Capitalizing on the success of the craft beer movement, Milwaukee author Lucy Saunders has written five books about drinking beer and cooking with it, including Dinner in the Beer Garden.
According to Lucy, the best beer gardens have a solid mix of beer options, great music and a lively social atmosphere. “Personally, I go to a beer garden to enjoy the ambience and relax,” she says. “So I’m more concerned with the whole experience than focusing strictly on the beer.”
With that in mind, here are four of Lucy’s recommendations for outstanding beer gardens in the Midwest.
August Schell Brewing Company | New Ulm, Minnesota Visitors come to this 155-year-old brewery to sip dark lagers and Pilsners in a peaceful, wooded setting. Behind-the-scenes tours cover the family brewing tradition in the German settlement of New Ulm. Lucy likes the beer garden for its history and decades-old perennial plantings. She recommends enjoying the scenery while kicking back with a Schell’s One Five Five lager, which has a dark toffee and caramel kick. schellsbrewery.com
Photo courtesy of Jodi Marti
Eccentric Cafe | Kalamazoo, Michigan Lucy loves this restaurant run by neighboring Bell’s Brewing Company for its “whimsical” design elements. For starters: African tribal masks hang on the wall above the taps. A patio with wildflowers and colorful wind-powered sculptures contains ample room to socialize, sip and sing along to the live band of the hour. Choose from more than 30 beers on tap, including Bell’s Double Cream Stout with espresso notes. bellsbeer.com
Estabrook Beer Garden | Milwaukee Billed as America’s first public beer garden since Prohibition, Estabrook warrants its own chapter in Lucy’s book for its rich heritage. Arrive via kayak, bike or car to this garden in a public park along the Milwaukee River, then order a beer imported from Munich’s famous Hofbräuhaus to drink with a giant pretzel. Lucy says it's a perfect spot to get creative with beer and food pairings, as you’re welcome to BYO picnic. estabrookbeergarden.com
Photo courtesy of Mark Hines
New Glarus Brewing Company | New Glarus, Wisconsin Just outside the Swiss town of New Glarus, this spot on a hill serves idyllic views of the southern Wisconsin countryside. Take a free self-guided tour if you can pry yourself from the tasting room and its impressive offerings. New Glarus produces six beers with names like the Spotted Cow and Serendipity, which both have fruity hints. newglarusbrewing.com
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