Is there such a thing as a bad beer garden?  A shady place to sit and cold beer are pretty much all that's required.  That being said, there are some standouts on the American beer scene.  Here's a few suggestions of great American beer gardens.

Sheffield's, Chicago

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Only half a mile from Wrigley Field, this is a Cubs fan hotspot.  But if a rowdy bunch of baseball fanatics sounds like a major drawback to you, rest assured that the fantastic beer selection and comfy patio make this a great local watering hole any night there isn't a Cubs game.  The BBQ is also reputed to be pretty good.  Lots of American craft brews as well as some spectacular Belgian and German options make this a great American beer garden.

Lou's Beer Garden, Miami Beach

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It's Miami, so if you're looking for an authentic German vibe, keep on going.  But if enjoying a frosty beer poolside sounds like heaven, this is the place.  A self-described gastro pub, the food is excellent and the beer menu is extensive.  But it's greatest appeal is its cool, laid-back atmosphere.  Dogs are allowed too!

Der Biergarten, Atlanta

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The owner is a German expat, so if authenticity is important to you, this is as German as it gets this side of the Atlantic.  You can drink your beer by the liter, and you are welcome to bring in your own boot.  Beyond the beer, the pretzels and the brats are an awesome addition to any summer night.

Mecklenburg Gardens, Cincinnati

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The one thing all reviewers seem to agree on about this place is the atmosphere.  This German restaurant has been continually running since 1856, and in a very German city, that's saying something.  Sitting out in the garden, sipping cold beer under 100 year old grape vines, it's easy to forget the outside world.  With fifteen craft beers on tap, and over 80 bottled, this beer garden is a must-try in Cincinnati.

Zeitgeist, San Francisco

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The ultimate hipster hangout in a town full of hipsters, this beer garden has everything you would expect.  Rude bartenders, crowded in a learn-to-love-your-bearded neighbor kind of way, and over 40 beers on tap.  According to Fodors, they also have happy hour from 9 am to 8 pm, but they are too cool to have a website, so be sure to call to find out first.

The Rathskeller, Indianapolis

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Voted the best German restaurant seven years in a row, the Rathskeller's biggest appeal is the beer garden.  Lots of room with plenty of seating and live music make thirsty mid-westerners very happy.  Heat lamps make sure the patio stays nice and comfortable for drinking deep into the night.

Photo via http://www.sheffieldschicago.com/

Photo via http://www.miami.com/snaps-lou039s-beer-garden-14?p=312679

Photo via http://derbiergarten.com/

Photo via http://www.mecklenburgs.net/index.htm

Photo via http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Bargain-Bites-Restaurants-by-Region-2301154.php#photo-2163112

Photo via http://www.indystar.com/story/entertainment/2014/03/10/st-patricks-day-2014-indianapolis/6255271/