Fall’s crisp air and mild temperatures (give it a minute), mean we can finally start drinking and eating outside again. Lucky for us, SA is lousy with one of Bavaria’s best ideas, the beer garden. While the hours for some favorite spots, like Gustav’s Beer Garden behind Magnolia Pancake Haus, are more elusive than local fall foliage, others let the taps flow on a more regular basis. Here’s three old (and new) reliables.
The crème de la crème of beer gardens here in SA, Beethoven’s is the quintessential “biergarten.” Great atmosphere, varied brews and delicious German cuisine provide a nice reminder of San Antonio’s German heritage.
While there are wine and bottle offerings, the real stars of the show here are the 12 German brews on tap. From Spaten Lager, Krombacher Pilsener and Bitburger Pilsener, to Franziskaner Weissbeir and Warsteiner Dunkel, Beethoven’s has German craft “kulture” covered. The all-volunteer staff is friendly and more than willing to offer samples if you just can’t make up your mind.
Much of the great atmosphere comes from the pervasive whiffs of hearty snacks and the occasional sing-a-longs led by members of Beethoven’s German chors. Soft pretzels, potato pancakes, as well as brats and sauerkraut litter the white and blue patterned tables while guests enjoy the lower temps (or the chors’ practice sessions on some nights). Make sure to pair any of the brats with a nice Spaten Oktoberfest.
The garden is open for occasional Gartenfests (such as Oktoberfest), and every First Friday. Events carry a “suggested” donation, but are free for Maennerchor members and active duty military.
As one of the newest joints downtown, Tuk Tuk Tap Room recently opened an “urban beer garden.” With around 35 brews on tap, Tuk Tuk has one of the largest draft selections amongst SA beer gardens. Some standouts include Busted Sandal, a local San Antonio brew, and Southern Tier Crème Brûlée, a milk stout that smells sweeter than it tastes, but is definitely worth trying.
The garden area itself is adequately spacious and pet-friendly. Tuk Tuk’s signature Asian street food can be ordered at the bar and enjoyed at one of the many tables that line the gravel-covered garden or in front of an outdoor fireplace, which is sure to be a popular spot in the coming months. The area is rather dimly lit and TV screens were not existent (sorry, sports fans), but the music was good and the mood was laidback on a recent visit.
The bartenders were attentive and more than willing to offer suggestions (try pairing the Resin IPA with the pork laarb) and as many samples as you’d like. While Tuk Tuk’s beer garden is a little light on the frills (none of the unique culture you might find at Beethoven’s, or beer flights you might find at a traditional brew pub), it does offer up what very few places can: inspired Asian street food to pair with more craft beers than you can count (well, that get harder to count the longer your stay).
The Quarry Hofbrau & Beer Garden
7310 Jones Maltsberger
Outside of watching sports, the Quarry Hofbrau & Beer Garden is very much a jack of all trades, master of none. But being more of an outdoor sports bar than a beer pub is still a winning combination on Saturdays and Sundays in the fall. The beer garden area is by far the nicest of these three, with good lighting and fans for warmer weather, but it lacks some personality. Big screen TVs are set up inside and out, and the beer garden area has the largest one, a nice projection screen that provides a good view from most anywhere.
You won’t receive your masters in Germanic hops like you would at Beethoven’s, or run the varied gamut of tastes like you would at Tuk Tuk’s, but the 25 beers on tap and varied bottle offerings (29 of them!) are nothing to sneeze at. The bartenders are good when you can get their attention, but don’t expect to pick their brains and discover new libations. Depending on when you go, service ranges from above average to terrible.
Hofbrau’s other strength is its food selection, even if taste-wise, many options are forgettable. The garden offers something for just about any mood or craving, from steaks to burgers to salads. A nice pint of Bitburger with some jalapeno brisket nachos is a uniquely Hofbrau offering.