The beer garden is one of the world’s most famous institutions established in Germany in the 16th century. At that time, Bavaria’s Brauordnung (regulations) limited the brewing production and forbade this activity from April to September. As a result, brewers stored their beer in approximately 40 feet (12 m) deep cellars to provide enough beer throughout the year.
That way, they took advantage of the unfavorable regulation to establish something phenomenal. As soon as they started scattering gravel on the ground and placing tables underneath the trees, new popular drinking spots came into life. So, let’s discover what is a beer garden and its significance in the modern world of brewing.
In 1539, Albert V limited beer production in Bavaria to cooler months. It was a period between the St Michael Feast (September 29) and St George Feast (April 23). There were two reasons for such a decision:
- It was a way to prevent fires and protect Bavaria’s traditional wooden architecture
- Bavarians discovered that fermenting lagers at low temperatures from 39 to 55 F (4 – 13 C) yielded a purer beer
As a result, breweries expanded their beer cellars that were ideal for storing beer in barrels covered with ice. It seemed that this regulation was the moment when Germans gave preference to lagers over ales.
Additionally, brewers did their best to ensure low temperatures around their breweries by planting chestnut trees. At one point, someone scattered gravel to the ground to beautify the environment and placed tables underneath the trees.
Gradually, these spots became popular among dedicated beer drinkers. Once they started selling food there, these places become ultra-popular.
Since local pub and restaurant owners weren’t happy to lose their lucrative businesses, they complained to Bavarian King Maximilian I. He decreed on January 4, 1812, that Munich brewers can only sell beer and bread in their cellars. That way, the tradition of combining picnic with the best beers coming directly from the brewer was born.
In 1897, Bavarian beer gardens finally got permission to sell food, but no one wanted to break the custom of bringing meals from home. Finally, the law Bayerische Biergartenverordnung passed in 1999 and legalized bringing prepared food into the beer garden.
Believe it or not, some of the most popular beer gardens in Munich were established at the beginning of the 18th century. They still keep numerous anecdotes and stories about the famous beer garden admirers and stories that happened between the tables of these unique places.
What Is a Beer Garden?
The Biergarten (beer garden) is an outside space surrounded by trees, where you can drink local beer while enjoying excellently served food or the one brought from home. You can find it in every German city and village, often in the main square.
This place is a kind of social scene for creating connections between total strangers regardless of their financial and social status. It will be enough to come and ask – Is this seat taken? (Ist dieser Platz frei?), and take your place after receiving an affirmative answer.
However, don’t mix this concept with carefree chatting with strangers, and be prepared that Germans are experts at keeping privacy in a crowded setting.
You can still find benches in traditional German beer gardens with minimal space in between two seats. They provide a community-like feeling and allow sharing a table with unknown people. In 1999, these places were decreed as essential to Bavarian Culture with unrestricted operating time or noise level.
What Is Served in the Beer Garden?
The only words in German you need to know once you enter the beer garden are – Ein Mass Bier bitter (a beer, please). However, don’t expect a wide brand offer since most German beer gardens are a part of a brewery and often serve only their own beer. You can order:
- Light beer (Helles)
- Dark beer (Dunkel)
- Wheat beer (Weizen)
They almost always have radlers, a mix of beer and lemonade in a 50:50 or 75:25 ratio.
Except for unlimited locally crafted beer and sometimes international and exclusive supplies, the traditional beer garden also offers delicious foods. You can choose to enjoy German sausages and salty pretzels there, but you are welcome to bring your own food from home, as well.
In most cases, beer gardens in the US serve burgers, wings, nachos, and fries. This food is salty and fatty, which makes it fit perfectly the fresh beer taste.
Some beer gardens have staff, and you can order the beer, but it is rare. In most cases, you should go to a central beer pouring station to order beer and food. You need to pay right away, but be careful. Most places don’t accept cards.
Never expect to try local specialties in the beer garden. They are places dedicated to beer, and food only complements the atmosphere. Therefore, meals offered in such a place are standard and cheap, usually not more expensive than 10 euros.
The traditional German menu in an average beer garden usually includes:
- Brotzeit – This bread is an unavoidable snack served with beer. If you visit such a place in Munich, you will get black bread with sausage, radish, pickle, and cheese traditionally filled with chives and onion.
- Brezeln – This soft pretzel is the ultimate German snack you can find on every menu.
- Wurst – This sausage is a delicacy that pairs with beer.
- Schweinshaxe – It is wise to choose this large pork knuckle only if you are starving.
- Hendl – You will discover half a chicken with garlic sauce hiding behind this name.
- Flammkuchen – Germans eat this Alsatian pizza with bacon, onion, and creme fraîche.
- Spätzle – It is a modern vegetarian egg noodle dish that usually goes with cheese and fried onions.
- German salads – Both Sauerkraut and Kartoffelsalat fit well with sausage and beer. Keep in mind that these salads often contain bacon.
Behaving in Traditional Beer Garden
Some people can’t understand the beer garden’s point and the etiquette rules they need to follow. Don’t be one of them, and appropriately behave once you get the privilege to be a guest in this unique space.
Everyone should order a large stein of beer at least once in life, but regularly doing that is considered inappropriate behavior. Beer served in such an oversized packaging will get warm fast and lose its ultimate flavor.
You can drink beer anywhere. In the beer garden, you should enjoy this beverage. Believe it or not, it is not possible without the greasy snacks these places provide. You can buy some or bring your own food, but eating while drinking is a rule of thumb.
The beer gardens are social places for gathering, and no one comes here to overdrink. You can see moms with babies there, toddlers playing around, and seniors enjoying the sun and casual atmosphere.
It is not correct to ruin their leisure time because you don’t know how to set your limits. Therefore, avoid beverages with too high ABV and ordering too many beer steins in a short time.
Avoid commercial beers
Why would you come to the traditional beer garden and order dietary Coors Light beer? There is no point in visiting such a place and drink a beverage you can find everywhere. Make unforgettable memories by tasting local homebrews from a comprehensive tap list this space provides.
Show up early for an event
If you plan to organize a birthday party in the beer garden, you should come there on time and take enough seats for guests. Always avoid sharing a table with another birthday group since things can quickly go wrong after a few drinks.
Best Beer Gardens in the US
The German-style beer garden perfected the concept of drinking outside. By definition, it is an open-air space where you can order beer and food. Keep in mind that an indoor room or a standard paved patio can’t be the beer garden under any circumstances.
One more thing! As I have already mentioned, the beer garden is a place for gathering, so the area with small benches and two-top tables is not what you are looking for. Only a shaded outdoor space with joint sittings is the right thing.
It is not complicated to find the beer garden in Germany, but it can be a real challenge to discover such a place in the US except in New York. Let’s try.
- Banger’s Sausage House in Austin, Texas, with over 100 beers on tap served with an impressive choice of house-made sausages.
- Bayou in New Orleans, Louisiana, with 180 global beers and roast beef serving under the palm trees.
- Bohemian Hall in Queens, New York, is a place that has provided excellent Staropramen beer and fried muenster since 1910.
- Biergarten in San Francisco, California, with the limited beer selection and unconventional food like pretzel dumplings and burgers.
- Rhein Haus in Seattle, Washington, is a beer hall with 420 seats that combines German beer and food with Italian sports.