rockwell beer garden photo by adam rothbarth

First Look: Rockwell Beer Garden in Francis Park

“It’s just weird to transform a garage into a taproom,” Rockwell Beer Garden general manager Nancy Etzkorn said, laughing. And when, earlier in the year, it was just a shed in the middle of Francis Park, the idea did indeed seem weird. But the Rockwell Beer Co. team has done it, and now the much-anticipated Rockwell Beer Garden opens today, Friday, Oct. 22.

Rockwell Beer Garden offers a unique experience; nestled next to the park’s tennis and pickleball courts, the “taproom” actually has no indoor seating at all, though there are plenty of picnic tables outside for guests to hang around and enjoy beer, pizza and more. (There are indoor restrooms, however). Two gas fire pits help achieve an outdoor experience that’s reminiscent of the original Rockwell Beer Co., which opened in 2019 in Botanical Heights at 1320 S. Vandeventer Ave. At the Beer Garden, customers order beer and food at a window from a menu that feels familiar.  

Much of it is familiar: According to Etzkorn, the Garden will keep eight to 12 beers on tap at all times; beers will, of course, come from the other Rockwell site, where they’re created by head brewer Jonathan Moxey and his team. Mixed drinks and classic cocktails will be available; Etzkorn said she’d also like to offer mimosas and bloody marys eventually. Around four wines will be on the menu, as will coffee and cold brew. Frozen drinks will be on the menu soon.  

The food program is where Rockwell Beer Garden diverges from Rockwell’s home base, which features Niche Food Group outpost Brasswell, a small burger joint located inside the taproom; here, ironically, Niche alum Michael Petres is running the show. Petres, who spent most of the pandemic honing his pizza skills, offers a rotating menu of ’za with six core pies. There will be a margherita, a supreme, the Just Pepperoni (a classic pep ’za) and the Pepperoni Plus, which sees pepperoncinis and onion added to the mix.  

The Broccwell, which features roasted broccoli, tomato, smoked mozzarella, caramelized onion, chile flakes and a Parmesan-pecorino mix to finish, has been one of the early favorites, which surprised Petres. “That kind of thing I’m super proud of,” he said, pointing out that Rockwell has been generous in allowing him to experiment and make the kinds of pizzas he wants to. “I’m so stoked that the owners are cool with that,” he added, ensuring that specials will be plentiful.  

Other dishes include a hummus plate with pizza bread (basically pizza dough cooked as a pita), a salad and more; in the future, Petres wants to offer more dishes, like a vegetable plate, sandwiches and even a brunch that could feature breakfast pizza and breakfast sandwiches. Future dessert options may include baked goods from an undisclosed local bakery.  

Check out the slideshow below for more information about Rockwell Beer Garden’s food, beer, hours and more.