Travel

A Boston Beer Garden Tour by Bike

Take a bike tour of these hoppin' pop-ups before they close for the season. Helmet required.


Two plastic pints of beer "cheers" at Night Shift Owl's Nest beer garden

Cheers to Night Shift Brewing Company’s two seasonal, riverside beer gardens, and many more outdoor drinking spots. / Photo by Tim Oxton/Night Shift Brewing

We counted a dozen seasonal beer gardens in the city this summer. But how to visit them all, or even a few, when there are beaches, ponds, lakes, lobster rolls, and patios that need your attention during the few warm months we get each year? Well, luckily most of these popups are open until late October and we discovered that you can reasonably visit four in one Saturday afternoon on our carefully tested bike tour.

The rules are as follows:

  1. You have to wear a helmet.
  2. You can only order one beer at each stop, and we recommend one with low alcohol.
  3. You have to eat something.
  4. You have to stick to the bike path.
  5. It’s best to begin at noon when the beer gardens open, so you’re off the road before dark.

So put some air in your tires or grab a Blue Bike and meet us at Cisco Brewers in the Seaport.

the Cisco beer garden in the Boston Seaport

Following last summer’s popular debut, the Cisco beer garden has a larger footprint in the Boston Seaport this season. / Photo courtesy of Boston Seaport

Cisco Brewers

This feels like a good place to start for a couple of reasons; there are several Blue Bike stations nearby (although we were hard-pressed to find bike racks and locked up to a sign post), and this area just gets more crowded as the sun goes down. It’s best to get in and get out in daylight and dodge fewer weaving walkers. Our inaugural bike and brew tour took place on a Saturday afternoon when the Jonas Brothers were in town, which meant a handful of fans were already on their way to Swoonville. Also, this beer garden isn’t on a protected bike path and it’s always best to ride alongside traffic with a clear head.  You cannot begin a day of drinking on an empty stomach, so if you need to fuel up there are plentiful food options, such as Loco tacos and Flatbread Company Pizza, right inside the garden, a Shake Shack across the street, and numerous restaurants up and down the block. It’s also a very short ride to our next stop, Trillium on the Greenway, so you can find those bike legs if it’s been a while since you’ve put pedal to the pavement.

May 14-mid-October, Tuesday-Friday 4-11 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays (and holidays) noon-11 p.m., 65 Northern Ave. (just west of District Hall), Boston, ciscobrewers.com.

Sipping and socializing at the Trillium Garden on the Greenway. / Photo by Trillium

Trillium Garden on the Greenway

In about five minutes you’ll arrive at Trillium. Although the bike lane runs parallel to cars, it’s quite scenic because it goes over the water on Seaport Boulevard. It almost feels too quick, and if you want to put some time between you and beer number two, take a stroll across the street to the harbor and check out the yachts that are docked. There’s a beer garden at the Boston Harbor Hotel as well, but we skipped it, choosing safety and a four beer day. Again, we didn’t find any nearby bike racks, but miraculously we didn’t find a line waiting to enter either. The Bacon Truck was parked outside if you still haven’t eaten. Trillium was hosting guest breweries Monkish Brewing from California and Other Half Brewing from New York when we visited, which was a pleasant surprise. Bathrooms are the expected Porta Potties, but these have sinks that pump out water and soap, which is lovely. Especially if you have greasy bacon hands. Rides get progressively longer from here on out, though, so get ready: It’ll be about two miles to our next stop, Castle Island Brewing at Constitution Wharf.

May 16-October, Wednesday-Friday 2-10 p.m., Saturdays 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sundays noon-6 p.m., corner of High Street and Atlantic Avenue, Rose Kennedy Greenway, rosekennedygreenway.orgtrilliumbrewing.com.

The Castle Island beer garden at Constitution Wharf overlooks Boston Harbor and the skyline

The Castle Island beer garden at Constitution Wharf overlooks Boston Harbor and the skyline. / Photo provided by Castle Island

Castle Island Brewing Co. at Constitution Wharf

It’s on this stretch that you really begin to realize how charming Boston is by bike. No traffic or public transportation delays, just you and the occasional pedestrian who isn’t paying attention. After leaving Trillium, you only need to ride on Atlantic Avenue with traffic for a short while before you join up with the Connect Historic Boston trail, a protected path that runs parallel to Commercial Street and winds along the water and through the outskirts of the North End before connecting to the Harbor Walk and the Navy Yard.

This beer garden can be a bit hard to find, so be sure to keep an eye out for the occasional sandwich board sign directing you to the Castle Island Brewing popup, which is basically at the end of a large parking lot. Once you park your bike at the provided racks (yay!) and walk inside, they’ve really created a separate little world, complete with picnic benches, lawn games and some ’gramable lounge areas. Parked outside was the Chubby Chickpea food truck and we for sure ordered chickpea fries and a falafel on their delicious pita. Unexpected bonus: There were a lot of of golden retrievers visiting—it seemed like every beer drinker brought one. Perhaps they had planned a meeting on a secret doggy Reddit? If it seems to be happening again, try to convince the furballs to meet up at our final stop, Night Shift on the Esplanade.

May 30-fall, Thursdays + Fridays 3-9 p.m., Saturdays noon-9 p.m., Sundays noon-7 p.m., 1 Constitution Wharf, Charlestown, castleislandbeer.com.

The Night Shift Owl’s Nest on the Esplanade. / Photo by Tim Oxton/Night Shift

Night Shift Owl’s Nest: Esplanade

The final ride and perhaps the most picturesque, the 2.5 miles on this leg of the journey are mostly on a protected path that brings you through Paul Revere Park, and across the North Bank Bridge with views of the Zakim, the Charles River and onto the Dr. Paul Dudley White bike path with an up-close look at the recently beautified Longfellow Bridge. History and art buffs will want to take a brief detour, still on a bike path, to see a section of the Berlin Wall encased behind plexiglass at 1 Education St. in Cambridge. Once you arrive at Night Shift’s downtown Owl’s Nest (there’s another one in Allston, too), there are plenty of bike racks, but sadly, on the day of our visit, no food truck or real food options besides some snacks at the register. There often are, though, and either way, the Owl’s Nest is a magical spot to end the tour, especially right before dusk. In addition to the tough choice of what beer to end the day with, you’ll have to decide whether staying for the sunset is worth it. We thought it was.

May 8-October, Wednesdays + Thursdays 4-10 p.m., Fridays + Saturdays noon-10 p.m., Sundays noon-8 p.m., Fiedler Field, Charles River Esplanade, Boston, nightshiftfamily.com.