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Beer gardens don’t customarily take reservations. Anyone who has seen the snaking line at Dacha in Shaw or scanned Garden District for a seat on a Saturday afternoon only to strike out knows this. Having to save a spot goes against the very nature of a beer garden’s casual, come-as-you-are mantra.
But some beer gardens operating during the COVID-19 phased reopening process have started to take reservations for six or fewer people in order to control crowds and ensure that they have the proper number of staff members on duty. The result is a guaranteed seat for those who plan ahead.
Denizens Brewing Co. in Silver Spring, Red Bear Brewing Co. in NoMa, Church Hall in Georgetown, and Hook Hall in Park View all have outdoor seating and take online reservations for whenever they’re open and operating.
Tips: Bundle up if you go after the sun sets; tip big if your server is covering a lot of ground in a newfangled outdoor space; follow all COVID-19 safety protocols, including wearing a mask whenever an employee approaches your table; adhere to the time limits each venue sets on table reservations so as many people can enjoy the space as possible; and make sure your phone is charged, because you may need it for contactless ordering and paying.
Denizens Brewing Co.
1115 East-West Hwy., Silver Spring; (301) 557-9818; denizensbrewingco.com
The beer garden at Denizens’ Silver Spring location looks and feels like a pumpkin patch, making it possible to get those corny fall photos without driving to an orchard on the outskirts of the region. Reservations are offered through Denizens’ website and come with a one hour and 50-minute time cap. Beer garden customers place orders and close tabs at an outside bar using contactless forms of payment.
Denizens’ seasonal favorite Big Red Norm, a red ale, is back on tap. Try that or Chapless Horsemen—a bourbon barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout—with a veggie burger, fried fish tacos, truffle fries, or a gussied-up grilled cheese stuffed with cheddar, prosciutto, and apricot jam.
The beer garden at Denizens in Silver Spring is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 4 to 10 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 10 p.m. Denizens recommends bringing your own blanket for chilly nights.
Red Bear Brewing Co.
209 M St. NE; (202) 849-6130; redbear.beer
Outdoor seating at Red Bear isn’t limited to the handful of tables positioned in front of its entrance next to REI. They’ve tacked on extra outdoor seating around the corner on 3rd Street NE that has the feel of a beer garden. When making a reservation on RESY, you can pick which section you want to sit in. Table reservations are for a maximum of two hours.
Pair a pint of OktoBEARfest Märzen or Dungeons & Drag Queens Zwickelbier with an order of cheese curds accompanied by a sweet chili dipping sauce, followed by a sandwich stacked with cider-marinated pork loin, apple butter, apple slices, and cabbage slaw on a Vienna roll.
To view the menu, Red Bear customers must use a QR code on the table, and contactless payment is handled through an app called Arryved. “Well-behaved” dogs are welcome.
Red Bear is open Mondays through Thursdays from 4 to 10 p.m., Fridays from 1 to 11 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 11 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 10 p.m. The kitchen closes one hour before the brewpub. Happy hour specials are available from 4 to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.
Check their events page for October to find trivia, drag bingo, and other happenings.
3400 Georgia Ave. NW; (202) 629-4339; hookhall.com
This Park View beer garden dressed up like a vacation resort takes reservations both for tables and cabanas. Both top out at six people because of Phase 2 reopening regulations. While customers have to pay a fee to reserve a table for a two-hour window, the price includes a bucket of mix-and-match beers and hard ciders. Tables are $35 for parties of six and $10 for parties for two or four. Cabanas, available for 2.5 hours, are pricier at $100, regardless of your group size. There is no minimum spend required.
In addition to its regular menu, which reads like a beach picnic with seafood fritters, Hawaiian pizza, island tacos, guava Gin Rickeys, and rum punch, Hook Hall is currently serving an Oktoberfest-inspired menu. If you’re feeling more fall, try one of eight local and international Oktoberfest beers along with Bavarian pretzels and bratwursts.
Kids are welcome before 9 p.m., and dogs are always welcome. There’s a “Hook Hall Hounds” menu with dog ice cream. Come November, Hook Hall will transform from a “tropical oasis” into a “Viking village” with fire pits, glassed huts, and heavy blankets.
Hook Hall is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 to 10 p.m.; Fridays from 3 p.m. to midnight; Saturdays from 11 a.m. to midnight; and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Reservations are available here. Contactless payment is available.
Biergarten at Church Hall
3223 Grace St. NW; (202) 847-0953; churchhalldc.com/events
In August, the owners of an underground beer hall scored a nearby brick courtyard to use as a beer garden before winter arrives. It can seat up to 50 people with social distancing measures in place and overlooks the C&O Canal in Georgetown.
Most tables are for two, but a few can seat up to six individuals. Reservations are accepted on OpenTable. Customers pay using GoTab, a contactless ordering system.
Drinks focus on regional beer and cocktails made with locally produced spirits. A small food menu includes hot dogs, bratwursts, and grilled chicken pesto sandwiches. They recently added a $10 District Distilled Mule cocktail featuring One Eight Distilling District Made bourbon that comes with a free side of fried chickpeas.
The biergarten is open Wednesdays through Thursdays from 4 to 10 p.m., Fridays from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 10 p.m.
What’s the reservation status at other popular beer gardens? (Note that all D.C. bars and restaurants, including beer gardens, are required by the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration to accept reservations online, by phone, in-person, or a combination of all three. “In-person” can be as simple as creating a sign-in sheet that can be used for contract-tracing purposes.)
Biergarten Haus—predominantly walk-in seating, but it’s possible to reserve a table by calling in advance
The Brig—a limited number of reservations are available for parties of six people and must be made one day in advance
Dacha—no reservations in Shaw, but Navy Yard offers a limited number of reservations online
Garden District—no reservations accepted, but customers can add themselves to an online wait list
The Midlands—a limited number of reservations accepted Mondays through Thursdays on RESY. Walk-ins only on Fridays, Saturday, and Sundays.
Right Proper Brewing Company—The Shaw brewpub now takes reservations, and while customers can specify whether they’d prefer to sit outside or inside, there are no guarantees.
Wunder Garten—no table reservations, but customers can reserve a cabana that seats up to six for an extra charge ranging from $75 to $250 depending on the time limit and cabana.