Nothing says summer like a cold beer—or any kind of alcoholic beverage really. Catch a buzz and maybe a tan at these ten local bars with beer gardens and patios, and see our Bar Guide for a full list of places to drink.
Fountainhead | Ravenswood
Come for the beer: on most nights you can choose from a fine selection of 24 taps and two firkins. The menu includes descriptions, not just unadorned lists, which helps with the difficult decisions that accompany any abundance of wonderful options. Noteworthy are the many varieties of cider and scotch whiskey—and the loveliest rooftop deck you'll ever have the pleasure of getting buzzed and slightly sunburned on.
1970 W. Montrose, 773-697-8204, fountainheadchicago.com.
The Matchbox | River West
To say that the Matchbox is cozy would be an understatement. Wedge-shaped, it's 15 feet across at its widest point and about three and a half feet at its narrowest. It can be tricky to squeeze past seated patrons to get to empty seats at the narrow end of the bar farthest from the entrance—if there are any, which there often aren't—but some of the best cocktails in the city come across that heavy wooden bar. In the summer, there's an equally cozy outdoor seating area.
770 N. Milwaukee, 312-666-9292.
Montrose Saloon | Albany Park
A chummy, unprepossessing Old Style bar with a number of diversions to help evaluate your ability to drive home: board games, darts, and a large beer garden where you can throw horseshoes and bags, and grill your own grub.
2933 W. Montrose, 773-463-7663.
Moody's Pub | Edgewater
Never mind the German-cavernous interior of Moody's, est. 1959, the patio is really where the action's at: it's an expansive spot that can accommodate crowds of neighborhood patrons stopping by for good burgers and cheap beer. The bar offers some drink specialties, all on the sweet side—creations with schnapps and Kahlúa when it's cold and, in the summer, sangria—as well as heavy-duty supper-club-type food like pork chops and sirloin steak.
5910 N. Broadway, 773-275-2696, moodyspub.com.
Old Oak Tap | Ukrainian Village
The 1,500-square-foot front patio gets jammed, and every third patron seems to be bouncing a baby between sips of Saison DuPont, but the craft beer list showcases a lot of crowd-pleasers—Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA, and a rotating Solemn Oath tap—as well as a couple of intriguing curveballs.
2109 W. Chicago, 773-772-0406, theoldoaktap.com.
The Orbit Room | Avondale
Friendly spot with a secluded tiki-themed back patio built for lazing around on a late Saturday afternoon. The menu of above-average bar food includes house-made soups, pizza, and fish tacos.
2959 N. California, 773-588-8540, orbitroomchicago.com.
Red Door | Bucktown
Door number one leads to an elegant, minimalist bar and a little dining area that in its intimacy and low light sort of recalls Danny's, the bar across the street. Door number two leads to the patio, a patio to spend a summer on, with wood paneling and dangling lightbulbs and a convivial atmosphere. The cocktail list tends toward the fruity—not such a bad thing in summer—but the beer list is impressive.
2118 N. Damen, 773-697-7221, reddoorchicago.com.
Sheffield's | Lakeview
The four sauces (coffee stout, ginger peach, Sheffield's original Jack Daniels, Carolina) are made in-house and the barbecue is turned out by wood-burning Southern Pride smokers. There are tons of craft brews on tap and by the bottle, and the staff is chipper and superfriendly. Outside there's seating in a leafy walled courtyard.
3258 N. Sheffield, 773-281-4989, sheffieldschicago.com.
The Spoke & Bird | Near South Side
By far the best reason to go to the Spoke & Bird is the patio. But in light of the fact that this new spot's owners have managed to obtain a liquor license and offer 20-odd mostly local brews (six of them on tap), the term "beer garden" seems more appropriate. It's only open till 6 PM for the time being, but you can't catch a tan much later than that anyway.
205 E. 18th, 929-263-2473, spokeandbird.com
The Whistler | Logan Square
Part storefront art installation, part eclectic music venue (and record label), mostly craft-cocktail mecca, the Whistler remains a Chicago destination. The beer selection is solid and relatively upscale. Low-key rock, improv jazz, thump-thump dance, or whispery folk will likely be occupying the stage at some point throughout the week. The small patio in the back is cozy and intimate—a perfect setting to while away an hour or two in the late afternoon before the crowds attack.
2421 N. Milwaukee, 773-227-3530, whistlerchicago.com.