After a few false dawns, spring has finally arrived in Washington. There's no better way to celebrate than rounding up friends and heading to a beer garden for al fresco drinks. Check out one of our favorites for live music, games and even glass boots of beer.
Over the winter, the Bardo brewpub swapped Trinidad for a huge, wide-open lot on the banks of the Anacostia River, directly across the street from Nationals Park. Fermentation tanks were installed, a bar sprung up and rough-hewed picnic tables were fashioned from trees. The house beers have been hit-and-miss: a malty English-style pale ale was followed by a murky, meh IPA. (Thankfully, bartenders are quick to offer samples.) Big enough to hold 750 people, the space is friendly for kids, and there's an enclosed dog park under construction. Until baseball season is underway, the bar will only be open on weekends, weather permitting, with food trucks on hand. Check Bardo's Twitter feed on Thursday or Friday for updates. 25 Potomac Ave. SE. twitter.com/bardobeer.
H Street's go-to spot for German beer and soccer, Biergarten Haus has a large, tree-shaded back patio with long wooden tables, a rooftop deck and multiple bars where you can grab a heavy one-liter mug of Franziskaner, Köstritzer or Paulaner for $15. (Half-liters are available if you don't want 33 ounces of beer.) To guarantee a seat on a sunny day, arrive early or bring friends: Biergarten Haus only takes reservations for groups of 15 or more. 1355 H St. NE. biergartenhaus.com.
When the weather's nice, the Brig is the place to go on Barracks Row. There are 200 seats on the family-friendly paved patio, mostly at long communal tables. The 20 beers on tap are a mix of German lagers and such local craft offerings as DC Brau and Port City, while the kitchen sends out pretzels, grilled sausages, burgers and wings, with a new brunch menu arriving this weekend. Dogs are welcome. 1007 Eighth St. SE. thebrigdc.com.
Given the lines that wrap around the corner of Seventh and Q streets, you might think this Shaw beer garden gives drinks away on sunny days, instead of pouring a half-dozen beers from Germany's 900-year-old Weihenstephan brewery (into regular glasses as well as one-liter boots) and a strong selection of local and national craft ales. Despite the see-and-be-seen vibe, Dacha is a good place to hang out, provided you get a seat. The newly upgraded food menu includes rabbit croquettes, grilled wings and flash-fried oysters. 1600 Seventh St. NW. dachadc.com.
The best outdoor drinking destination in Silver Spring features fresh craft beers, picnic tables and corn hole. But Denizen's patio is used for more than sipping Indian black lagers or Belgian-style tripels in the sun: Yoga classes take over the space twice a month, trivia is held outside on Tuesday nights and Saturday evening live music returns April 15. 1115 East-West Hwy., Silver Spring. denizensbrewingco.com.
The cozy beer garden at the corner of 14th and S streets NW reopened in late February after its traditional winter break. Gates open at noon on weekends for liters and half-liters of German beer and American craft ales, plus grillmaster Tad Curtz's smoky brisket, pulled pork and gooey grilled cheese. 1801 14th St. NW. gardendistrictdc.com.
The patio at MacDowell Brew Kitchen, covered by a thick blanket of sand, is a landmark in Leesburg. The hull of a fishing boat called the Sea Witch serves as a bar, with 20 taps surrounded by bar stools. Kids push trucks and toys through the sand. The Beach, as it's known, was shut down for much of last summer amid zoning issues, construction delays and a legal challenge from the city. But the renovated outdoor area officially reopens March 25, and there will be such additions as tiki huts over the spring to crank up the island theme. 202-B Harrison St. SE, Leesburg. macdowellbrewkitchen.com.
Arlington's Westover Market is known for its organic butcher shop and produce, as well as its vast beer selection. The comfortable beer garden, a fenced slip of land between the market and the post office next door, is just as much of an attraction. Locals gather at shaded picnic tables with craft beers (six draft lines outside, ten more inside) or wine while kids run around. Watch for frequent tap takeovers by the likes of DC Brau (April 1) and Ballast Point (April 7). Local bands perform Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, beginning April 1. 5863 Washington Blvd., Arlington. westovermarketbeergarden.com.
Wunder Garten added a tented, heated pavilion to its NoMa lot last fall, allowing the bar to be open year-round. That's great for chilly or rainy days, but let's be honest: The reason you head to a bar like Wunder Garten is to sit outside with your friends, play corn hole and, if the fire pit is blazing, toast some marshmallows. The beer selection is a mix of German standbys, such as Spaten and Hofbräu, and local craft brews by Hellbender and Atlas. New this spring: Saturday brunch with live band karaoke. The next events are April 8 and 15; advance tickets are required. 1101 First St. NE. wundergartendc.com.