Admittedly, “summer” in SF has gotten off to a slower start than usual because Karl the Fog doesn’t seem to want to take the many, many vacation days that he’s worked so hard to earn. That being said, there is no way there aren’t WEEKS of guaranteed sunshine ahead. And sunshine in SF means one thing and one thing only. And, no, that thing is not hiking. Ew. No, we’re talking about something that’s a lot better for you than that; we’re talking about day drinking (and maybe even night drinking) outside. And there’s no where better to do it than these 10 bars, all of which have some version of a beer garden and all of which are a guaranteed good time.
Right past the Chestnut Gate on Lyon Street is one of our favorite hidden gems: Sessions at the Presidio. And though we’re fans of grabbing a seat at the bar and ordering a few apps to enjoy with one of over 100 craft beers, when the sun is shining, there’s nowhere we’d rather be than on the patio, which is surrounded by lush green grass and stunning views. Go during brunch on the weekend and enjoy bottomless beer or mimosas for just $19.
Zeitgeist is pretty much the quintessential San Francisco beer garden. Sure, it’s technically a punk bar, but on a sunny day, you’re going to find preppy dudes with popped collars sharing a picnic table with hipsters in tight pants. The only problem is that even though the outdoor space is enormous (especially for SF), it gets crowded fast. The good news is Zeitgeist opens every day at 9 AM, so if you’re really committed to the cause, you can get there early, order a delicious Bloody Mary, and hold down the fort. Just don’t think about snapping any selfies while you wait; the staff at Zeitgeist doesn’t take kindly to people taking photos. But they do take kindly to you ordering one of 40 beers on tap and tipping well, and that’s good enough for us.
Finnegans recently got a little refresh, which means the back garden now has brand new picnic tables with seats you won’t fall through and even a new ping pong table. Don’t worry though; everything you loved about this place is still the same as it ever was, including the fact that it’s usually crowded with locals or people who stumbled over after too many mimosas at Zazie. And though it can be warm and sunny, you’ll want to make sure you have your jacket because when the fog rolls in, the backyard gets cold. Or leave the jacket at home and just move inside where you can watch the game or play a game of pool. Just kidding. Never ever leave your jacket at home.
El Rio bills itself as a neighborhood bar, but thanks to the super friendly bartenders, adorable outside patio and garden with a ping pong table, and the fact that friendly dogs are allowed (except when it’s super busy, like on Friday and Saturday nights), this is one bar that attracts people from all over the city. Especially when the weather is nice. Which, thanks to its Mission/Bernal Heights local, is more often than not.
Of all the spots on this list, Biergarten might be the most traditional of beer gardens in San Francisco… something you probably never would have figured out on your own since the name totally doesn’t literally mean “beer garden” in German. Oh wait. It’s also one of the places on this list where you can bring kids. Whether or not that’s a good thing is up to you; we’re just here to give you the information. The lines can get a little long if you go during prime time (Saturday or Sunday afternoon), so it may take you a while to find a spot to sit. But once you’re drinking a liter of cold beer and eating sausages with curry roasted potatoes while basking in the sunshine, you’ll realize it was all worth it.
This restaurant and bar is housed in an enormous light-filled industrial warehouse, but when the weather cooperates, the place to sit is outside at one of the picnic tables. The food menu is extensive—we’re fans of the burgers and coconut fried chicken wings—but there’s no table service; you’ll need to order at the bar, which is also where you’ll get your house-brewed beer available by the glass or the pitcher. Not a beer drinker? Well that’s odd, but no worries, SPB also has cocktails.
Valley Tavern has 39 beers on tap, flat screen TVs everywhere you look, and free BBQ on NFL Sundays. But it’s the pretty much totally secret (oops!) tri-level outdoor beer garden with heaters that makes us love this spot so much. Just don’t tell anyone, okay?
GOLDEN GATE PARK
Past the bison, the Polo Fields, and the windmill is Park Chalet, a beer garden and restaurant that lives on the other side of Beach Chalet. You’ll find the tourists at the latter, but the locals all know the former is where it’s at. If you head there on the weekend, you’ll find the lawn covered with people lounging in Adirondack chairs and on blankets and even a few people dancing to the live music. Park Chalet has eight house-brewed beers on tap, a full bar, and food that’s maybe a little pricier than what you’d want to spend, but always satisfies. Go for Taco Tuesday and you can get five different types of tacos for $3.50 a piece from 3 PM ‘til closing.
STEM Kitchen & Garden is a farm-to-table restaurant that just so happens to have one of the coolest outdoor spaces in the entire city. Like, it’s so cool, we almost don’t want to say anything about it. But we love you so… here’s everything you need to know: There’s a huge patio, a garden where they grow ingredients, a couple of bocce ball courts, stunning views of the Bay (because, yeah, it’s right on the water), and fire pits for when it gets cold. No seriously though: once you go here once, you’re going to want to go all of the time.
In what used to be part of the SF Giants parking lot is now an adorable gathering spot created out of shipping containers, one of which is home to Anchor Brewing’s beer garden where you can hang outside, watch the game on TV, sip on experimental beers that are only available there, and eat burgers and other tasty meat from Bel Campo. Beer, sports, TV, and sunshine? What more do you need. (The answer is nothing.)