Come fall, everyone's finally back in the city on the weekends, and the near-perfect weather practically demands a beer. So whether you like your chalice filled with a rare brew or prefer your liter of Hefeweizen to the tune of polka, here's where to spend your Saturday—stein in hand.
① Radegast Hall & Biergarten, Williamsburg
The closest you'll come to a true beer hall this side of the Atlantic, Radegast keeps only German brews—14 of them—on tap. Order yourself a pint (wuss!), liter (that's better) or pitcher (sharing is nice) of any of them. Go on the earlier side to snag a picnic table in the skylight-lit biergarten (which is heated come the briskness of fall); order a giant pretzel ($9) or sausage platter ($25) in the back. Naturally, Oktoberfest is a big deal, so head there between September 16 and October 4 for pig roasts, polka bands, mug-holding competitions (harder than you think) and more.
② Proletariat, East Village
Beer nerds, this is your mecca. No larger than a hallway, this tiny, 10-seat gem stocks 12 select picks on draft with four or five reserved for out-of-the-box options, plus 15 to 20 bottles. Can't decide? Ask for the omakase-style service, in which the bartender walks you through as many half-pours as you'd like. Keep an eye out for the upcoming Veldrijden Love by Other Half, a farmhouse ale aged in French oak Chardonnay barrels. And don't let the name fool you—these fancy suds can cost up to $16 a pour.
③ The Standard Biergarten, Meatpacking
Should you enjoy a stein with a side of people-watching, The Standard is your place. The payment system in which you pay upfront for tokens to be traded for food and drink may seem like a bother at first, but after a stein or two, it starts to feel like play money. Go early (it gets crowded), bring your rowdy friends (it gets loud) and claim one of the picnic tables. If you want to get really serious, gather up to 30 of your closest pals and book the Stammtisch Tables, on which sit three self-serve taps of Bitburger, Köstritzer and Benedictiner.
④ Tørst, Greenpoint
Not only is this the most stylish spot on the list (geometric patterns on chalices echo the geometric patterns in the Scandinavian space), but it also has pedigree—owner Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø is the founder of Evil Twin Brewing. Seven of its 21 taps hook up to a cast of Evil Twin varieties, and the rest skew toward European selections with a few American thrown in for good measure. What's that red contraption behind the bar, you ask? That's the Flux Capacitor, the mechanism that controls the carbonation pressure, temperature and type of gas for each individual keg.
⑤ The Cannibal, Gramercy
Tucked into an area of town overrun with sports bars is this gem of a restaurant slash beer bar. Bottle- and can-filled fridges (400 bottles and 30 cans, to be exact, and all able to be carried out) line the entryway. Grab a seat at the low-ceiling bar or better yet, head back to the heated patio open year-round, then ask the beer somm to walk you through the eight rotating draft lines. (You'd be remiss not to enjoy your brew with a side of Berneaise-topped tartare and morcilla.) Also of note, Cannibal is opening up its special vintage reserves to next-door sister spot Resto this fall.
⑥ 61 Local, Cobble Hill
As indicated by its name, 61 Local pours locally produced brews only from its 14 taps. The staff prides themselves on having relationships with all of the producers, whose names are listed right alongside the offerings on the menu. Current favorites include Barrier Brewing Co.'s Lights Out Stout (Oceanside, New York), Carton Brewing's Boat Beer (Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey) and SingleCut Beersmiths' 19-33 Lagrrr (Astoria). With a low-key crowd, ample natural light and long communal tables, it's the perfect spot to post up for an entire afternoon.
⑦ Die Stammkneipe, Fort Greene
The DSK folks only tap German kegs—each of which has its own corresponding set of mugs—but theirs are not ones that you'll usually see on tap, like Köstritzer Schwarzbier and Hövels Altbier. Don't fear the umlauts: Detailed tasting notes translate the Deutsch. All of the sausages are delicious, but branch out and order our favorite, the Leberkäse ($5), German meatloaf on a roll.
⑧ Randolph Beer, Lower East Side
Follow the lead of Randolph's well-mapped beer list, which organizes its 30 ales into Light, Hop, Rich and Malt. Fear you're veering too far into the malt? Each subsection is further organized from most to least. Once you've picked your poison, grab a seat outside or slide into one of the cozy wooden booths surrounded by old books, exposed brick and knickknacks. There are no sausages or pretzels to be found, but we suggest tearing into the impressively good veggie burger ($15) or a salty plate of shishito peppers ($9).
⑨ Jimmy's No. 43, East Village
Tucked into a wood-covered basement on East 7th Street, this cozy bar keeps a cast of 12 European, American and local beers on tap. They change daily, so don't get too comfortable. Look out for Bridge and Tunnel whenever it's available: It's an impeccable small-batch brew crafted by a guy in his Queens backyard and a favorite of owner Jimmy Carbone. The space also places host to a number of events, including tastings (next up: sour beers) and pairing dinners (smoked beer and smoked meats are slated for the end of September).
⑩ Clinton Hall, Financial District
Primed to wake up FiDi's otherwise sleepy bar scene, this new 4,000-square-foot beer hall keeps a rotating selection of 20 on tap, plus 10 select craft beers served and stored exactly to the brewmaster's conditions. Take a departure from the pint for perfectly crafted beer cocktails, like the Shandy, made with Hefeweizen, vodka, lemon, honey syrup, egg whites and Angostura bitters. When it's time for a break from sipping, get an oversize game of Jenga and Connect Four started or challenge that banker dude to a game of Ping-Pong.