When the sun comes out to play, so do we. The moment it’s not too wet or cold to be outside — and sometimes even when it is — us Michiganders head to the nearest patio for eats and drinks. And thanks to the pandemic, there are more patios than ever before.
However, not every outdoor space is created equal. While everyone’s making do with what they have, certain establishments have the space and means to create a special experience. Some even reach the coveted status of “beer garden.”
In our tolerant and progressive opinion, the only real qualifications for a beer garden are: It’s outside, beverages are available, and the owner’s decided to call it a beer garden.
So as summer heats up in earnest, let’s take a look at just a few of the great beer (and cider) gardens around West Michigan.
443 Bridge St. NW, Grand Rapids
In their own words: “There is no Sovengard without a biergarten.” This New Nordic restaurant’s garden has been a staple of Grand Rapids since opening with a shipping container bar years ago. Herbs are grown on the wall outside alongside the bocce ball court, tables are available for both seated dining and seat-yourself drinks, and dogs are welcome and common.
If you haven’t seen it yet, do so this month before Sovengard moves to 1232 Bridge St. NW soon! Don’t worry, they’ll have a new biergarten there, but this is your last chance to experience an iconic patio offering creative cocktails and tons of amazing craft beer.
Cedar Springs Brewing Co.
95 N. Main St., Cedar Springs
In the Bavarian sense of the word, a “biergarten” is an outdoor area filled with chestnut trees, that lets you bring your own food but sells all drinks on-site. Locals come and order liters of beer, relaxing and conversing for hours at picnic benches.
Being a German Bavarian-inspired brewery, Cedar Springs’ own biergarten differs only in that they offer their own delicious food and don’t have quite as many chestnut trees as the homeland. Come on out for authentic German style beers like the Küsterer Original Weissbier, a giant pretzel and live music.
Knoop Rooftop Beer Garden
131 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
This restaurant eight stories up is the modern, urban version of a beer garden — small bites, craft cocktails, and spread across both inside and out. Instead of one giant pretzel, get the pretzel flight, with three kinds of pretzel (hop salt, everything, and sriracha honey) and three dipping sauces. Of course, there’s plenty of great beer to enjoy here, along with stunning views of downtown Grand Rapids.
Bell’s Eccentric Café
355 E. Kalamazoo Ave., Kalamazoo
This is a magical place. Bell’s Beer Garden is a huge space that feels natural and intimate thanks to plenty of greenery, creative seating and a variety of spaces. Whether you want to stand around a high-top, bring a group to the many benches, or sit in the sun a small table, there are plenty of options. It’s no surprise that one of the oldest and best craft breweries around would also know how to make one of the best beer gardens ever.
New Holland Brewing & The Knickerbocker
417 Bridge St. NW, Grand Rapids
684 Commerce Ct., Holland
One of the largest taprooms in West Michigan, my personal favorite part of The Knickerbocker is the incredible outdoor space, especially in winter thanks to the flaming tables and heated igloos. In summer, you can enjoy outdoor games, music and even sports on a big screen, all while enjoying one of dozens of beers. New Holland’s original location in Holland is also home to a welcoming, cozy, beer garden that’s a must-visit every time we’re in town.
6266 West River Dr., Belmont
Let’s see: Cornhole, bocce ball, fire pits, benches, an outdoor bar, live music, and dog-friendly? Yep, that’s a beer garden. In fact, it’s one of the best beer gardens around and it just arrived on the scene this year. Enjoy Archival’s historical brews (literally using recipes from ancient times) in the great outdoors of their new garden this summer — or come specifically for trivia, yoga or oyster night.
Third Nature Brewing
7733 Childsdale Ave., Rockford
Third Nature’s biergarten and patio is one of the brewery’s proudest features, offering tons of space for lots of people in a secluded area just outside of downtown Rockford. It’s a beautiful spot practically in the woods, and is super dog-friendly, not to mention the live music, yoga, trivia and more. Plus, Eastern Kille Distillery will be joining next door soon!
Farmhaus Cider Co.
5025 Stanton St., Hudsonville
Farmhaus’s cider garden feels like you’re grabbing a drink in someone’s wooded backyard, and we mean that as the highest of compliments. This is one of the most welcoming, comforting spots around, partially because it’s tucked away in the thick woods of Hudsonville. It also helps that the cider is excellent and the food trucks always hit the spot.