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How to Turn Your Backyard Into a Summer Beer Garden

LeAnn Darland and Tara Hankinson, co-owners of TALEA Beer Co. in Williamsburg, tell us the three keys to a successful backyard beer garden.
Ian Burke
Brooklyn, US
How to Turn Your Backyard Into a Summer Beer Garden
Composite By Vice Staff / Photo: Getty Images

You know where we’d love to be right now, instead of affixed to The Bad Screen in our makeshift WFH “office?” A beer garden, sippin’ on a cold one in a lush, outdoor gathering space. We’d all love to get on a plane and jet over to Munich to lounge around the English Gardens and wash down giant pretzels with stein upon stein of delicious German beer, but not everyone (read: us) has the cash to hop on a plane right now. However, low-paying jobs and a looming recession won’t stop us from enjoying a few frosty pints in the small outdoor spaces that we do have. A DIY beer garden could be just the ticket to upgrading your balcony, patio, or backyard and making the most of summer and fall. 

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That’s why we we called on our friends LeAnn Darland and Tara Hankinson, co-owners and founders of TALEA—the first woman-owned and -operated brewery and taproom in Brooklyn, and a personal favorite drinking spot of Rec Room editors—to help us outfit our (currently sad and lifeless) outdoor spaces with everything we need to turn our backyard into a summer beer garden. Darland and Hankinson like to focus on three things: Food, music, and shade, and if you’ve ever had the pleasure of stopping by the brewery for a pint and a charcuterie board, you know that they nail all three of those categories. From patio umbrellas and light-blocking koozies to drinking playlists that slap, here’s all the outdoor decor and accoutrements you need to get the party started this summer. Prost! 

Plan your outdoor decor around creating shade 

There’s nothing better than knocking back a few cold beers on a hot, sunny day—but shade is a priority when setting up a beer garden. “While we love drinking in the sun,” Darland and Hankinson explain, “beer can quickly be ‘skunked’ or ‘lightstruck’ when hops suspended in beer are exposed to light.” (Think that slight weedy, skunky smell of a sun-blasted Corona or Heineken.) They recommend drinking in the shade or gulping straight from the can with a koozie to keep your beer cold. “Invest in a big umbrella or a shade sail if you'd like to drink beer from a glass,” they suggest. We love this weather- and UV-resistant outdoor patio umbrella from the furniture lairds at West Elm, which provides 63 square feet of shade—slightly bigger than our current apartment. 


$299 at West Elm

$299 at West Elm
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If you’d rather go the shade-sail route, snag this affordable, breathable canopy from Shade&Beyond, which has a 4.5-star average rating from over 5,300 reviews. Or, head over to Wayfair and pick up a few of these on-sale Triangle Shade Sails to give your outdoor space full, loungey coverage. “Well, they look great, and they were easy to set up,” one reviewer writes. “Absolutely recommend.”


$35.98 at Amazon

$35.98 at Amazon

$30.71$26.66 at Wayfair

$30.71$26.66 at Wayfair

Get an outdoor sound system that slaps (even if it’s just a Bluetooth speaker)

Chances are, you’ve regretted passing the aux to one or two past party guests—but that’s your fault, people, for not having a killer outdoor drinking playlist on hand. In fact, Darland and Hankinson have three different types of playlists: weekday daytime, weekday evening, and weekends. “Think of the different moods you'd like to channel and create various playlists to match the vibe,” they explain. “Our daytime playlists are a mix of electronic, indie pop, and classics—perfect for #WorkFromTALEA or #WorkFromYourBeerGarden. Our evening playlists are more upbeat electronic, top 40s, with a sprinkle of hip hop. Our weekend playlists are high-energy songs that make you want to sing, dance, and enjoy more beer.”

LeAnn Darland and Tara Hankinson

LeAnn Darland and Tara Hankinson / Photo Courtesy of TALEA

Unfortunately, not everyone has the same sweet speaker setup as TALEA—that’s why investing in a solid outdoor speaker is a must. Anything from industry leaders JBL, Anker, and Bose is going to slap, but our top picks are the SoundLink, Flip 5, and Soundcore, which are all Bluetooth-enabled and waterproof—perfect for both poolside lounging and surviving spilled beer. 

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$129.95$99.95 at Amazon
$129.95$99.95 at JBL
$129.95$99.95 at Amazon
$129.95$99.95 at JBL

$29.99$27.99 at Amazon

$29.99$27.99 at Amazon

$149 at Amazon

$149 at Amazon

Take your charcuterie setup to the next level

Now, we know that if you’re setting up a backyard beer garden, you’re probably a seasoned, semi-professional drinker, but even the most iron-livered of us need to soak up the suds with some snacks. At TALEA, Darland and Hankinson love shareable plates with a mix of salty, tart, and sweet offerings. “We recommend pairing salty pretzels (we love Unique Snacks Splits) with a mix of cheeses like Nancy's Hudson Valley Camembert for an indulgent, oozing cheese and Drunken Goat cheese for a fruity and smooth cheese,” the pair explain. (If you’re at the taproom, spring for the Cheese & Charcuterie Board—you won’t be disappointed.) Of course, you’ll need a respectable cheese board and some outdoor dining- and serving-ware to get started. A simple slate cheese board like this one from Williams Sonoma is a great and affordable place to start, especially when you match it with a stone-smooth set of melamine dinnerware and some faceted brass cheese knives. 


$49.95 at Williams Sonoma

$49.95 at Williams Sonoma

$8.50$5 at Pottery Barn

$8.50$5 at Pottery Barn

$42$29.40 at West Elm

$42$29.40 at West Elm

Or, go the more traditional route with this rustic board made from a slab of olive wood and a set of wood-handled cheese knives. 


$59 at Pottery Barn

$59 at Pottery Barn

$14.99$7.99 at Amazon

$14.99$7.99 at Amazon

Complete your setup 

You’re almost there, dear readers—you just need a few more must-have, Rec-Room-approved pieces to complete your at-home summer beer garden setup. First, get yourself (and your guests) some cozy bench seating. It doesn’t have to be fancy; in fact, you’re going to want something that can take a beating. Whether it’s inclement weather, spilled beer, or drunken guests, none will faze this six-person picnic table from Highland Dunes, which is built to last—and it goes with any color scheme.


$515.77$479.99 at Wayfair

$515.77$479.99 at Wayfair
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Once your seating situation is taken care of, you’ll want some good glassware from which to guzzle. We recommend staying away from American shaker pints, since they don’t do anything for head retention, aroma concentration, or aesthetics. Classic beer garden steins are a stalwart for a reason, because in addition to looking sweet, you won’t constantly be refilling your glass. 


$39.99 at Amazon

$39.99 at Amazon

However, there are, in fact, some times where you’d prefer not to knock back a liter of lager at a time. While we know that’s hard to believe, these Belgian beer glasses are another great choice for smaller (but not too-small) servings, and the tulip shape helps your beer’s foam stick around and concentrates its aromas. 


$29.99$20.88 at Amazon

$29.99$20.88 at Amazon

Now, the picture we’ve painted involves a lot of daytime drinking, but you’ll also need to shed some light on the situation once the sun goes down. For that, we like these affordable, no-fuss outdoor string lights, which have a 4.5-star average rating from over 48,000 reviews on Amazon. 


$19.99$16.95 at Amazon

$19.99$16.95 at Amazon

The most important piece of all? Keeping your beer cold. While not everyone has a kegerator—though they do rock—who needs one when you’ve got a killer outdoor cooler to fill with your favorite cans of TALEA beer? (Al Dente and Weekender for me, please.) This YETI Tundra 45 Cooler will keep ice for wayyy longer than you’ll need for an outdoor beer sesh, and you can’t go wrong with a classic Coleman cooler. (There’s a reason you’ve seen them at every cookout you’ve ever been to.) 

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$325 at Yeti

$325 at Yeti

$39.99$34.99 at Amazon

$39.99$34.99 at Amazon

All that’s left to do is put your Crocs up, and make a toast. 

TALEA Beer Co. is located at 87 Richardson St. in Brooklyn, NY—we'll see you there. (Or at the new taprooms in Cobble Hill and Grand Central.)


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