Freelance writer, born and bred in South Australia.
Published October 2nd 2016
Over the past few years, beer gardens have spiked enormously in popularity. Many hotels and pubs have conducted major renovations just to keep up with the trend. Each and every bar is now contending for the title of the best beer garden.
But what's not to love about these kinda' indoor, kinda' outdoor, really chilled spots to drink? You can enjoy a cold one while lounging in the fresh air. Most gardens have huge screens to watch live sport or music videos. The atmosphere in a beer garden is totally different to a normal bar. It's relaxed and open, the perfect spot to unwind with a group of mates!
The view of the Bridgewater Inn from the other side of the river. Image: Emma Jane Warren
Sit down on a table out the back of the Bridgewater Inn and watch the river flow by. This peaceful bar and restaurant is located in the Adelaide Hills. It certainly feels quiet and rural, but it's actually less than a 30 minute drive from the city. The tables have small shades on top of them to guard you somewhat from the sun. However, they aren't enough to keep you dry if it's raining. But when the weather's clear and the sun's shining, this is a great spot to be. Their food menu changes every season & the drinks menu is constantly full of classic favourites and some local varieties.
If you've driven along Osmond Terrace and had to stop at the Magill Road traffic lights, you've probably tried to look through the glass panels to see the Republic beer garden. But, there's only so much you can see from the outside. Why not make plans to head in one day and enjoy the funky garden atmosphere? There are bar stools, comfy lounge areas and gorgeous fairy lights dangling above. While you have a drink or a bite to eat from their menu, you can watch the cars as they pass on the road nearby. The food at the Republic really is to die for — fresh, tasty and extremely colourful dishes to share or enjoy on your own.
For a cool, country vibe, head to the The Ed Garden. Their outdoor setting has a brick structure, and is filled with bar stools to sit on & wine barrels to rest your drink on. Real trees and grass are splattered in different sections in the garden, and luscious vines and plants hang and droop down the walls. Not many beer gardens have natural greenery (not the fake stuff) like this. Because there is a cellar right next door, you can guarantee that there will always be great quality wine and beverages available. The Edinburgh Hotel and Cellars can be found on High Street in the foothills of Mitcham.
The TA Hotel is usually known for its quality hotel dining, but they also have an incredible beer garden courtyard. There's something about this beer garden that has a casual lounge room vibe about it. Maybe it's the friendly staff, or the soft astro turf underneath your feet. I'm not sure. For the sport fanatics, there is an LED screen situated high on a wall that is viewable from all spots in the garden. For those who love food, the menu is chocked full with burgers, steak, schnitzels and salads. And for those who love not having to waste their money, the nightly specials are truly captivating. For example, on Thursdays you can grab a rump steak and a beer for $15 & for everyday lunches you can get a burger and drink for $15!
If you're looking for somewhere south of Adelaide, it's time you check in at the Highway Hotel. Their deck bar was awarded Australia's Best Outdoor Area. The beer garden has three huge sails to cover the space, meaning just enough light can get through on a summer's day but the rain can be stopped on a winter's day. With a fantastic drinks menu, you can grab yourself pretty much any liqueur, wine, beer, cider, spirit or cocktail. You can ensure the atmosphere is always buzzing at the Highway, with live music, DJs, and quite a significant area for you and your friends to spread out.
On the North-East side of Adelaide, you may find the Golden Grove Village Tavern. These guys boast that they have the "Biggest Big Screen" in Adelaide! And it is pretty huge, I must say. The Village Tavern has an indoor and outdoor bar, which you can be easily move between. Live music is a huge part of the atmosphere in this beer garden, with fantastic local performances happening four nights a week. Their bars have over 15 beers and ciders on tap to ensure your thirst is quenched. The well designed green space is completed with heaters for cold nights, and comfy seating and cushions in booths. When you go to order a drink, or some classic pub food from their menu, you'll be surprised at the relaxed and welcoming nature of the staff.
The Coopers Alehouse on the corner of Grand Junction and Main North Road is quite new to the beer garden scene. This outdoor venue sits right next to the major highway - sometimes you can hear the trucks rumble past. But, this new spot has managed to roll into the list of top beer gardens because it's just so spacious. There are ample booths, tables and chairs to gather around with friends. Hanging from a wall is also a huge screen to watch the latest sporting activity on. When I visited Coopers Alehouse, it was quite a chilly night. However, I didn't feel cold once I got in there. Outdoor heaters were spread out across the area, and free blankets were available for taking at the bar. The food menu had typical pub food, but it was made with absolute care and quality.
The Alma is only a 10 minute drive from the city centre. If you don't have a car, the 3km distance is definitely walkable. Or, you can catch any bus that is headed in the direction of Norwood. The Alma's beer garden usually attracts a younger crowd than the other mentioned locations. The outdoor seating area has two different bars so you shouldn't have to wait too long for a drink. On Friday and Saturday nights, the area turns into more of a club scene, with the dance floor space attracting a number of confident people. But Sunday sessions are what the Alma is really known for. They have drink specials happening from 2pm, such as $2 schooners and wine. However, every hour that passes, the more expensive they get. By around 6pm, everything is back to normal pricing. There are a few screens dotted around the beer garden, which show a number of different sport channels. The food menu is also quite diverse and made plentifully, but you may have to wait a while for it if it's a busy hour!
This list only includes eight of SA's great beer gardens. Where's your favourite outdoor bar to relax with friends? Share the secret and comment below!
The Bridgewater Inn I patronized for many years..but long a go now.They regularly held small traditional jazz concerts there on weekends...no charge for this.It was a great place to enjoy the music and get a drink or a meal.
The Ed was perhaps my favourite..it has always had a good vibe and tucked away as it is...it became a real joy to have drink there in a garden setting,shaded from the sun.