-3338

  • Drury Beer Garden in Midtown Village

    Tucked behind George and Vasiliki Tsouris’ Greek taverna Opa is this very American backyard haven, with strings of lights hung between brick walls and wooden fences to separate the bar, shaded tables and large-screen TV from the alleyway.

    Drink This: Along with dozens of cans and bottles, eight taps pour rotating drafts. For something sweet and special, get a mug of spiked Victory root beer ($7; make it a float for $1 more).
    Eat This: Make it a Mediterranean meal with the kaseri and fig grilled cheese ($6) or stay Stateside with a snack of whiskey-soaked pickles ($5).
    Know This: Make a 24-hour advance reservation for your party of six to get a case of beer or cooler of cocktails plus a crab leg feast with slaw, Old Bay fries and dessert for $150 total.

    1131 Sansom St.; 215-545-0170

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Morgan’s Pier on the Delaware River

    With three different bars and at least six distinct seating areas, this Four Corners-run riverdeck in the shadow of the Ben Franklin Bridge is your best chance of catching a breeze while quaffing craft brews, and the R5 half of the management team keeps the wheels spinning with a lineup of hot DJs along with new live shows every weekend.

    Drink This: Fresh watermelon slush topped with a can of 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon goes by the name Watermelon Ricky, and you ought to have at least three each summer ($7).
    Eat This: Chef David Gilberg’s elote corn is just spicy enough to keep you dipping your chips in for more creamy sauce popping with firm, sweet kernels of freshly shucked corn ($6.50).
    Know This: A victim of its own success, this pier can get mad crowded, especially during prime brunch hours or when bands play, so choose the timing for your visit carefully if you’re not a fan of the throngs.

    221 N. Columbus Blvd.; 215-279-7134

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Memphis Taproom in Kensington

    Instead of taps, your outdoor brews come from the permanent food truck installed in the picnic-table-filled yard next to Leigh Maida and Brendan Hartranft’s craft-beer outpost in the mostly residential area of Aramingo and Frankford Avenues.

    Drink This: It’s cans only in the yard — no worrying about smashing glass — but the lineup is still stellar. If you want to see what makes the style so popular, pop the tab on the exceedingly balanced Troegs Perpetual IPA.
    Eat This: Hot dogs are the eats handed through the truck window, and they come in 10 different varieties, from bacon-wrapped to battered and fried. They’re good enough to get straight grilled, though, so pick the PA Dutchie, with chow chow slaw, cukes, tomatoes and beer mustard ($5).
    Know This: A big-screen projector shows all Phillies games live, and on Saturday nights when there’s no baseball, a cult-fave movie plays at dusk instead.

    2331 E. Cumberland St.; 215-425-4460

  • Brü Craft & Wurst in Midtown Village

    Though it’s not literally outdoors, the picnic tables at the back of Todd O’Connor’s Chestnut Street brew hall are framed by a light-strung trellis, and when the garage-door wall is rolled up, you might as well be sipping in the open air.

    Drink This: More than three-dozen taps pour brews of all kinds, from old-world favorites to experimental locals. The Julius Echter Hefe-Weissbier Hell is refreshing while still being interesting, with a spicy start and a dry finish ($7).
    Eat This: Bring friends and get the mixed wurst plate, four housemade sausage links plus German potato salad and some of the best sauerkraut in town ($26).
    Know This: Get a two-liter boot filled to the brim of any Bavarian beer for $28 — think of it as an oversized pitcher, but all for you. Alternately, buy a “Bru Button” from your server and pour your own pints from a group of tablet-controlled taps.

    1316 Chestnut St.; 215-800-1079

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Silk City in Northern Liberties

    Inside it’s a combination diner/dance club, but one of the many wood-slat tables or bar stools in Mark Bee’s huge outdoor garden is the place to get your beer on, surrounded by funky oval-windowed walls patterned in colorful spirals.

    Drink This: Three of the half-dozen taps rotate among interesting brew options, but if none of them catch your fancy, you’ll be solid with a can of Sly Fox Phoenix or Yards Philly Pale Ale ($3).
    Eat This: This is one of those kitchens that’s good at frying stuff so it’s crispy but not greasy, and the pork-belly empanadas with sweet potato and cheddar are a good example ($9).
    Know This: Brunch is one of the best times to visit, since the menu expands to include great renditions of all-time favorites like shrimp ‘n’ grits and chicken ‘n’ waffles.

    435 Spring Garden St.; 215-592-8838

  • Hop Angel Brauhaus in Fox Chase

    A mural of the Bavarian Alps sets the mood for brats and brews at the picnic tables and umbrella-shaded mesh tables that line the patio next to this Northeast tavern.

    Drink This: A dozen taps change frequently, but you’ll always find several German standbys along with the local options, all served in generous 18-oz. pours. ShawneeCraft Bière Blanche is a good bet for the warmer weather; the Belgian witbier is both crisp and tart ($7).
    Eat This: Split the ham, egg and Gouda-topped Burgermeister Meisterburger with a friend ($11) so you can start with a plate of potato pancakes with traditional applesauce and sour cream ($6).
    Know This: As long as they’re well behaved, dogs are welcome, making this a perfect spot to have a beer with your pals plus your very best friend.

    7980 Oxford Ave.; 215-437-1939

  • Jon’s Bar & Grille on South Street

    This longtime corner pub emblazoned with images of The 3 Stooges’  Larry Fine (he was born there) recently turned the second level of the bi-level patio into a full-fledged beer garden, complete with umbrella-covered picnic tables to seat 100 people and a special lineup of more than 20 craft cans.

    Drink This: Scoop up one of those cans, like the classic coriander-and-orange Blanche de Bruxelles witbier ($6) or seasonal Horny Goat Watermelon Wheat ($5).
    Eat This: Standouts on the special quick-bites menu are mussels in a Weihenstephaner beer broth ($13) and sweet-potato fries ($5).
    Know This: During happy hour (4-6 PM Monday-Thursday and 10 PM-midnight Friday-Sunday), craft cans go for just $2 a pop, a serious deal.

    300 South St.; 215-592-1390

  • Independence Beer Garden on Independence Mall

    Chef-restaurateur Michael Schulson is planning a July 4 grand opening for the Groundswell Design Group-envisioned seasonal beer garden that will take over the corner of Sixth and Market across from the Liberty Bell. Sampan sous-chef and former Top Chef contestant Travis Masar will oversee the food.

    Drink This: Five craft brews on tap are all available in 24-oz. pours, so don’t be put off by the $12 price tag for the Flying Fish Farmhouse ale — it’ll keep you happy for quite a while.
    Eat This: The menu is split into “Fingers,” “Hands,” “Fork” and “Frozen” (the desserts), so you have a range of snacks to choose from. We’re betting on the mac ‘n’ cheese covered with pretzel crumbs ($8) and the strawberry shortcake ice cream pop ($4).
    Know This: You can get a preview of the offerings before the official launch by following the IBG Truck, a roving mini-version that has been serving regularly at Festival Pier events.

    100 Independence Mall

  • PHS Pop-Up Garden on South Street West

    The Philadelphia Horticultural Society is reprising its wildly successful seasonal pop-up from 2013 in a new location — this time the seven-day-a-week picnic-table garden will be located in the grassy lot beside Jamaican Jerk Hut. The garden launches on Tuesday, July 8 at 5 PM, and after that will be serving food and drink 5-10 PM, Monday-Thursday, 5 PM-midnight, Friday, 2 PM-midnight, Saturday and noon-10 PM, Sunday.

    Drink This: There will be plenty of local beer, to be sure, but also look for a special menu of tropical cocktails to complement the restaurant next door.
    Eat This: Jerk specialties will be available to eat outside, or choose from a rotating roster of food trucks parked out front.
    Know This: Look for special events throughout the summer and early fall, including movie nights, Quizzo and boot-camp beer garden workouts.

    1438 South St.