Bier International
Clinton Hall
Die Koelner Bierhalle
Killmeyer's Old Bavaria Inn
SingleCut Beersmiths

So once again, it's autumn and autumn means Oktoberfest. For the fourth wonderful time, I've traversed the city looking for the best, most appropriate places where one can go to hoist a stein in honor of the gods of beer. Mere bars need not apply. Oktoberfest is about quality and mood. Any sixteen year old with a fake ID and a pushup bra can get a can of Genny Lite at a divey sports bar. Nein! Oktoberfest is about relaxation and friends and food. Oktoberfest makes beer the focus of the outing, not merely something you hold in your hand during a Jets game.
Four boroughs, five beer halls and gardens. From the southern edge of Staten Island to the northern edge of Queens. From Park Slope to Harlem. And yes yes yes. Before anyone decides to tell me that Oktoberfest started in September, thanks, shut up, I know. I do it in Oktober.

2099 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10026
(212) 280-0944

If anyone ever doubted the gentrification of Harlem, they need look no further than Frederick Douglass Boulevard. What was once the street you'd cross on your way to buy crack and get stabbed in Morningside Park has become the street you cross with your kids so they can play there. Brand new luxury apartment buildings and sidewalk cafes line the avenue. Should you happen to live in this New Harlem or perhaps in the northern Upper West Side and should you want a beer hall experience without having to travel too far, Bier International should be on your short list. It's not large the way that Radegast Hall or Spritzenhaus is and it's menu could be more authentic, but the beer list is decent, certainly for the area. And they roast whole pigs on a spit right there on the sidewalk. So how can you complain?

90 Washington Street
New York, NY 10004
(212) 363-6000

Clinton Hall is the street-side beer garden for Wall Street analysts who want their happy hour to include liters of Radeberger and who want to avoid the chaotic mess of The Standard Biergarten in Meatpacking. But though calmer, Clinton Hall also has less than a fraction of The Standard's sex appeal. Perhaps you want that. Perhaps you don't need to be surrounded by arm-candy-hookers. Perhaps you and your buddies don't say "hoo-ah!" every time someone you know walks in the room. Perhaps you want more than three beers to choose from. Still, while Clinton Hall's convenience, relative calm, ping pong tables, and tap-only beer selection are nice, and I certainly think that The Standard is awful, I'd still make the trip to Brooklyn or Queens if I had the time. While there appear to be lots of tables, seating is very tight. This isn't helped by a policy of keeping certain tables "reserved" but empty for hours. The servers were tripping all over each other as they squeezed between tables, umbrellas, scaffolding support beams, and customers looking for the bathroom. The beer list is good, but the food is mediocre at best. Most of the menu is french fries and dipping sauce. The wurst that we had was microscopic and the schnitzel sandwich was mostly bun.

84 St. Marks Place
Brooklyn, NY 11217
(347) 227-7238

Northern Park Slope has what appears to be a World War One airplane hangar. It's a beer hall. The tables stretch deep into oblivion and the beer list is like a phone book. The food is also fantastic. A big warm pretzel with a pickle and mustard and a heaping plate of curried chicken spaetzle kept us happy into our second round. We arrived at Die Koelner Bierhalle on a weekend afternoon just after brunch was winding down. It wasn't too crowded, so we were able to get a seat of our choosing right away. Still, it was far from empty. As time wore on, the stroller set started to arrive. By the time we left there were no fewer than a dozen toddlers running around while mom and dad had lunch and chatted with friends over a pint. One person I was with thought that the scene was nuts but I appreciate a place that's both kid friendly and lets you drink. Parental sanity. Besides, if Park Slope is known for anything other than brownstones, it's strollers. If you've got a problem with little kids, brother you picked the wrong neighborhood.

4254 Arthur Kill Road
Staten Island, NY 10309
(718) 984-1202

Sometimes, it's fun to get into your car and drive out to the city's edge just to remind yourself of how large New York really is. Then, of course, when you get there, you'll want a beer. Killmeyer's has been around slingin' ale since 1859 and it feels it. The interior is pure German restaurant. Dark woods, family crests, medieval style tapestries. The outside is pure beer garden complete with weekly oompah bands. Sadly, on this particular day, it was rainy and sitting outside enjoying the garden just wasn't in the cards. But just looking at it, you know that it deserves to be on the list of places to visit. On the downside, the food was a bit dry, and telling their weinerschnitzel apart from their chicken schnitzel will take more skill than I have, but the service was friendly, the beer was cold, and on a crisp fall day I can see this as being the perfect place to hang out.

19-33 37th Avenue
Astoria, NY 11105
(718) 606-0788

While Singlecut, up at the tippytop of Astoria, Queens, is not technically a beer hall, technically, it kind of is. So I've put 'em on the list. They have tables, food, and a ton of taps. They just also happen to make their own stuff in ten thousand gallon steel vats behind the bar. It's hard to choose from a list of a dozen home-made beers, from super hoppy IPAs to Belgian-style sour ales, but we couldn't find anything we didn't like. Having showed up at the tail end of a Sunday night meant that the kitchen was closed, but the menu looked great. It's mostly meat pies (of course, they have pretzels, too) and I'm dying to return to eat and bring along a growler, which they'll fill. If you'd like your Oktoberfest to be one that reaps the benefit of local beer, then get your butt on the Q train.

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