7 great Bay Area beer gardens to get your Oktoberfest vibe on

Munich may have canceled Oktoberfest for the second consecutive year, but the Bavarian festival is on in the Bay Area, where new breweries and beer-focused restaurants from Mountain View to Concord are celebrating with bier and brat specials, events, even commemorative T-shirts.

And who says you need an international holiday to drink craft suds with your friends and family — yes, including your dog — in a beautiful beer garden? If you have a lager in hand and are standing under twinkly lights, it’s going to feel like Oktoberfest.

View of the Side Gate Brewery & Beer Garden outdoor patio in Concord. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group) 

Side Gate Brewery & Beer Garden, Concord

Newly opened this month from Bay Area natives Kevin Wilson and Paul Culbertson, Side Gate Brewery features a two-story, 10-barrel taproom and expansive beer garden in the heart of Concord’s Todos Santos Plaza. The building, which is 100 years old, was once home to Time Out, a sports bar/music venue. Wood for the taproom’s bar and tables were made from reclaimed Douglas fir that was part of the original building.

Paul Culbertson and Kevin Wilson, co-owners of Side Gate Brewery and Beer Garden in Concord. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group) 

The co-brewers — Wilson is from Moraga, Culbertson lives in Walnut Creek — met as corporate finance co-workers and quickly bonded over their shared love of home brewing, which they’ve been doing, combined, for decades. On Sept. 10, they unveiled the taproom/beer garden with a ribbon cutting. Six beers were brewed on-site, and are available as tasters, flights, growlers, and crowlers.

A mix of lagers and IPAs is on offer. Emu Egg, brewed with 100% New Zealand Pale ale and featuring up-front notes like spruce & pine, is one example. First Round Draught, a medium-bodied lager, and Dankster’s Lab, a grapefruit-forward West Coast IPA, are also crowd-pleasers.

The beer garden: At 2,000 square feet, this greenery-filled beer garden and patio is the largest of its kind in the Concord area, with 12 tables outside, plus Adirondacks and a patio sofa for lounging. There are 12 seats at bar, and 13 tables upstairs and downstairs.

The dish: Currently, just packaged snacks, but Side Gate is working with a few nearby restaurants to create QR codes for order and delivery to the brewery. You can bring whatever food you want until then. Side Gate has just opened. This year there won’t be any Oktoberfest events, but you can hoist your Hawk Hill Hef high.

Details: Hours vary. Open daily (except Tuesday) at 1822 Grant St., Concord; www.sidegatebrewing.com

Jägerschnitzel, breaded pork cutlet, homemade spätzle, lingonberry jam and creamy mushroom sauce is a specialty at Ludwig’s Biergarten in Mountain View. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

Ludwig’s, Mountain View

There’s good reason to hoist a celebratory mug of hefeweizen here. Nicole Jacobi, a German-born chef, and her co-owners were able to bring a bierhaus to this corner of Castro Street in March. Yes, during the pandemic. But fresh-air tables — and plenty of them — have been a key ingredient in their success during this challenging time.

Nicole Jacobi, left, co-owner, with Saul Palomera, general manager, at Ludwig’s Biergarten in Mountain View. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

You’ll find 16 German and local brews on tap, including Paulaner’s Oktoberfest Märzen. The thirst-quenching, radler is a popular choice on the suds list. It’s a combination of beer and fresh fruit juices or herbs. Variations include the Kolsch with watermelon & tarragon or the pilsner topped by grapefruit juice ($10 per).

On Oct. 2, this venue will host its very first Oktoberfest, with a DJ, a traditional stein-holding challenge, best-dressed contests for the lederhosen- and dirndl-wearers in the crowd — and lots of schweinshaxe and strudel.

The beer garden: Shaded seating is plentiful. There’s room for about 240 celebrants under the massive tree and canopies, with street benches accommodating up to 125 more.

The dish: Standouts include the mushroom sauce-topped Jaegerschnitzel with spaetzle and lingonberries ($26.50) and Oma’s Apple Strudel, made in-house with spiced apples and rum-soaked raisins ($12). New: Brotzeitbrett, aka German charcuterie, with Black Forest ham and liver pate. Oma’s Apple Strudel, made in-house with spiced apples and rum-soaked raisins ($12). The Butcher Platter comes with smoked pork chops.

Details: Open 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday at 383 Castro St. in Mountain View; www.ludwigsmv.com.

The patio area of Lafayette’s new Headlands Brewing Company is a popular spot. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

Headlands Brewing Company, Lafayette

Wooden tasting palettes overflow with golden ales at this 4-month-old modern brewery in Lafayette. Headlands, which has been canning and kegging its Nor Cal-themed beers ever since 2013, unveiled its beautiful landscaped space in June. It features a large garden, intimate taproom, and a floating draught tower with 20 taps. The space also houses three core beers that are available all year.

Headlands Brewing Company, Lafayette. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

Look for a light and crispy Hawk Hill Hefeweizen, assertively aromatic Hill 88 Double IPA Headlands and the slightly spicy yet clean-sipping Pt. Bonita Pilsner. There are six other suds that can only be tapped from those taps. These include the Rooster Tail Hazy IPA which has tropical fruit-forward notes and the Lafayette Light Lager which is easy-to-drink.

The beer garden: Dynamic and impressive, with seating in so many forms — tables on the shade-covered “grassy” patio, a curved bench in the sun or coveted deck with fire pit — you have to come back to try them all. Another half-dozen tables can be found in the wood-paneled indoor taproom.

The dish: Small menu of nachos, hot dogs and sausages (around $9 each) plus traditional sides, frosé and, on occasion, smashed burgers from the outdoor grill. Headlands will host its first Oktoberfest on October 2 and 3, from noon to closing. There will be 1-liter stein specials, pretzels and beer cheese, and live music by Polkageist West at 12 p.m. Oct. Their Oktoberfest-style brew, Headlands Märzen, will be flowing.

Details: Hours vary. Open daily at 3420 Mountain. Diablo Blvd., Suite A, Lafayette; https://headlandsbrewing.com

Teske’s Germania Restaurant and Beer Garden in San Jose. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

Teske’s Germania, San Jose

Gaze at architectural gems like the Beatrice Building and you might feel as if you’ve been transported to 1890s San Jose. Step inside, and this could be a hunting lodge from Germany’s Black Forest, with a biergarten in the back courtyard.

This massive dining room at Teske’s Germania leads to the beer garden in the brick courtyard. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

For four decades, this building has been home to Teske’s Germania. Hans and Catherine Baumann took over in 1990, with the second generation — siblings Greg, Cynthia and Scott — running the operation now. Scott trained as a chef in the family’s homeland, Baden Wurtemberg.

Naturally, the taps deliver beers from Germany’s top breweries. Look for a rotating selection from a lineup that includes Andechs, Paulaner, Hofbrau Haus, Bitburger, Weihenstephaner, Köstritzer and others.

The Internationals, a popular Oktoberfest band, will be playing in the biergarten this year (except Oct. 16). Tables are first come, first served for these loud, joyous nights; you’ll want to arrive early to snag a seat.

The beer garden: Expect social distancing to lower the number of Oktoberfest celebrants at tables in this brick-walled courtyard. But there’s plenty of seating in the dining rooms.

The dish: Sure, you can have a sausage platter, but we recommend you try the authentic fare coming out of Baumann’s kitchen. You can also try the Sauerbraten beef classic ($25) or the Kassler Rippchen ($25), which is a Flintstones-sized piece of tender smoked Ham served with housemade sauerkraut, German potato salad, and topped with housemade sauerkraut. Trendy menu newcomers include Goulash Fries ($14), Pork Belly with peach marmalade and bacon ($15) and Jalapeño Cheese Stuffed Pretzels ($10).

Details: Open 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday-Friday and 4:30 p.m. to midnight Saturday. San Jose, 255 N. First St. www.teskes-germania.com

A liter of Hofbrau beer served at the Bierhaus in Walnut Creek. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

Bierhaus, Walnut Creek

One of the East Bay’s most authentic German restaurants and beer gardens, Bierhaus reopened in May after a six-month closure due to the COVID economy. A new chef, Andrew Curley, former sous chef of San Francisco’s three-Michelin-starred Atelier Crenn, has re-focused the lunch and dinner menus, which pair beautifully with the 18 or so beers on tap. A cocktail menu is in the works, as well as a wine list featuring Old World producers.

Bierhaus in Walnut creek has a variety of local, Belgian, and German beers. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

As for the suds, look for a healthy a mix of German and Belgian suds, like the crisp Veltins Pilsner or Benediktiner Weisbier, served alongside selections from Ghost Town, Faction and other microlocal breweries. Don’t miss the bevy of board games, including Jenga, to entertain kiddos and the young at heart.

The beer garden: Street-side and a frequent perch for local musicians, the beer garden features 12 wooden tables direct from Munich, plus outdoor heaters and water bowls for four-legged friends.

The dish: Fun to have options beyond brats (though Bierhaus’ are solid). Starters and entrees are available for $4-$15 and $19-$23 respectively. Farfo Salad ($15), which includes avocado, soft-cooked egg, and roasted vegetables, is huge enough for dinner. Only available for take-out: Oktoberfest specials.

Details: Hours vary. Open Wednesday-Sunday at 1360 Locust St., Walnut Creek; https://bierha.us

Pretzels at Wursthall Restaurant & Bierhaus in San Mateo. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group archives) 

Wursthall, San Mateo

Imagine a German beer hall with a Silicon Valley look, global ingredients and what its creators call a California point of view. That’s Wursthall, a downtown San Mateo destination since 2018.

The large, open restaurant features minimalist table-and bench design and is illuminated by strings Edison-style lights. The walls are free of adornment — not a decorative beer stein in sight. The culinary concept is eclectic with vegan Impossible Turkish-ish Sausages, El Presidente cocktails and shared menu space with Bier Bratwurst or Fruh Kolsch.

Wursthall has seating inside as well as outside the restaurant at Baldwin Avenue, South B Street, San Mateo. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group archives) Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group

The beer garden: The city of San Mateo has allowed for street closures, so there are communal tables and smaller tables on both South B Street and Baldwin Avenue.

The dish: Start with the Deviled Eggs topped with aleppo pepper and dill (two for $4), a Wursthall mainstay, while you ponder which of the wildly creative sausages you want to try ($16, with your choice of side). The Pastrami & Swisswurst – a beef-and cheesy sausage topped by Russian dressing and sauerkraut – and the Porchetta – a pork sausage seasoned and topped gremolata – are just two of the eight options. If you’re a Currywurst fan, check out this version with a blackened ginger curry sauce.

Details: Open 4:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday-Sunday at 310 Baldwin Ave., San Mateo. www.wursthall.com

Julia Flor Branco, of Oakland, feeds a piece of a pretzel to her dog, Chachi, while sitting with her fiancé, Thomas Jodoin, at Hofkuche in Oakland. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

Hofkuche, Oakland

Wheat wreaths and twinkly lights cue the start of Oktoberfest at this traditional German beer destination, which is celebrating the Bavarian festival and its own one-year anniversary with a bevy of beer and food specials. Hofkuche, from the founders of San Francisco’s Biergarten and the owners of Suppenkuche, offers solid Bavarian eats. It’s less than a mile from the 19th Street Bart Station and so dog-friendly, they serve bison brownies and chicken crackers for the pups.

A Wurstgericht sausage entree at Hofkuche in Oakland. (Photo courtesy of Hofkuche) 

There are typically eight to 10 mostly imported suds on tap ($7-$13). A dry and light St. Georgen Kellerbier might be available, as well as a smooth and fruity Hofbrau Hefeweizen or dark and malty Weltenburger Dunkel. Wine drinkers will feel at ease with a crisp Gruner Veltliner or blaufrankisch, which is a dry red.

The beer garden: The 20-table beer garden, flanked by a vine-covered building and lots of lush trees, is massive, with box gardens and those aforementioned twinkly lights, which zig-zag overhead.

The dish: You can’t go wrong with the Half Rotisserie Chicken and creamy mashed potatoes ($23.50), but the pretzels (with mustard or Bavarian cheese) and pretzel knots (filled with prosciutto and brie or Swiss and cheddar) are the scene stealers ($7-$10). From Saturday, Oct. 30, through Sunday, look out for beer-pretzel pairings.

Details: Hours vary. Open Wednesday-Sunday, 478 25th St. Oakland; www.hofkuche.com

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