Sign up for email newsletters
Sign up for email newsletters
Only in the Bay Area — and parts of Oregon, perhaps — can you expect a new list of brewery beer gardens to emerge nearly every year. We’ve been busy sipping suds and uncovering the latest in cafe light-strewn picnic tables, lush surroundings and food truck-adjacent beer destinations.
From Pacifica’s Humble Sea Brewery to Martinez’s Five Suns, these seven beer gardens boast all sorts of outdoor offerings — and an eighth is on the way with Fieldwork Brewing opening its largest beer garden to date on Sept. 3, a 265-person capacity, 7,800-square-foot space in San Leandro with fire pits, love seats and Neapolitan-inspired pizza.
Here’s where to sip outdoors. Lederhosen optional.
Pacifica gets a break from the cloud cover from now through late October, making the next several weeks prime time for Humble Sea. Surfers peel off their wetsuits and make their way from nearby beaches, tourists head over from inland and locals congregate.
At this northernmost Humble Sea (the brewing’s done in Santa Cruz, and there’s a Felton location), three brews rule: the signature Socks & Sandals, a foggy IPA, Santa Cruz Pilsner and a West Coast IPA.
“The foggy is our version of a hazy because in Pacifica, we don’t just have haze, we have a lot of fog,” joked Wayne Kazanjian, the chef-turned-GM of this location, which opened last summer.
If you want a boost from a foggy frame of mind, check out the tap list for the newest in the Smoothie Ale line. Lagom Life — Swedish for a balanced life — is a fun and fruity choice, with notes of blackberry pie, tart cherry and vanilla.
The beer garden: There’s room at shaded picnic tables outside for about 150 people, with space for 60 more inside. The retail space next door sells chilled Humble Sea four-packs, bottles and merch (if it turns cold, you’re going to want a hoodie).
The dish: Here at Tater Tot Central — seriously, there isn’t a single fry in the joint — these bites are seasoned and served with Humble Sea’s signature dipping sauce, an irresistible Citra Hop aioli, and smoked ketchup ($8 as an appetizer). The tots are the “chips” in Humble Sea beer battered fish and chips ($21) — the fish also tastes amazing with that aioli. Too spicy? Ask for a side of the housemade cucumber ranch dressing. Other options with tots? Smash-style Niman Ranch burgers ($18) and a grilled chicken sandwich with bacon jam ($15).
Details: Open noon to 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekends and — with a limited menu — 3 to 9 p.m. Mondays through Tuesdays at 5560 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacifica; humblesea.com
This 10-barrel brewery started by five Martinez-born friends has transformed an empty Bank of America into the epicenter of downtown Martinez. Add in the charming Market & Main food hall around the corner, the bustling Sunday farmers market and forthcoming mini golf course from Putters Putt Putt, and it can feel like the hippest place to be.
Massive roll-up garage doors lead into a rustic taproom with a dozen suds, mostly ales, on tap. Valkyrie, a light-bodied blonde ale brewed with Pale and Munich malts, is the most popular, followed by Reliez, a medium-bodied extra pale ale. And cocktail drinkers will relish the 16-percent alcohol Super Seltzers — Blackberry Thyme, Watermelon Lime and four others.
Outside food, dogs and kids are welcome. And Oktoberfest will bring the release of the brewery’s Munich Helles, a light and bright lager.
The beer garden: Between the picnic tables, fire pits and barrel-top bar seating, there is seating for about 200 people on this massive outdoor patio. Umbrellas provide plenty of shade and one side of the beer garden is flanked by trees along Alhambra Creek.
The dish: Daily food trucks range from burger-centric Ike’s Grill to the Filipino-Mexican Hella Mas and Golden Gate Gyro. And Market & Main’s vendors specialize in everything from Italian sandwiches to Moroccan cuisine. On our visit, we had a giardiniera-topped organic salad from East Bay Artisan and spied fat lobster rolls at Shuck It!
Details: Open 3 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Thursdays, noon to 9 p.m. Fridays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays at 626 Main St., Martinez; fivesunsbrewing.com. Find details on Market & Main at marketandmainmartinez.com.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more unusual and historic urban-meets-rural setting for a beer garden than Camino, the San Jose brewery-taproom. Business partners and buddies Nathan Poulous and Allen Korenstein founded it four years ago in an old body shop on South First Street. Inspiration came while making a grueling 1,900-mile cycling trip through Europe on the Camino de Santiago — where they found great camaraderie along the way. “We drank, ate and shared stories with strangers who became friends,” they say on the website.
Ever since, folks have been gathering here over Camino’s top sellers, the easy-drinking Bohemian pilsner, Follow the Arrow, and a hazy IPA, the Northeast by West. The brewery’s Cafe Con Leche is a longtime favorite brewed with locally roasted Chromatic Coffee. Have a designated driver at your table? The Hop Water is a non-alcoholic sparkling water made with Lemondrop hops.
And make a note of the Belgian dark strong ale for winter when you want a fortifying after-dinner drink. A snifter of this brew, with its notes of brandy, dark cherries and raisins, would be perfect while sitting around the fire.
The beer garden: Wind your way through the brewery to the vast gravel-covered Faber Courtyard created in 2020, named for one of San Jose’s cool historic buildings, Faber’s Cyclery, next door. The best symbol of the 1800s on this property? The enormous pepper tree that Korenstein says is more than than 150 years old. In this eclectic setting with more than 20 large tables, local DJs spin tunes on Wax Wednesdays and the Urban Vibrancy Institute sponsors live music on Thursday nights.
The dish: Tuesday through Saturday, the versatile Cajeta kitchen makes not only their popular smoked birria tacos (three for $16, and they sell out early) but also gluten-free nachos escabeche ($12) and keto tacos with a queso shell ($5). Handmade tortillas are available in regular or spicy versions (red for chipotle, green for jalapeño/serrano). On Sundays, there’s a rotating series of food trucks.
Details: Open from 5 to 11 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, noon to 11 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 9 p.m. Sundays. 718 S. First St., San Jose; caminobrewing.com
Charming Mill Valley has a raffish neighbor just outside its city limits called Tam Junction. “Historically, this area has a reputation as being the ‘other side of the tracks,’ ” says Liz Fiedler, who runs The Junction with husband Dez Fiedler. “We wanted to honor this part of town, which definitely has its own personality – adventurous, rugged, funky, a little less buttoned-up than the rest. Kind of like our beer garden.”
The bright, airy Junction is popular with people decompressing from hikes and bike rides in the Marin hills. You’ll find 30 taps focused on small breweries within 100 miles, including San Francisco’s Barebottle and Oakland’s Ghost Town.
There’s also a well-stocked bottle shop on the premises with 100-plus cans and bottles sold to-go.
The beer garden: There’s an indoor dining area but the main attraction is a sprawling, sunny, sandy patio cooled by a coastal breeze. People and dogs gather at picnic tables and fire pits, while live bands provide a pleasant soundtrack on Sunday afternoons.
The dish: Scan a QR code and you’re connected with PizzaHacker, an eatery next door that whisks hot pies to your table. The crust is appropriately blistered and the ingredients interesting, from a “Summer Fave” with cherry tomatoes and spicy arugula ($23) to a “Yo Vinny!” with Llano Seco pork and Goat Horn peppers ($24). Salads are huge and crunchy-fresh ($13) and, best of all, there’s ice cream waiting at the end.
Details: Open 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursday, until 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and until 8 p.m. Sundays at 226 Shoreline Highway, Mill Valley; thejunc.com.
Talk about a hidden gem. If you don’t know about this shady, appealing spot with a burbling brook, you can blame your Peninsula friends for keeping it to themselves for, oh, about six decades. Since 1961, this has been the home of several restaurants, first the Charm Garden and most famously, for 26 years, the Pine Brook Inn, with its German and “continental” fare.
Now it’s The Tavern at Waterdog Landing, and you’ll find the entrance at the Carlmont Village Shopping Center tucked between a garden shop and a karate studio. Inside is a newly remodeled interior, sleek with a large central bar, and beyond that, a “wow” garden surprise.
The taps showcase Peninsula microbrews like Alpha Acid’s Slices, a West Coast IPA, and the Beer Friday pilsner and Silicon Blonde Ale from Devil’s Canyon Brewing.
There are also several craft cocktails, including the gin-based Belmont Bramble with seasonal fruit liqueur, and the Metro Spritz, which features vodka and housemade honey lemonade, and a long wine list.
The beer garden: Take the stairs or elevator down to a garden with cascading waterfall and fountain and seating for 120 guests. Another surprise: Young musicians from local high schools perform on Friday evenings. “We’re trying to find our niche,” owner Adam Light said. “We’re calling it the Emerging Artists Series.”
The dish: Sure, there are plenty of shareable bar bites, with the crispy Brussels and the salt-and-pepper chicken particularly popular. But the vast menu also offers a salmon BLT with avocado ($22), red wine-braised short ribs ($31) and roasted half “brick” chicken with Calabrian chile sauce ($26). Or, if you are still pining for the Pine Brook Inn’s German food, check out the pork schnitzel with whole-grain mustard demi glace ($27).
Details: Open from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Sundays. 1015 Alameda de las Pulgas, Belmont; thetavernbelmont.com
Housed in a former Naval hangar, Almanac Beer Co. has been brewing its innovative beers for 12 years, since that first sold-out release, Summer 2010, a Belgian-style golden ale aged in Sonoma zinfandel barrels with Sonoma blackberries.
Inside the massive brewery with its 37-foot ceilings, the brewing team crafts a broad portfolio of beers, from delicate lagers and oak-aged sours to rich, coffee-brewed stouts. Currently, there are 14 beers on draft, plus wine, cider and hard kombucha. Almanac is pouring its Rocktoberfest lager from from now through early October.
The beer gardens: The original, light-strewn front patio was spacious enough — dozens of picnic tables with partial shade and barrel tops for pint perching — but last September, Almanac completed the transformation of an empty lot across the street into an 8,400-square-foot beer backyard. Grab a cold one at the Airstream can stand, play a game of cornhole or giant Jenga (weekends only) and watch your kiddos dig in the super-sized sandbox.
The dish: Food trucks, such as Scolari’s Good Eats and Copper Top Pizza, stop by at lunch time Wednesday-Sunday. Scolari’s is an Alameda institution, and we’re partial to their Fried Chicken Sandwich ($15), topped with spicy slaw on a toasted challah bun. Don’t miss the large-cut spuds with housemade aioli.
Details: Open 12 to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, until 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and until 8 p.m. Sundays at 651 B W. Tower Ave., Alameda; almanacbeer.com.
When two Massachusetts college-baseball players, Tommy Hester and Wilson Barr, found themselves stapled to the bench for most of their careers, they began entertaining ideas of dorm room home brewing. This endeavor proved more fruitful than baseball; they’ve sold their beer in the Bay Area and nationally for about eight years and in 2021, opened a taproom in a former auto-repair shop in downtown Oakland.
The brewery specializes in radlers, a German tradition that blends beer with fruits and juices post-fermentation. Radlers sometimes suffer from the stereotype of being too sweet or artificial-tasting – Barr and Hester aim to prove the style can stand with the best of them. “The goal was to take this maligned concept and bring it into the craft fold for the first time,” Hester says.
At Two Pitchers, you’ll also find hazy IPAs and Kolsches from nearby breweries, as well as the brewery’s own signature brews like Nordic Jam – a throwback to fruit punch with strawberries and elderberries – and Disco Queen, a rosé-style radler with cranberry and hibiscus flowers. September will bring the seasonal release of Bayou, a milk stout with New Orleans-style chicory cold brew. (The taproom also pours alcoholic slushees, which is always fun.)
The beer garden: Illuminated by draped cafe lights, the spacious patio offers seating for 100 people — and the bar opens to it directly, so you can sidle up and order beer without ever going inside. (But if you do, the industrial-chic interior offers comfy nooks and couches, too.)
The dish: In the back of the beer garden, you’ll find Lovely’s, which has cultivated a cult base (and block-spanning lines) for its house-ground smashburgers and skilled renditions of classics like fishwiches and hot chicken. The griddled-onion burger with American cheese on a potato bun is a great way to go ($7.50) – substitute an Impossible Burger for $2 more – and fans speak fondly of the beer-battered fish n’ chips ($16.50) and Double 8 Dairy soft serve.
Details: Open 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 4 to 11 p.m. Fridays, noon to 11 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 8 p.m. Sundays at 2344 Webster St., Oakland; twopitchers.com.
We invite you to use our commenting platform to engage in insightful conversations about issues in our community. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable to us, and to disclose any information necessary to satisfy the law, regulation, or government request. We might permanently block any user who abuses these conditions.
Sign up for email newsletters