Enjoying German beer is not a complex endeavor. You won’t find “subtle notes of vanilla” or “added apricot for an opulent finish” in the description of a true German beer. This is largely thanks to the Bavarian Law, which mandated that only water, yeast, hops and barley could be used when making beer. The simple setup stuck, resulting in a German beer culture that embodies the “less is more” mentality. One thing is certain, regardless of what German beer you choose to imbibe: it is best enjoyed with good company in an outdoor beer garden.
One of the beautiful things about Wisconsin is that there is no shortage of outdoor beer gardens where you can order a frothy mug by the liter. We’ve selected five German restaurants that offer traditional cuisine and feature attached outdoor beer gardens. Prost!
If you’re looking for the full German experience, look no further than Essen Haus. This Madison favorite features an excellent menu with plenty of traditional fare, a lively outdoor beer garden, and frequent appearances by local polka groups. Oh, and if your group comes thirsty, the Essen Haus gives out a free t-shirt for every three 2-liter boots your party finishes.
Put simply, the Pines is special. The restaurant was started back in 1981 by German immigrants Ernst and Aranka Both. To this day, the menu features Aranka’s classic German recipes like Beef Rouladen and Smoked Pork Chops. The attached beer garden frequently features local musicians and polka bands. Don’t forget to save room for dessert! The Pines bakery features incredible German sweets like Frankfurter Kranz, yellow cake filled with vanilla pudding frosting and topped with sweet roasted almonds.
Many traditional German dishes feature meat prominently, but the House of Gerhard does it better than most. This restaurant was started by Gerhard Dillner, a German immigrant who earned an excellent reputation as a chef back in the 1960s. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but their famous prime rib is the best option. Their cozy outdoor area is the perfect place to enjoy great food and beer.
Café Bavaria provides a more modern take on the traditional German experience. Here you’ll find a bevy of great German beer right alongside some of the USA’s best craft creations. For dinner, you can choose from traditional dishes like Schweinshaxe, a bone in pork roast with sweet and sour black pepper sauce, or more unique plates like the German Elvis, a pretzel-bun burger loaded with peanut butter, bacon, and lager infused onions. Café Bavaira puts a twist on the traditional beer garden, with an outdoor patio that’s picturesque and charming.
A visit to Door County pairs perfectly with outdoor dining and a cold beer. This makes the Bier Zot a small piece of heaven in an already paradise-like part of the state. The only trouble you’ll have here is choosing which beer to enjoy. The Bier Zot features 11 drafts, a cask and over 100 available bottles. Their menu spans a wide range of European inspired dishes, but you can’t go wrong with the Poutine, which features unique goat cheese curds and mouthwatering duck gravy.